Anxiety and Self-Imposed Expectations
A banana-inspired story about how I deal with my anxiety and self-imposed, unrealistic expectations.
“Just Throw Out the Damn Bananas”
Cory went to the grocery store and bought bananas. I went to the grocery store the same day and also bought bananas. Due to insufficient husband-wife-banana-communication, we ended up with enough bananas to feed three baby monkeys.
And these bananas haunted me.
The first reason they were haunting was due to a heart-to-heart Cory and I had earlier that week about grocery shopping. (Don’t you love the topics of marital conflict?) I was frustrated because it felt like every time Cory went to the grocery store, he mainly purchased food that he liked to make. When I went to the grocery store, I felt like I bought food that we'd both like to make. I told Cory I needed more support in life, and one way he could support me was by considering my food needs when he was at the store. He totally got it. We hugged it out. A few days later, Cory was inspired to buy me bananas, among other items, to show me his support. Cue the banana debacle. Cue the pressure I felt to utilize his bananas to express my gratitude to him for considering my needs.
The bananas also haunted me because of their ticking-time bomb nature. Unlike their fruit friend, the apple, the banana does not seemingly last forever. Unlike the apple, the banana cannot survive in the depths of your fruit drawer for two weeks until you’re ready for a Saturday afternoon snack (and let’s face it, the apple was your back-up choice because you were out of chips).
Every time I walked by the bananas in my kitchen, the Mission Impossible theme song blasted in my brain. They needed to be used, and they needed to be used fast! Now, they were a healthy yellow. Soon, they would be a dying brown. And since Cory is allergic to bananas (and carrots…and watermelon…sad, right?), I knew it was my duty and my duty alone to put them to use.
“I’ll eat a banana every day for the next twelve days,” I thought to myself. I had ignorant hope these bananas would last forever. After the first two days, I could see this plan wasn’t going to cut it.
“I’ll freeze them!” I opened the freezer and found a full Ziploc bag of bananas from the last surplus.
“I’ll make banana bread!" This was the answer! The heavens opened up and angels sang. My fruit-flavored handcuffs were removed. And just like that, the grip of these bananas had vanished. “That’s right, bananas. You don’t own me anymore. Continue on ripening. Get as brown as you want. I know what to do with you." Yes, banana bread was definitely a solid plan.
But then the plan itself started to grip me. Each morning, I was determined to bake the bread after work. Then inevitably each evening as I pulled into the garage, I had no energy to play Betty Crocker. This cycle repeated for several days, and I felt increasing pressure to bake the damn bread. Something as silly as ripening bananas loomed over me.
Thursday morning, I had enough. No more pressure. No more expectations. I marched over to the bananas, tossed them into an empty grocery bag, and banished them to the garage trashcan. I felt immediate relief and took a deep breath. My shoulders relaxed. The banana bread expectations were gone.
On my drive to work that morning, I reflected on the relief I felt. So much stress had built up over the course of a few days because of unnecessary, self-imposed expectations. I expected myself to put the bananas to good use to show Cory his act of kindness was seen. I expected myself to bake banana bread when I was trying to balance a full-time job, a growing private practice, IVF prep, and blog-writing. I expected myself to be accomplished at work, at home, on the Internet, and in my womb. As I tossed the bananas into the garbage, all of the stress dissipated in a matter of seconds. In that moment, I realized that I had the power to shift what I expected of myself. It made me wonder how often I subconsciously place excessive, trivial pressure on my shoulders.
Later that day, I made a list of my current self-imposed (and mostly subconscious) expectations:
To grow my blog following to the thousands (Why? Why does this matter? Why do I care? I guess it’s rooted in my passion for this project, in comparing myself to other bloggers, and in my history of perfectionism)
To write a blog post twice weekly (Why did I decide on this magic number? Why the pressure to write so frequently? Why not honor what feels natural?)
To improve my writing (I recently read some other authors on Medium, and I immediately felt inadequate. So silly since I'm not a professional writer, so why would I compare myself to others who write for a living?)
To someday help so many people with this blog that I get asked to go on Ellen (Yes, you can laugh! I certainly did when I realized this was a subconscious expectation I had placed on myself. This was an actual thought I had last week. I dreamed of dancing with Ellen DeGeneres. I’m all about reaching for the stars, but why? Why this unnecessary pressure?)
To be physically perfect (Ugh. Don’t even get me started on this one. This expectation makes me so sad and is ever-present in my mind. I’m so against intentional weight loss after years of disordered eating behaviors and excessive exercise.)
To have a clean, orderly house always (Talk about an unnecessary, and nearly impossible, expectation)
Just naming these expectations helped release the tension. Awareness is the first step towards change, as the wise ones always say.
I've slowly started making micro changes this past week since writing down these expectations: I'm starting to wear less makeup and to spend less time styling my hair in order to shift my physical expectations. I've even started pulling my bangs out of my face (and for those of you who know me, you know this is a HUGE deal. I've had bangs since birth, and I am really self-concious of my forehead). I try stay aware of how much I care about the number of Instagram followers I have (because, really, this isn't the point). And I've even stopped emailing Ellen daily (just kidding! Haven't done that...yet.).
I know this "throw out the damn bananas" lesson will be really valuable as I continue on with infertility treatments. When I start to feel my shoulders tighten up, I'll pause, check myself, and chuck any unnecessary, self-imposed expectations into the garbage...next to the brown bananas.
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Side note: there are no major fertility updates this week (what a relief). I'm still taking my supplements. The only changes I've noticed are that my energy has slightly increased and my nails are rock solid. I emailed my IVF nurse, Erika, to solidify the timeline for starting my stimulation meds. I've taken on a few private practice patients to save extra money for IVF. That's about it on the fertility front!
Second side note: I'll be embracing another one of my "unicorns" this week by sharing my disordered eating and excessive exercise recovery story. Later this year, a guest writer will be sharing her eating disorder recovery too. I love seeing so many people embracing their unicorns and boldly sharing their stories.
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Follow the Unicorn Mission!