Are you still putting pressure on yourself?

A little while back I wrote about putting myself under pressure. I wrote of using a clenched fist and an open palm to interrogate decisions. I’m telling myself I have to do something. Do I really have to?

I’m going to take this a stage further.

What are the advantages of putting myself under pressure? What are the disadvantages? A clue to knowing when you are putting yourself under pressure is your body. You might hunch your shoulders or feel a knot in your chest or stomach. You might breathe shallowly through the top part of your body and not your abdomen.

My late grandmother used to serve everyone at the table first and herself last. Then she would rush from the table to get puddings. And later rush from the table to wash the dishes. She was a lovely and giving woman who wanted to serve and to look after her family and friends. Nothing was too much trouble.

Now, we never talked about it, but I imagine that she had a mental script of ‘I have to care for others’, ‘I have to serve’ and maybe ‘I mustn’t consider my own needs’.

The advantages for me were many as one of the recipients of her giving. I am sure she was blessed as she gave to others. And yet… I remember wishing that she would sit at the table a little longer, relax and let me chat to her. She often looked worried or harrassed. Maybe if she had felt less pressured to serve she would have enjoyed deeper relationships and experienced more peace?

Now this is conjecture. In my own life, I know that putting myself under pressure is not the best way to get the best out of me. As someone (partly) self employed as a life coach, I am my own boss. And I can be a worse boss to myself than I would ever tolerate in the workplace! Telling myself off, beating myself up, seldom praising and recognising the good things I do…

The advantages can sometimes be that things get done sooner. The disadvantages are stress, sleepless nights and less enjoyment of the work. When I experience less pressure there can be a natural flow and lightness to what I do.

Perfectionism is another form of this. Maybe you want to be a perfect wife, a perfect mother, a perfect daughter? Achieve the best sales results in your team? Does Christmas have to be a perfect day?

ACTION CHALLENGE: Think again of how you put yourself under pressure. Who do you pressure yourself to be? Do you want to be perfect or the best at something? Take some time to reflect. Instead of sitting down with a piece of paper, I encourage you to go and visit somewhere beautiful. Sit down by a river perhaps and ponder over the advantages and disadvantages of what you tell yourself. And as you wander, allow your heart to tell you another way of looking at the situation. What would be another way of living?

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