The Danger of Living Up to My Potential Thoughts aka LUMPT (and other crazy-making thoughts)

Have you ever woken up, or laid awake at night, or sat at your desk with the thought ‘Ugh. What am I doing? I’m not living up to my potential like [fill in the blank with names of others you admire]. What am I doing with my life?’

This is one of the cruelest thought tunnels you can get lost in. Possibly, it’s worse if someone else you know – a parent, a friend or spouse – tells you, or alludes to, this belief about you. I know. I’ve been there – on all accounts. It’s awful.

I’ve really wondered about this phrase because I’ve heard it so many times; what does ‘your potential’ mean? That because you’re educated, clever, funny, attractive, got a good mind and heart you should ‘be someone?’, ‘do something extra-ordinary?’, ‘make more than a million dollars?’ Your potential just seems like a loaded couple of very loaded words. Truly, the only times I’ve heard those words are when someone says they aren’t living up to their potential, also known as their (or someone else’s) expectations.

Having worked with thousands of people over the past 30 years, I have heard many versions of toxic expectations that have simply stopped people in their tracks. Yes, we need our expectations to motivate us and to sometimes even inspire us. But it’s a fine line – expectation turns to shaming turns to paralysis pretty dang fast.

Our expectations can be an insidious trap that have us thinking ill or ourselves and/or others; I still get stuck in this trap, but I’ve been working on it for a while now so I’ve gotten much more savvy at using some effective techniques to open the jagged jaws of said trap to let myself out of it. I was witness to a client’s nasty expectations the other day, so I was inspired to share my thoughts and suggestions with you in case you’re stuck in this place yourself.

Letting go of Living Up to My Potential Thinking ~ LUMPT ~

  1. Get to know what being slimed by LUMPT feels like.

This is what it feels like for me, and I’ve heard clients talk about it this way, too:

Energy drains out of your body, you feel glued to your bed, the chair you’re sitting in, the floor you’re lying on; you can’t stop feeling like you’ve let someone down, can’t figure out what you did wrong but you know nothing feels right. You might feel confused and foggy. Sleepy. And you may believe you’re a loser, you somehow haven’t gotten things right, and it feels like getting things right is a long way off. Doubt prevails. Why? Because you aren’t living up to your potential. Personally, I’ve also felt slimed because someone else threw their idea of who I was supposed to be for them. This is important because this can happen a lot. Other people’s voices and faces can get in your head about who they think you’re supposed to be for them, or others. That’s on them…not you. The slimed feeling will go away when you get clear: You get to decide if you want to be who others want you to be, and then figure out how you’re going to do you and be that person. If you don’t want to be that person, you need to know that.

  • In order to get clear about what’s you or someone else you must pay attention to messages from your body, your thoughts, feelings and moods so you can distinguish what’s right for you and what’s someone else’s stuff.
  • Once you’re aware of LUMPT, consider your choices.

You can stay stuck where you are, or you can get cleaned up. This really is your choice! You can get to know the slime and the clunkiness and ickyness. You can also kindly look at what’s just triggered this experience and ask yourself some good questions like: What just happened that’s making me feel this way? What thoughts am I having that’s making me feel this way? Did I just talk with someone, see someone or something that triggered this? Are my thoughts stuck in a project or conversation that’s not going the way I want? What would help me to release these feelings so I can move again?

Often, talking honestly with another person will help with this release, but you need to be willing to be honest about how you’re feeling. Or, take a little time to consider what your expectations really are about who you’re supposed to be.

Let me give you an example of a client who was stuck in some beliefs that were tormenting her. A 29 year old woman came into my office who was panicked. She was 29, very well groomed, very slim, hoping to be engaged (she did have the boyfriend) to be married soon. She wanted for herself: to be 30 and married, get her MBA immediately, make $300K and have 3 children by the time she was 35. Just getting the MBA would take time, and there was a wedding to pull together, and honestly, just acclimating to one baby takes time. [If this sounds like you I promise it isn’t! This was from over a decade ago!] She was panicked and wanted help…How was she going to get this all done? Think people don’t really think this way?? They do.

So…check yourself now that you’ve read this. Does this sound like – Eh, no problem, she can pull it off easily? Or do you see anything a little off here? Let’s see if we can step back to get some perspective… what is this young woman hoping she will actually feel like while she’s living this particular dream life. What is the real goal in being this person? PS: we did discuss this at length; She broke down crying, recognizing that this was her boyfriend’s version of what he wanted and expected of her. She had to take some time to decide if this version of life was what she really wanted. Most of it, she decided, she did want, and then decided how to take steps forward to make that happen.

  • Expect Messy. Life is messy and so are humans. You are human. The more we can accept this, the less challenged we will be by said messiness.

We need our visions and hopes for how we want to see our life unfold. This is what gets us up in the morning, dreaming of what’s ahead and moving towards it. What stops us from effectively moving forward ~ with some gusto ~ can be our over-reaching expectations, stubbornly expecting to see things happen just as we want. Getting slimed by LUMPT (ours or others of us), and feelings of disappointment, can often lead to missing other opportunities that present themselves. Being able to investigate your thoughts, know when you’re in the grip of expectation of yourself or others, and being able to offer some acceptance and encouragement to find new ways to do you, will go a long way to recalibrating, to find new ways of getting what you want, and to being your own unique version of yourself.