We create stress for ourselves because you feel like you have to do it. You have to. I don’t feel that anymore — Oprah Winfrey
Everything is an illusion, when you think about it.
I mean, I try not to think about it for too long (because it kinda makes my mind boggle).
But here’s the deal; nothing in our world is ‘real’. Our experience of reality, as Albert Einstein put it, is “an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”.
This includes the money we worry about (an illusion), how stressed we feel because of our job (an illusion), and the story we tell ourselves about who we are (yep, also an illusion).
Of course, it doesn’t always feel this way.
I can damn sure testify to how real the pressure of debt feels when I’ve got a whole lot of it waiting to be paid off.
Plus, external pressure does exist.
Our bosses, parents, and peers can massively pile it on.
But the most common – and most insidious – type of pressure is the kind we put on ourselves.
8 signs of self-imposed pressure
- Telling yourself you’re not good enough. If we don’t feel like we’re enough as we are, we’ll constantly keep tweaking ourselves, hoping to finally get there one day. But what’s ‘good enough’ is completely subjective. We end up on an endless and exhausting quest for perfection – unless we decide that, actually, we’re fabulous just the way we are.
- Comparing yourself to others. It’s so easy to look at other people and wish we were more like them; especially when we’re presented with their droolworthy highlight reel on social media. Most people don’t broadcast their failures, but remember that if they’re human, they’ve definitely experienced them.
- Setting super high expectations. While it’s great to strive for excellence, it can go way too far – and make us extremely critical, judgmental, and demanding towards ourselves and others. There’s a fine balance between wanting to create amazing work, and never wanting to accept a project as being “done”.
- Being afraid to say no. If we worry excessively about what might happen if we say no, we’ll be inclined to take on far too much (and others will exploit our poor boundaries to take full advantage). Saying no is vital to protect our precious time and energy.
- Trying to please everyone. First of all, this is impossible. Second of all, attempting it is exhausting; it’s great to want to make people happy (in theory) but if sole our motivation is to please others, rather than living from the inside out as our authentic self, we’ll soon run into trouble.
- Giving up before you really try. If we think that we’ll fail before we even start, we’re never going to allow ourselves to go for what we really want. Instead of quitting at the first hurdle, we can practice ‘embracing the mess’, taking the risk to go afyer what we want, and see where it gets us
- Trying to control for all possibilities. We never have control in this life, not really. We co-create with the universe – and let’s face it, we never know for certain that we’ll make it to the end of the day alive, without any kind of tragic accident occuring. There’s always something that could go wrong. We gotta relax into it.
- Never being satisfied. This can only ever lead to an absolutely miserable existence. If we don’t feel satisfied, we’ll always be unfulfilled, constantly chasing happiness. Instead, we can train ourselves to be grateful for what we do have, and for the progress we’ve made so far.
How to take the pressure off
To unburden ourselves of self-imposed pressure, we simply have to remember one simple truth.
We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it (including how much pressure we put on ourselves).
So I invite you to see life as a game.
See how much fun you can have while navigating the murky waters of life.
See how much joy and pleasure you can inject into each day, despite the challenges that come with it.
And see if, ever so slowly, that self-imposed pressure starts to lift, and you can breathe again.