Setting Yourself Up for Success: Realistic Expectations Without the “Better Than” Mentality

Setting goals and expectations for ourselves is crucial for personal growth and development. However, when our expectations become unrealistic or are rooted in a “better than” mentality, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy, burnout, and even depression.

In this article, we’ll explore how we can set realistic expectations for ourselves without the harmful effects of the “better than” mentality.

Understanding the “Better Than” Mentality

The “better than” mentality is a mindset that sees oneself as superior to others. It can be rooted in feelings of insecurity or a desire for validation and success.

Those who have a “better than” mentality may set unrealistic expectations for themselves based on external standards, such as societal norms or the achievements of others. This can lead to a constant need to prove oneself and a fear of failure.

The “better than” mentality can also create a competitive environment where people are pitted against each other, rather than working together towards shared goals.

The Importance of Realistic Expectations

While having high standards and ambitions are admirable traits, setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves can be harmful. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, stress, and burnout, as we struggle to meet our own impossibly high standards.

On the other hand, setting realistic expectations can help us achieve our goals while maintaining our mental and emotional wellbeing. It involves setting goals that are challenging yet achievable, and taking into account our own unique strengths and limitations.

Strategies for Setting Realistic Expectations

Here are some strategies for setting realistic expectations for ourselves without succumbing to the “better than” mentality:

1. Focus on Internal Goals

Rather than comparing ourselves to external standards or the achievements of others, we should focus on internal goals. This means setting goals based on our own interests, passions, and values, rather than what society or others expect of us.

Internal goals are more meaningful and fulfilling, as they’re based on our own intrinsic motivation, rather than external validation.

2. Take a Holistic Approach

When setting goals and expectations for ourselves, we should take a holistic approach. This means considering all aspects of our lives, such as our physical health, mental wellbeing, relationships, and career aspirations.

By taking a holistic approach, we can create a more balanced and fulfilling life that aligns with our goals and values.

3. Be Realistic About Our Limitations

Setting realistic expectations also means being honest with ourselves about our limitations. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and acknowledging them can help us set goals that are challenging yet achievable.

By setting goals that are too lofty or unrealistic, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. Instead, we should aim for progress, not perfection.

4. Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrating small wins along the way can help us stay motivated and focused on our goals. Rather than waiting for a big achievement to feel accomplished, we should celebrate each step towards our goals.

This can also help us maintain a positive mindset and avoid the negativity and self-doubt that can come with the “better than” mentality.

5. Practice Self-Compassion

Finally, practicing self-compassion is crucial when setting realistic expectations. This means treating ourselves with kindness, understanding, and empathy, rather than self-criticism or judgment.

Self-compassion can help us overcome setbacks and obstacles, and bounce back stronger and more resilient.


Setting expectations and goals for ourselves is important for personal growth and development. However, when our expectations become unrealistic or are rooted in the “better than” mentality, it can lead to harmful effects on our mental and emotional wellbeing.

To set realistic expectations, we should focus on internal goals, take a holistic approach, be realistic about our limitations, celebrate small wins, and practice self-compassion. Let’s strive for progress, not perfection, and set ourselves up for success without the harmful effects of the “better than” mentality.

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