Conscientious. Hard-working. Ambitious. Self-sacrificing. Although these are positive, admirable traits, we can sometimes take them too far at our own expense. If you’re one of those people — like me — who tries to be perfect, read on.
I’ve always worked hard at everything I do. I’ve been a good student, a diligent employee, an attentive mother, a trusted friend. I’m organized and have successfully managed finances, busy schedules and projects. My moral compass is strong, and I strive to live an honest, respectable life. Even more important, I’m always there when my family and friends need me.
But despite all of this, I am not content with where I’m at in life. Instead, I’m exhausted and stressed out. Somehow along the way, I forgot that putting too much pressure on myself and always being a “people pleaser” can be detrimental. Maybe you feel this way too.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I believe those of us who try hard to be perfect have spent most of our lives feeling “not good enough.” Many of us suffer from low self-esteem. We’ve dealt with plenty of rejection from others, as well as messages that we need to do more, do better, be perfect. So that has been my way of life. I’ve felt a need to prove to myself competent, worthwhile and valuable in every situation. I have this overpowering drive to never let anyone down.
It’s exhausting trying to live up to the incredibly high standards I’ve placed on myself. No matter how hard I try, I always feel like there is something more I could/should be doing. The pressure really gets to me sometimes, especially since I’ve mistakenly decided that I am responsible for everyone else’s happiness. If something goes wrong, it is always my fault. If someone feels bad, it’s up to me to “fix” him or her.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly like helping others. Putting a smile on someone’s face is one of my greatest joys. However, I often put myself last and go out of my way to help someone at my own expense. I could be feeling absolutely miserable, but if someone asks for a favor, I rarely say no. On the flip side, I seldom ask for help myself and never want to bother people with my problems. And yes, I do have them — plenty of them! Only most people have no idea what’s going on inside of me or why.
By living my life this way, I have somehow lost a part of myself. I no longer do the things that truly make me happy and am instead wrapped up in what I need to accomplish. I run around feeling drained most of the time and also lonely. I once thought I was good at relationships. I believed I was close to people because I had strong, solid bonds with them. However, now I see that many of my relationships were dependent. People became close to me because of what I could do for them, rather than who I am.
I’ve been taken advantage of more times than I care to admit — by friends, relatives, employers and others. I’ve been lied to, betrayed and hurt by the people I thought would stand by me. I have gotten nowhere by living the way I’ve lived all these years.
"TRUE HAPPINESS COMES FROM A PLACE SOMEWHERE INSIDE OF YOU."
What I’ve come to realize is: Happiness doesn’t come from how much you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished or how well you perform a task. It comes from a place somewhere inside of you. It’s when you choose to enjoy and embrace life no matter what is going on around you. You don’t base your self-worth on what other people think. You allow yourself to make mistakes, knowing that you are still a valuable person.
I was thinking back through my life recently and identifying memories that made me smile, times when I felt truly happy. They were the simple things. Blowing bubbles in the backyard when my daughter was a toddler. Floating on a lake in a boat with my husband. Looking out across the beach and breathing in the fresh air. Spending a day with my family at the park. These are the things that bring me joy. I still do some of these things on occasion. The difference is that I am always somewhere else. Never present. I rarely get lost in the moment. Instead, I think about yesterday or tomorrow or what I need to remember to do.
So where do I go from here? And, if you’re struggling with the same issue, what can you do? First, I believe it’s important to identify what you need to fix. My list is simple:
Realize my own value and self-worth.
Stop being so hard on myself.
Stop trying to please everyone.
Take some time to enjoy life.
Which leads me to the next challenge: How can this be accomplished? That’s the tough part, for sure. The best thing I can think of to do is to give up the stuff that is not beneficial and add in more of the things I enjoy. Some ideas are:
Forgiving myself for my mistakes.
Giving up unfulfilling work.
Breaking down tasks into smaller chunks, rather than trying to do too much at once.
Going for daily walks outside.
Planning more date nights and outings with friends and family.
By doing this, maybe I can once again find myself — and maybe you can too!
Do you have an idea for how to live a more peaceful, rewarding life? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.