The topic for today is our eXpectations for both ourselves and others. We must always remember, whether we are healthy or not, to set reasonable expectations for ourselves and those we may interact with during the course of our lives. While it may seem easy, there can be many challenges in the way of doing so. As mentioned in earlier posts, we are often harder on ourselves and expect more of ourselves than even our worst critic could ever express. It is for this reason that we must set reasonable expectations. We must also reevaluate them often to ensure that they are still reasonable given the current circumstances in our lives.
From a patient perspective it is easy to fall into a trap I see discussed on many groups I belong to on social media and one I’ve discussed with many people myself. This is the fallacy that we expect that we should continue to be able to perform in the exact same way as we did prior to the injury or illness that has impacted our lives be it mentally or physically.
This is unrealistic for a whole variety of reasons. Firstly, nearly any illness or injury has the ability to drastically change one’s life whether it is a relatively short-term change such as a sprained ankle where you are unable to walk on it while it heals, to a major one such as paralysis, or even a terminal diagnosis. Even if your illness presents no outwardly obvious signs of physical change and is well controlled by treatments or medications you may have cognitive side effects.
Maybe you are one of the many people who suffer from pharmaceutical side effects? Maybe you have brain fog as a result of your anti-seizure medication or mental health medications. These too can present a challenge if you unreasonably expect yourself to perform at prior levels without any accommodation or acknowledgment of these very real challenges in your path.
As a physician, maybe you got into medicine to help people and save lives. While this can be one of the most cited reasons for entering the field of healthcare, it too can be set to an unrealistic expectation. As I’ve said before, physicians, in fact, all practitioners, are mere mortals. As a result, it is imperative that these mortal practitioners of the art and science of medicine set reasonable expectations for themselves.
There isn’t a single physician I’ve met or spoken to at conferences that have never encountered a patient for whom they could not offer a cure. Further, a vast majority of these same physicians felt as if they were expected by both themselves and the patient to have been able to provide a cure, prevent a death, or at the very least reduce their patient’s subsequent suffering. While very noble, it is unrealistic as there are conditions for which there are no diagnostic answers, or even a name or criteria yet developed for the cluster of symptoms a patient may present with.
We must all remember to keep our expectations of both ourselves and others within logical and reasonable realms and do our best to be cognizant of the fact that life is fluid by nature. Things change. We must learn to adapt our expectations to be able to enjoy life to its fullest without being too harsh on ourselves for those things that may simply be outside of our control.
Have you found yourself with unrealistic expectations and had to reevaluate where you should be setting those expectations to make them attainable? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear your input on the matter!