Between the dots #10: letting go of expectations

It's been a while since I've written one of these ones, so I figured it was time to share with you what's been going on on the other side of this screen. The short version: it's been a bumpy ride - as always - but right now I'm doing quite well. The long version follows right now, so make yourself a nice and warm cup of tea, and settle in.

Are you ready? Good. For the past months, I've been dealing with a topic that surfaces every so often: letting go of expectations. Not of others - I've learned that a long time ago - but the ridiculously high expectations I have of myself. Although I do know that I should be kind to myself and limit my to-do lists to a maximum of three to five items a day (including taking care of myself, so cooking and taking a shower are already two items), every so often I fall back into my own toxic thoughts where I start believing that I should be able to put ten to fifteen items on my list. And for a while, I manage, but then I burn out. So, that happened between #9 and #10. On more than one occasion.

The only way out is to be kind with myself, clear my schedule for several weeks, sleep and bath a lot, and find things to do so I get out of my head. For me, it always helps - and I do know this, but I won't allow myself to make time for it - to go outside, and walk. Sometimes just for ten minutes, other times for several hours. By now, I'm trying to make it a habit to go to a forest once a week, which is much easier to do since I have my driver's license. And other days I just walk around my neighbourhood, or go to the garden and sit there for a while. And in addition to that, I found something else to get out of my head: watercolour. Not that I'm a massive talent, but just putting brush to paper, painting blobs and flowers, calms my ever racing mind. And it's fun to see my progress over time.

But the restrictive thoughts did not just apply to my to-do lists. If I'm not careful, I tend to set ridiculous standards in every area of my life. This blog, my photography, social media, the type of food I cook to name a few. So I've been working on that as well. In my photography I allowed myself to experiment, creating often less than perfect images but capturing the mood of that moment. On social media I limited my posts to a maximum of three a week, sharing and writing whatever I feel like in the moment instead of planning weeks ahead and writing about stuff I don't care about and no longer relate to when it's time to post. While cooking, I allowed myself to be less snobbish. For years I held this idea that I had to create everything from scratch. And for a while, that was necessary due to my intolerances, but I'm doing much better now, and there's absolutely nothing wrong to use a spice mix or store-bought lasagne sheets. Also, there's nothing wrong when dinner is just passable instead of the best thing you've ever eaten. And for this blog, I've let go of the original format of these posts. Simply because I wanted to give myself a bit more freedom in the way I share my life with you. And in addition to that, I threw my planning out the window. At the beginning of every year, I would make a list of what recipes I wanted to share in the coming year, only to discover time and again that I did not feel like eating that particular type of food when a recipe was scheduled. And the number one rule - that I will stick to forever - is that all the food you see on this website has actually been eaten after I took the photographs. So from now on I will look at the things I've been eating over the past couple of weeks, and share those recipes with you instead of forcing myself to work the other way around, resulting in me not posting anything for months on end.

So what did all this letting go in the past months bring me? Most important of all: clarity and calmness. I no longer feel trapped in my own head, and I finally gave myself time to work on things that are important to me. For example, I started on my self-portrait project, I let my husband take photos of me so I will be in our photobooks as well, I built a webshop and designed two sets of cards, I allow myself more time to finish client galleries, I give myself time to do absolutely nothing without feeling guilty about it, and I know what I can do to get back on track when my head spirals out of control.

I hope my ramblings inspire you in some way or another. If you have a question or want to share some tips for this ongoing process, feel free to write to me in the comments or send an e-mail. I'd love to hear from you. Until next time!

Love, Hester

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