Do you remember the children’s story of Chicken Little? She goes out for a stroll one day and winds up walking under a tree and being hit in the head by a falling acorn. Immediately, Chicken Little decides, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” She proceeds to act under that perception, gathering up several of her friends to go to the king about this crisis. In the heat of the moment, Chicken Little and her friends are tricked and ultimately eaten by a clever fox they meet on the way to the king.
Chicken Little walked straight under the branch of Unrealistic Expectations. When the acorn hit her head, she took it as a catastrophe. It wasn’t a catastrophe; it was a natural event. Acorns fall from trees. She just happened to be hit by one. She could have said, “Ouch! I just got hit by that falling acorn!” and continued on with her walk. Instead, that acorn became “The sky is falling.”
I wonder how many times this happens for women.
Unrealistic expectations turn the acorns of problems, shortcomings, hiccups, and bumps in the road into catastrophes. When women are under stress, they perceive their life to be under siege. When their life is under siege and an acorn drops, to them the sky is falling. When the rest of the world (or the people around them or their families) don’t see things that way and respond accordingly, these women become defensive, angry, and hostile. They feel underappreciated, overworked, and taken for granted. The more they feel this way, the more they resent it and the angrier they get.
When you feel under siege by stress, it can appear that others don’t have it as badly as you do. It can appear as if your situation, your stress, your siege, is worse than anyone else’s, but this is appearance, not truth. Problems, shortcomings, hiccups, and bumps in the road are not special to you; they are a part of the human condition. To think otherwise — and become bitter about it — is an unrealistic expectation.
Listen to what Job says: “For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:6-7). Have you ever watched a fire burn outside? Sparks from that fire just naturally fly upward in the draft created by the heat of the fire compared to the relative coolness of the surrounding air. Sparks flying up is a natural occurrence, like acorns falling down. Problems are like sparks flying upward; they are a natural, common occurrence. You have not been singled out for this treatment; it is part of the package deal called being human.
SOURCE: Chapter 5: “What’s Stress Got to Do with It?” in Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Your Anger by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.