Expecting the Worst

When I was in school, I got good grades. In the 90s. But I wanted 100%.

Anything less than 100% felt not good enough. And when I would get a test or assignment back and it wasn’t 100%, it would hurt. 

So, to “lessen the blow”, I thought I had a great idea: after I would hand in an assignment or finish a test, I would tell myself that I did horrible on it. I would convince myself that I sucked. That I was not a good student. I would convince myself to expect a grade that was lower, like in the 60s. I expected the worst.

The logic behind this: if I convince myself that I suck, I would be pleasantly surprised when I got 95%. That 95%, then, seemed so much easier to accept. Instead of not making the 100% and feeling like I failed, this way I felt I succeeded.

Kinda messed up, right?

What I ultimately succeeded at was convincing myself that I suck - regardless of the report cards and awards to prove the contrary - and of building a habit of low self-worth. (I’m still living the effects of this, and I’m improving.)

I thought I was doing myself a service: preparing for the worst and expecting the worst. What I didn’t realize at the time was the power of the mind and the effects of self talk and how much of my life was wasted (for lack of a better term) on negativity. 

My negative thinking and self talk I engaged in after submitting assignments and finishing tests didn’t have any effect on the mark I received, but it did have an effect on me, my self-efficacy, and my energy…a negative effect. 

So, if I could do it again, I would think positively and engage in positive self talk. I wouldn’t necessarily tell myself that I was going to get 100%, but I would tell myself that I did my best and that the mark had no reflection on my value as a person. I would know that it would be possible to get a mark in the 60s, but I wouldn’t expect it. 

Still, none of this would have any effect on my mark after submission, but it would have an effect on me. I would have a more energy, a greater belief in my abilities, and I’d learn to find value in myself and not in my academic achievements.

In other words, if I could do it over again, I would prepare for the worst and expect the best.

This is something that I practice now. For example, when I am asked to facilitate a stress management training workshop, I prepare for the worst. I bring extra cable connections, adaptors, and my own projector, just in case technology fails. 

But I expect the best. Once I have all that stuff packed, I let go of the idea that everything is going to fail and that I’ll be needing to deal with that. I let it go because I am prepared. 

And no matter how much I worry, think and think about technology failing, and expect the worst, it won’t have any effect on the technology during the workshop, but it will certainly have an effect on me. 

So, I may as well expect the best…and save myself the stress.

For what in your life can you prepare for the worst and expect the best?

What effect will that have?

Here’s to conquering stress.

With heart,


The Stress Experts

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