15 December 2020

Jesy Nelson says living up to expectations is hard: 5 expert tips for dealing with pressure

15 December 2020

Jesy Nelson has announced her departure from Little Mix, saying: “Recently being in the band has really taken a toll on my mental health.”

The 29-year-old has spent nine years with the group, recently missing appearances due to private medical reasons. Nelson has spoken in the past about her anxiety, particularly in a BBC documentary called Odd One Out.

She writes on Instagram: “I find the constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations very hard. There comes a time in life when we need to reinvest in taking care of ourselves rather than focussing on making other people happy, and I feel like now is the time to begin that process.”

TODO: define component type factbox

Many of us feel the weight of expectation in our own lives – whether that pressure comes from work, family, friends, or even yourself.

“If we’re someone who puts high expectations on ourselves, we’re likely to have something we refer to in psychology as ‘unrelenting standards’,” explains Dr Elena Touroni, psychologist and co-founder of My Online Therapy. “At the heart of most perfectionists is a deep fear of disapproval, of not being ‘good enough’. And, in extreme cases, the drive for perfection can lead to anxiety, depression and even burnout.”

If you’re struggling with pressure, here’s how to help yourself…

1. Try filtering what other people say

Jesy Nelson

Touroni describes how we can “unwittingly take on other people’s expectations… but, even if they mean well, sometimes they can be unhelpful”.

The psychologist recommends trying to filter any critical feedback or advice you receive. “Can you make sense of the feedback without taking all of it in as true?” she says. “If something someone says is unhelpful or hurtful, be sure to express that too. It’ll stop you feeling powerless and will give you agency and control.”

2. Try not to take things personally

Shelby Throman, life coach and co-founder of Throman Reid, reminds us not to take things too personally – although sometimes, this can be easier said than done.

Other people’s behaviour “reflects them, not you”, she says. “People are mirrors, acting and reacting in accordance with our individual realities, belief systems and projected insecurities. The sooner you make peace with this, the better.”

3. Think about what’s really important to you

Touroni also thinks it’s helpful to re-evaluate your values and the things that really matter to you. “Society often tells us that the secret to happiness is to achieve our goals. And whilst having goals in life is important, it can also leave us feeling empty if they’re not in line with our values.

“When we lose sight of our values – and only live life striving for goal after goal – it’s easy to miss out on the here and now, and we can end up burning ourselves out. Living a values-based life helps give us direction in life – a greater sense of purpose. Our values help us stay grounded and can guide us towards living a meaningful and fulfilling life.”

4. Consider therapy

“Because perfectionism is often embedded from an early age, therapy can be a good place to unpick and challenge these belief systems, and understand how your high expectations might be holding you back,” Touroni says.

5. Find small joys in life

TODO: define component type factbox

“Try to find something to be grateful for, every day,” Throman recommends. “When reality doesn’t match your expectations, the world doesn’t have to fall apart. In fact, it usually doesn’t. There’s always something new you can learn, an opportunity you can go for, or a chance to deepen your self-awareness.”

It could be helpful to start a gratitude journal and write down the small things you’re happy about every day.

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