When you talk to yourself, consider this: How often do you use the words “should”, “need” or “must”?
Do you often say phrases like:
“I must get this perfect, or I’ll look stupid “? or “I need to stay overtime today to earn more respect from the boss ”? ‘I should eat healthier?
These words do not just become part of your self-talk, but rather they become (unconscious) rules that we live by over time, in response to our experiences and as coping strategies for dealing with difficult or stressful situations. If we abide by these unwritten and unspoken rules then all will be well (or so our belief goes); our core belief, for example, I’m useless, I’m a failure, I’m not good enough‘ – won’t be triggered. If I’m as good as I can be – perfect – or do as ‘expected’ of me, then I can prove to myself and others that I’m not a failure.
Hence, it’s perfectly understandable if you have these traits that quite often lead to perfectionism and stress.
However, just know that being perfect all the time is mentally and physically exhausting, and being perfect isn’t possible, because we are human after all. As humans we are fallible; we can’t be excellent at everything and we learn by making mistakes, not by being perfect. If you’re always trying to keep up with people’s expectations of you, then you’re never going to find your inner peace of mind. People will constantly have these expectations and when you fail to meet them even once, they make you feel so guilty about it.
Shoulds, musts, and needs are commands that we’re expected to obey, not just in relation to perfectionism but also in other areas of our life too; for example, I should call my mother because she expects me to or I expect myself to because that’s what good daughters do! But you can decide what you do, not some unwritten rule; you may have good reasons not to.
Living with rules makes you trapped within other people’s expectations and your self-talk becomes not just normal self-talk but rather a way of making yourself follow the commands set upon you by people’s expectations. Not only that but what’s even worse is when you become your own biggest critic. It’s when you essentially shame and guilt-trip yourself for not achieving or following these rules set upon you by your environment. However, you do not have to live by their standards. You do not have to walk by the rules they set upon your mind!
For starters, you can start by telling yourself that you would like/love to do (something) or that you’re looking forward to doing (something). In this way, you can avoid thinking about the things that your environment tells you that you need to do, and instead end up thinking about the things that you actually want to do and give you a sense of peace. See the difference between, “I need to go to work today” and “I’m looking forward to seeing my kids after work!”. These sentences both require you to do the same thing– go to work. However, if you noticed the second version, it is framed in such a way that you’re actually looking at the bright side of going to work.
Try shifting those three little words to ‘I would like to’, ‘it would be lovely to’, or even ‘it’s fine, you can’t be perfect at everything, and see what a difference it makes.
Be kind to yourself!
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