Great Expectations

In this episode . . .

In today’s episode on the Burnout Recovery Podcast, Dr Jo Braid talks about expectations we have for ourselves and think others may have for us. Where do the expectations come from?

Dr Jo shares a personal story of having unattainable high expectations for herself and how she addressed that. Imposter syndrome can play a part in high expectations too.

Or enjoy the podcast transcript, below.

Hello, I am Dr Jo Braid!

I help exhausted doctors overcome burnout and get their energy back!

Great Expectations

Hi, my name is Dr. Jo Braid and I am the burnout recovery doctor. I help health care professionals overcome burnout and get their energy back. So whether you’re a med student, allied health professional or a doctor who is suffering from feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, you’re in the right place. In this podcast, you will get your energy back through strategies for burnout recovery. This show will give you the practical tips and mindset strategies to help you recover from burnout in healthcare. 

You are listening to the burnout recovery podcast. In Episode Five, I am talking about one of the contributors to burnout triggers high expectations we have for ourselves and think others may have for us too. 

So, where does this all start? 

It can start well before we even start at medical school or in a role in health care. There may be expectations when you’re growing up that you are expected to do well in your work or study in order to get acknowledgment from others or praise. This time of life can have a significant imprint on young minds, where they develop an equation of if I do this task well, I will get praise from a parent or significant person in my life. Conversely, if I do not do this task well, praise will be withheld from me or I will not feel safe in my immediate vicinity. Working on inner safety is an area I offer to clients in burnout recovery coaching. As a parent of three young boys in primary school, I’m very aware of these unsaid influences. And I’m bringing my most conscious and aware self to my responses and expectations of them. Let’s move on a few more years. And then as you get older, they may be a self judgmental part of you that appears and has an opinion and an expectation on what you do and how well you do it. This can be a contributor to the personality trait that is more at risk of developing burnout. judging yourself on what you’ve done and whether you have met your expectations. And your subsequent satisfaction of that can contribute to the cycle of high expectations, self judgement, and low satisfaction. The problem fixing person in this cycle addresses the low satisfaction or even disappointment in themselves by trying harder, doing more and throwing more mental energy at the problem. This is often to their detriment, leading to exhaustion. This can show up in medical school with the competitive nature of training, as well as being surrounded by others with their own high expectations. And certainly this will continue through specialty training and beyond supported by the system, the organisation by medical culture. Now I’m not suggesting we drop our expectations of the level of care or research or investigation that we do. Instead, I suggest following on from podcast episode two, which was titled connecting with yourself with awareness that one looks or finds out with curiosity, what our own expectations are, and are they even attainable? Do you want to keep those expectations? or modify them? Are you aware of when you will have met them? 

I can totally relate to this personally. Not that long ago, I was writing a presentation I was giving to a local group of general practitioners. setting the bar high, I actually didn’t know when I would have met the standard I expected of myself. And when I would be confident I had finished the presentation. You know there were always more edits I could continue to do even on the morning of the presentation. And surely more would be better than enough. So I didn’t have an endpoint that I knew about that I could confidently reach. I didn’t have a boundary as to the time allocation I would spend on the preparation. And I was using up mental energy thinking about it and if there was enough good content in the presentation. Once I sat down to clarify these finish points, I could allocate that aim to get it done, be clear on when it was finished, and know it had met my own expectations of the presentation I was looking forward to giving. Meeting my own expectations was satisfying, as opposed to having an endless horizon of when it would be complete. And our brain really looks for those dopamine hits. And this can be a form of getting a dopamine hit by having that aim endpoint for you. And that’s much more exciting for your brain, then not having any reward at the end of the work that you’re looking to do. 

Great Expectations can show up in lots of different places, how we present ourselves to the world, how we expect our homes to look how knowledgeable we can sound about a certain topic, even how qualified we are for a job. There is evidence of a gender divide in this area with research showing men will apply for a job where they are 30% qualified for the role, whereas women will apply when they deem they are 70% qualified for the role. High expectations ties in with imposter syndrome. Again, evidence shows this is more common in women than men. When people expect the talent police are about to tap them on the shoulder and question their skill set for their role. This relates to what we perceive the expectations are that others have for us. I see this in clients who come for burnout recovery coaching. For example, at their specific level of training in medicine, they’re expecting themselves to for example, provide a list of different possible diagnoses that a doctor three years ahead of them would be considering. So they’re setting themselves up for disappointment, because their expectations of themselves are much more advanced and with much more experience than they currently have. I really believe that open communication about expectations of others in the workplace, and at home can save some of these headaches and areas of overwork. 

That’s a wrap up with today’s podcast, high expectations for oneself with targets that are unachievable can contribute to an increased likelihood of burnout. I encourage you to check in on your expectations for yourself and see if they are achievable and realistic for you. 

Finally, do you ever think you might be in burnout? And you’re just not sure. I have a free burnout assessment tool available on my website. This is a series of 12 questions based off the burnout assessment tool, which was published in 2019. If you complete the questionnaire, you’ll get an answer as to your risk of burnout. It’s completely free. You’re welcome to use it and you’ll find it at

Thank you for tuning in to the burnout recovery podcast. If you liked what you heard, please hit subscribe and head on over to my website at There you can download my free guide with 10 tips to take if you’re nearing burnout. See you next time!