Like a lot of people, I sometimes feel like the pressures of life are just too much to handle. But lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking and have come to a pretty significant realization: I tend to put a lot of this pressure on myself. I blame it mostly on my Type A personality but I really need to learn to let go, to relax, and to enjoy the little things in life instead of always striving for perfection in everything I do. Here are some of the ways I have realized I put pressure on myself. How many can you relate to?
1. The pressure to be productive – I feel immensely guilty if I spend an entire day sitting around doing nothing (watching TV, reading, surfing the Web are all considered “doing nothing”). I crave the satisfaction of checking items off a to-do list and I forever have one going. The days I feel best are the days I tire myself out endlessly completing task after task after task. I sit back at the end of the day feeling productive and satisfied. But eventually that all catches up with you and ultimately you just end up exhausted and most likely, cranky. It is a goal of mine in life to learn to rest and relax without feeling guilty.
2. The pressure to lose weight / workout/ eat healthy – I put more pressure on myself in this category than anybody else could possibly ever put on me. It’s no joke that losing weight is challenging but I end up putting so much pressure on myself that when I slip up just a little or don’t get the results I want, I feel like I have totally failed. One missed workout, one day with too many unhealthy indulgences often sets me right off-course. This one is definitely a work in progress. I am very slowly learning that just like anything in life losing and maintaining a healthy weight is a journey with many ups and downs.
3. The pressure to have a highly organized, clean house – Here’s another one where I have incredibly high standards. And with two kids and a dog that sheds like a maniac, it’s a ridiculously high standard to meet. But for some reason, I just can not relax if my house is not tidy and clean. And once I begin cleaning, I see more and more areas that have been neglected and need a good scrubbing. (When was the last time I cleaned those vents? Those ceiling fans really need to be dusted. Oh boy, let’s not even look at the base boards that could really use a wash.) I drive myself crazy with the never-ending tasks of cleaning and household jobs that need to be done. Even when I am trying to relax (see #1) I feel that I must jump up on every commercial to complete a task (put on some laundry, wipe the counters, take out garbage). While I would like to let this one go a little, I know it will be very challenging because the thought of a tidy, clean house is just so satisfying.
4. The pressure to look cute/ attractive – Every woman feels this one, and I’d argue, most likely on a daily basis. We women often put way too much emphasis on appearance, especially on our own. Take yesterday for instance: my husband and I went out to do errands. I’d made sure to put on a new, cute top, a clean pair of jeans, had my makeup done and my hair straightened. When we stepped out of the vehicle I looked down and realized I had accidentally worn my flip flops out of the house and I hadn’t painted my toenails (the horror!) I mentioned it to my husband and he laughed at me (rightfully so) but it’s just one of those small things that we shouldn’t even notice, let alone worry about. Yes, you never know who you will run into when you’re out and about, but there’s a lot more to life than outward appearance.
5. The pressures of the media – In a world where are bombarded with media messages in practically every moment of our waking hours, it’s hard not to want to meet the standard of the so-called perfection we see in these very edited, highly stylized images. Think Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Who’s outfit possibly looks that cute (and that expensive) every day?! Who’s junk drawer is that organized?! Who’s meals are consistently that healthy? Think of home improvement shows, “reality” TV, and magazines. Who can actually live in an all-white, pristine kitchen where everything is placed just so?! Where is the dog hair, the spills, the kids’ messes? Even when I attempt to take my own pictures for this very blog, the “moments” of my life look so dull and boring, compared to the highly stylized (and usually professional) images on some of my favourite blogs. We all must remember that those tiny snapshots of others’ lives we see online are arranged to look perfect – after all, when was the last time you posted a not-so-attractive selfie?
6. The pressure to be a good (step)Mom – Parenting is difficult. It’s completely selfless, time-consuming, and energy-draining. (Of course, it’s not all bad but we are talking about pressures here). I constantly feel like I can’t meet the needs of my two step-kids well enough. I wish I could provide more for them financially, physically, and emotionally. I wish I had more energy and time to listen to their chatter, to give them the one-on-one attention they deserve, and to help them experience their childhood to its fullest. And while these are all fairly common, ideal expectations they can also be exhausting. Sometimes you just have to be an “okay” parent – you can’t be perfect all the time. You have to accept that you will yell when you should hug, that you will feed them hotdogs when it should be veggies, and that you are doing the best that you know. You are doing your best and your kids are better for it.
7. The pressure to be a good wife – I love my husband more than anything in the world. Because of this, I want to be the perfect wife for him. I want to meet his needs, each and every one of them, and make him feel loved, happy, and whole. I want to be beautiful and sexy for him, I want to be a good mother to his kids for him, I want to run an organized, tidy house for him, I want to cook delicious meals for him. When he is frustrated, sad, or hurt, I want to make him feel better. I want to laugh with him and have an easy relationship. But guess what? What would really make my husband happy, is if I simply played video games with him or went to watch horror movies with him. His love tank is so easy to fill, yet I continue to overload it with my romanticized, ridiculous (albeit admirable) expectations of the perfect relationship.
8. The pressure to do it all & have it all – this one is basically all of the above mixed together. The daily struggle to work hard, stay productive, look attractive, have a clean house, work out, eat healthfully, run errands, in addition to being a good wife, mother, friend, teacher, sister, daughter, human…. is sometimes utterly exhausting. It means sometimes having to let things go. To take a rest. Without feeling guilty.
And you know, even those all of these things can cause me to put undue pressure on myself, they can also be motivating. It’s okay to strive to be attractive for your husband, to be healthy, to be someone your kids can depend on it. It’s okay to have the desire to put your time to good use and to not like living in filthy messes.
The key is having a balance. Instead of striving for perfection, I need to learn to strive for good enough. I need to remember that I am doing my best, even on the days when I don’t want to do anything. And for goodness sake, I need to learn how to rest.
Without feeling guilty.