How to balance your responsibilities and stay optimistic when everyone expects the impossible?
Set your own goals, says our elder. Be the best ‘you’ that you can be.
Q. Dear EWC
I’m 20 years old. I have a long history with mental illness, and recently it’s been really tough to handle, while also handling all of my responsibilities. On top of that, no one in my family seems to understand at all. Basically, I’m really struggling with depression and anxiety right now + seeing how bleak the future seems + trying to still work and study and balance a social life. Some family members make me feel guilty for not spending more time with them and allotting time for other people. But having contacts for any career is important for success. And any time I hang around my family, they always just wanna talk my future and my career, they don’t agree with what I choose to do, no matter what it is, and they’re always disappointed that I haven’t accomplished more. Most of my friends don’t show that they care about how I’m doing, either. It just feels like everyone expects the impossible from me, and I’m so overwhelmed that I don’t know what to do, or what to say to people. I feel so torn down that I feel like I’m gonna crash and burn, and just end being a complete failure. So, I guess my question for advice is how to stay optimistic and motivated, and how to find a balance between all of my responsibilities. Thanks!
A. Elder GeorgeK replies
Trying to live up to the expectations of others is very often a fool’s errand. At least that is my experience.
I am glad that you are getting professional mental help. I am George K and am an EWC elder. We are not professionals We merely offer caring and common-sense advice based on years of experience. So it is important to get competent medical advice. Depression is a disease and cannot be solved by oneself alone, or by amateurs.
I can make some observations and they may help.
First, I suggest that you avoid talking about your career and success with your family. They have their expectations, and they do not align with yours. They cannot live your life. You have that responsibility. Expectations cause issues. Measuring your life by other people’s standards can only result in anxiety. Your standard might best be this – I want to be the best version of myself that I can be.
Second, I have heard a very wise saying that I suggest you apply.
“No one can make you feel badly about yourself without your permission. Do not give it to them.”
When family members start telling you how poorly you are doing, think to yourself, “Permission to make me feel bad is withdrawn!” Then smile at them and say something like this: “Thank you very much for your advice. I will give it all of the consideration it deserves.” Then walk away. Do something else. Do not argue. Do not feel bad. As you can see, that comment means nothing specific. It could mean you really want to thank them for helping, or it could mean that you think their comment was useless and you intend to ignore it. Never explain what you mean. If they ask what you mean, just repeat it.
Then. How do you handle these expectations of others? Stop living your life for the approval of others. Set your own goals. Decide what the ‘best you’ would look like in your mind. Write it down somewhere. Then think of what you might do tomorrow and next week and month to get to your view of the ‘best you’. Think broadly, and not about ‘being happy’ or ‘being rich’ or ‘being famous’. That is not how it works.
Those things are often the result of living a useful, kind and productive life and helping others and studying and working on things what are interesting (to you) and helpful to society. So do that. Do it for you. Others will see it and appreciate it.
Focus on this, not on others’ expectations and you’ll be on the right path. You have the control to do it. And you can.