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Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you ease the pressure you always seem to put on yourself. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.
Life is stressful. There’s so much going on in the world. You have work, chores, and maybe a family to take care of.
And on top of that, many people struggle with perfectionism and put pressure on themselves to perform.
They hold themselves to this incredibly high standard, a standard they may not feel is fair to impose on others, but it is certainly appropriate for them.
And they can’t live up to it because it’s just not possible. What is possible? Temporary bursts of focused activity designed to get high results. But it’s not possible to maintain that over months or even years.
That’s a surefire way to burn yourself out. And if you burn yourself out, you won’t be performing at even a moderate level until you have a chance to rest and reset.
Learning to not put so much pressure on yourself is a daunting task. If you’re a perfectionist or you require yourself to be a high-achiever, it’s going to be mighty uncomfortable. But that’s okay. You just have to keep going through the discomfort until you get to where you want to be.
But how do you get there? Well…
1. Perfect is the enemy of good.
You may have heard this phrase before. What it’s saying is that a perfect project is never finished. No matter what you do, you will always find more that could be done.
This is a common thing for artists to struggle with in particular. Most artists can look at anything they’ve created and see at least one more thing they could have changed to bring it closer to their perfect vision.
The secret is that nothing is perfect. And even if you agonize over the thing for an ungodly amount of hours, the audience may not care at all. It can completely miss.
Granted, it is well worth putting an appropriate amount of time into what you’re doing. Knowing when to stop and call a project complete is crucial.
And it’s not just art. The same is true for work projects, home improvement, relationships, parenting, or whatever else.
Perfect is the enemy of good because a perfect project is rarely completed.
2. Take a break when you are feeling under pressure.
Oh, take a break when you feel like you’re pressuring yourself! Such sage wisdom, I know. But bear with me while we look at exactly how this will help.
The idea is to interrupt the thought processes to disrupt how they gain steam. In many cases, pressured thoughts are circular thoughts in that they just go round and round. And as they go round, they pile onto each other, creating more anxiety, intensity, and pressure.
But what happens when you disrupt that process? Well, you allow the thoughts to dissipate. You slow them down, so they don’t stack up quite as harshly.
If you find yourself in those thought loops, take a break and force yourself to not think about it. Meditation is a great way to quiet things down. Try a 5-minute guided meditation video on YouTube or an app if you struggle with meditating.
Find something else to focus on that isn’t your work, then return to it later.
3. Improve your self-talk.
What kind of thoughts do you have when feeling anxious and pressured to perform?
Are they kind, loving thoughts?
They’re probably negative.
How often do we tell ourselves that we are not good enough? That we can’t do something that we are knowledgeable about? That we aren’t capable of learning or accomplishing this task in front of us?
But you are capable. You can learn how to do the thing that you’re trying to do. You can figure it out to get it into a deliverable state or accomplish the goal you have. Or, failing that, you have Google! You can look up how to do it and probably find a step-by-step guide to help you through it!
Be kind to yourself. Replace the negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Instead of telling yourself that you will fail or screw it up, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. You are capable. You are able.
And hey, even if you do make a mistake, it’s okay! Unless you’re doing brain surgery or something. Then it is most definitely not okay to make mistakes. Be a perfectionist if you’re a brain surgeon.
That’s our best advice.
4. Strive for balance in your projects.
There is a big difference between being a perfectionist and a high-achiever. Perfectionists tend to over-stress the need for accomplishment. A high-achiever is someone who can bring balance to the projects they’re working on, whether it’s at work or in the home.
So what kind of traits can you take from the high-achiever?
Leave work at work. A high-achiever knows that they need downtime to rest and recuperate. They accomplish this by having healthy boundaries with their workplace. Don’t install apps on your personal devices, don’t correspond after hours, and don’t answer emails in your off-time. Definitely don’t answer emails from your phone. Don’t even have your work email on it.
They work at a steady pace. A perfectionist may hyper-focus on their work to do the best job possible. They may forgo breaks or work at a breakneck pace. The problem is that both of those things can introduce additional complications. A tired worker is a sloppy worker. A fast worker can easily make mistakes or injure themselves by skipping safety.
Finding a balanced pace to make regular progress will still take you to your goal.
5. Focus more on positive thinking.
Pressure does not typically lend itself well to positive thinking. Usually, we’re focused on all of the things that we’re not doing right or fast enough. We demand more of ourselves.
Keep going, push harder, work faster, get this done. Why can’t you get this done? Why aren’t you doing more? If you were actually good at this, you would already be done by now!
Reframing those thoughts can significantly reduce your stress and the pressure you are putting on yourself to perform. Instead of negative thoughts, try words of affirmation instead.
“I am more than capable of doing this.”
“I am doing great on this project!”
“Steady, consistent work will bring me to success.”
There are probably other negative thoughts you have. Create positive mantras to replace them with as you work.
6. Avoid rumination.
It’s not good to bottle up your emotions, though it’s also not helpful to ruminate on them.
What is rumination? Well, it’s when you sit and stew on your negative feelings without processing them or letting them go. Certain mental health issues can cause a person to get caught in negative thought loops. They constantly go back to and dwell on their negative thoughts instead of moving on from them.
That’s not a healthy thing to do.
You will dramatically increase pressure on yourself by constantly focusing on what you should be doing or need to be doing. Give it an appropriate amount of thought, and then let it go.
How do you know what an appropriate amount of thought is?
I find that a good rule of thumb is it’s time to stop thinking when you start crossing back into territory you’ve already covered, or you’re starting to kick up duplicate information. If you’ve already thought about the thing, there’s no reason to keep thinking about it. Fifteen minutes and four hours of thought will not result in different outcomes in all likelihood.
And if you know the subject or problem well, your instinct on what could be right may fire off immediately. It’s just that we spend so much time thinking that we talk ourselves out of the solution that is staring us in the face.
7. Let go of the end result.
What!? How can I possibly let go of the end result! That’s the most important part!
Well, here’s the problem. The best-laid plans are nothing compared to the randomness of the world. You can set yourself up for total success, pour in tons of hours of work, and have it all disappear in an instant.
You can never own the outcome of all of your effort. All it takes is one little thing that you totally didn’t expect and never saw coming to completely derail your end product.
Spent all week on that project for the boss? Well, it’s Friday, and we don’t need it now. Sorry about that!
This is going to be the best work I’ve ever done! Whoops, dropped it and destroyed it.
By all means, do a good job with what you’re doing, but let go of the end result. If you do good work getting there, the end result will speak for itself. You don’t have to stress about getting the end result correct. That’s a problem for future you, not present you.
8. Accept that you are a flawed human being.
The need to deliver on what you do, whether personally or professionally, will constantly fuel your stress and anxiety.
But you’re not perfect.
You can never be perfect.
Even if you are perfect, there will be someone somewhere who just doesn’t dig what you’re on about. Every creator has critics, and sometimes we are our own worst critics.
That’s why it’s so important to practice kindness with yourself. Celebrate your strengths and accept your flaws. That way, you can let go of that stress building up in your chest and let that pressure vent itself off.
It’ll be okay. The world won’t fall apart if you aren’t perfectly on point every minute of every day.
It’s an impossible standard that no one can live up to. Even you.
Still not sure how to stop putting pressure on yourself? Speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
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- How To Overcome Perfectionism: 8 Ways To Accept Less Than The Best
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- How To Not Take Yourself Or Life So Seriously: 19 No Bullsh*t Tips!
- 10 Ways To Strive For Excellence, Not Perfection
- 9 Ways To Be Kind To Yourself – What It Really Means
- 12 Ways To Stop Thinking About Something