Why You Need to Stop Obsessing Over Being “Together” and Start Focusing on "Self-Acceptance"
Lately, I find myself locked into a loop of Drake-like self-consciousness. Deeply rooted in a cycle of setting ambitious goals, I’m the self-professed Queen of lofty “to do lists”. However, for as much as I do, it’s never enough. At the end of the day, I often find myself upset, disappointed and feeling defeated. I have a pervasive feeling of needing to do more, and wanting to do it better. Sometimes my list is truly aspirational, because there is a feeling that if I can just check off most of these boxes, I can delight in a sense of achievement. That's a blatant lie that I tell myself. In reality, I'm rarely, if ever, truly satisfied with my progress and/or quality of work. I feel this the most when it comes to my career and role as mother. Welcome to the common struggle of always needing to be "together", also described in some circles as "a perfectionist".
As a mother, the desire to be "super mom" hangs over my head like an ominous halo. Obviously, I'm invested in my son’s success, but I find myself silently chastising myself for how I can be more impactful to his development. I consistently question whether I am spending enough time with him. What other educational resources should I be using with him? What else can I do to help him become his best self? When he does hit a snag, I question what I’m doing or not doing to influence the situation. Mom guilt is a perfectionist’s worst nightmare. When it comes to my writing, I can get a trillion ideas, but often get overwhelmed with a necessity to execute to perfection. The anxiety of perfectly translating my ideas to paper, lends itself to being the impetus for momentary writer's block. I'm often so tied with the success of my end-result, that it counter-intuitively immobilizes me. This in turn lends itself to me being less productive and places me in direct conflict with whatever I set out to achieve. Ultimately, this is a bleak combination that leads me smack dab into a bout of self-defeat and makes it virtually impossible to celebrate any of the successes that I do achieve. Whew, mental exhaustion the nth degree.
Some people view, perfectionists as great self-motivators that are hard wired to push themselves to new heights. They seem to have an innate drive to successfully achieve their goals. I certainly believe there is nothing wrong with a healthy work ethic and desire to do one’s best. However, constantly focusing on being perfect and having myself together, has transformed into a steady source of pervasive mental burnout and emotional fatigue. Even contributing to a stream of sub-conscious negative self-speak. All this effort and energy being directed towards achieving, only to be undermined by me!
The problem with an incessant need to be “together” is that it creates a “your best is never good enough” type of mentality. It is also deeply rooted in your self-worth being tied to how accomplished you are, which can have detrimental effects if you are already pre-disposed to thinking you aren’t as successful as you need to be. What works to get me off this hamster wheel of high expectations, infinite to do lists and endless rounds of self-defeating thoughts? In other words, how do I get out of my own way? Consciously making a mental shift to look honestly at where I currently am. Not where I want to be, hope to be, will to be. But first, acknowledging where I am in present day.
Some more concrete strategies that worked for me are:
Learning to focus more on what I am doing right, rather than obsessing over what I’m not doing or could do better.
Make small improvements, rather than attempt a massive overhaul – This works well with “mom-guilt”. Instead of bashing myself about not spending enough time with my son, I’ll just commit to picking him up sooner at least 2 days a week or look for something new to do that we can enjoy together.
Set time limits for tasks and “overthinking” – One of the best ways to avoid going down the rabbit hole of overthinking and obsessing about completing tasks to perfection is giving myself a reasonable timeframe to work on them, and then take a break and move on to something else. I can always come back to the first task later and often times, looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes, helps me to realize what I was doing better, than I gave myself credit for. For long term goals, it’s imperative to set tangible deadlines for accountability and help measuring progress.
Focus on high priority items first – This is about the ability to distinguish what is pertinent as opposed to ideal and placing the focus on the pertinent.
- Self- acceptance and understanding my own limitations – In an ideal world, I’d love to always have a pristine house, a daily home-cooked meal for my family, work done, etc. but, to piggy off the last point, I simply can’t do it all and that’s ok. Maybe there are women out there that manage to be all and do all, but I’m not one of them. I continue to learn to do what is within my power to do. I outsource some of what can be delegated to others, and I accept what hasn’t been after all of that. Tomorrow is slways another day
The most important and helpful thing I've learned to manage my constant desire to have my life "completely and perfectly together," is to be kinder to myself and quell my inner critic. It’s nearly impossible to achieve, grow, and create if you are afraid to take the first step, overly criticize your work, and minimize any strides you do take towards your goals. It’s important to nurture and appreciate yourself so that you have the optimal state of mind to put your best foot forward in all facets of your life.
Do you have this issue? How do you reset and regain your focus? Please share!
Love x Light
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Photography by Kait Ebinger