We really are hard on ourselves: addicts, alcoholics, and the like. While we may get sober in an effort to change our lives, often times those suffering from the self-induced pressure to be perfect find themselves with that negative hanger-on. This pressure increases our levels of stress and creates a subversive emotional environment of fear and self-loathing. I’m no stranger to this behavior.
Phrases like “I can’t fail,” or “I can handle it; I don’t need help,” or “I don’t have time to feel like this,” are just some of the ways we add pressure to our lives. We can’t nor should we try to be perfect. But that’s easier said than done, right? Especially for those of us who suffer from a distinct case of perfectionism. The point of this is not to find another reason to beat ourselves up but rather, to find some coping tools that allow our pitfalls and sheer humanness to be softer on our psyches.
It’s okay to fail. I’ve learned some of my best lessons because I failed. Failure was the very thing that made me stop and look at the simple fact that I was doing far too much than was healthy or helpful. Failure presented an opportunity for self-care that I hesitatingly jumped at. Yes, hesitatingly, because with that failure came self-doubt, self-loathing, and shame. Many of us have become comfortable with beating ourselves up; what we need is to get comfortable giving ourselves the compassion and kindness we deserve.
It’s okay not to know something. There is no reason on this earth why any of us should know or attempt to know everything. The basic tenant of recovery is to remain teachable. Knowing too much creates unnecessary friction and places us in a position to get lost in our suffering. Think about someone who gets lost while they’re driving but refuses to ask for directions. Are they more or less agitated? More, right? Practice asking for help and watch your stress levels decrease.
It’s okay to be wrong. This applies when you’re learning something and don’t understand it, or when you really mess up and need to take some responsibility. Ask yourself, is it better to be right or to be happy? We all know a few people who suffer greatly as a direct result of needing to be right. A genuine apology or admission of not knowing can go a long way.
Complain less, appreciate more. It’s easy to get consumed by our aversions and begin focusing our energies on complaining about them. If you’re in an aversive situation, try finding one thing to appreciate–even if it’s small. As we begin to do this, we will increase our ability to find serenity in difficult circumstances. If we know that our suffering increases as a direct result of our behavior, we must also know it can decrease as a result of our behavior. Remember this: “If we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.”
As we begin to take responsibility for our actions, regardless of how large or how small, we will eventually become happier and more engaged. If there’s a character defect or persistent behavior preventing us from letting go or being the person we want to be, try setting a positive intention as part of making an effort to effect change within yourself. With positive intention and wise effort, we can become the people we want to be: happy, kind, compassionate, and present. We may even discover there’s less pressure to be perfect.