The hardest person to please is yourself
You have extremely high standards, you never make excuses, your work is nearly flawless, you are extraordinarily accomplished, and yet, it’s hard for you to relax at the end of the day because there is still more work to do. Can you relate?
It’s not only perfectionism that drives you to keep pushing harder but your entire value system. You were raised to gain self-worth through hard work and self-sacrifice. Mistakes were punished, not forgiven, so you don’t let yourself make any. No matter what you do, you are always the best or among the best and it’s part of your identity.
You never get in trouble with your supervisor because the truth is, as long as you work to meet your own expectations, you automatically exceed everyone else’s. Instead of giving you a sense of comfort and security, this adds even more stress because you can’t bear the idea of someone giving you negative feedback. You are not a people pleaser by any stretch of the imagination, but negative feedback would make you question yourself and it is your own judgment that you fear.
Where the pressure comes from
In most cases, the pressure of thinking that you should do more comes from your external environment. You try to answer every e-mail every day but more keep pouring in. There is always someone who needs something or some projects on the back-burner you want to complete. You cross items off your to-do list faster and more effectively than anyone else you know but it’s never enough.
Letting your external environment drive your ability or inability to be happy with yourself is the problem. You see this clearly for other people, but you don’t see it for yourself. In fact, you make sure you don’t over-work your staff. You monitor how much work is given to them and if the volume is unrealistic, you find a way to reduce it or perhaps you extend deadlines, but you don’t expect others to handle more than humanly possible.
You must start doing the same thing for yourself.
10 ways to get rid of the nagging feeling
It is essential for you to create clear and measurable goals for yourself. Decide what “doing enough” means to you. That implies you’ll have to prioritize and question old decisions. Here are some examples:
1. Instead of doing things the way you always have, start with the end in mind. Ask yourself what outcomes you wish to create. Consider multiple strategies and choose what seems to be the best approach.
2. Identify things you can stop doing or do less often.
3. Brainstorm ways to get things done without taking much of your time (e.g. using technology to automatize when possible, delegate to someone you’re mentoring when appropriate, or create new systems and procedures to eliminate time-wasting processes.)
4. Decide what realistic expectations people should have of you and communicate them. For example, if you’ve been answering emails within an hour and it’s causing you to work long days since you’re constantly interrupted, you might choose to let people know you will respond within 24 hours, which will give you more flexibility.
5. Ask yourself where you can add some flexibility. Having high standards tends to make people rigid in their way of thinking, which causes them unnecessary pain. What goals or processes could be relaxed without causing problems?
6. Question all assumptions. I bet you make tremendous efforts to do things for certain people, even though there is no proof that they care. A great place to start is with your supervisor. Ask him or her to clarify their expectations and you might be surprised to discover that, what they value and really want from you isn’t what you think.
7. Develop more self-compassion, meaning start treating yourself with the same understanding and kindness as you do others. When you are highly demanding, ask yourself “would I demand this much from another person with a title similar to mine?” If the answer is no, it’s a sign you need to give yourself a break.
8. I suggest you set realistic monthly, weekly, and daily goals so that you can finally know when you’ve done enough. When you’ve done what you were supposed to, give yourself a free pass on the rest (unless there is a true emergency).
9. Be more conscious of where your thoughts tend to go. If you tend to obsess over the work that hasn’t been done yet, you must consciously choose to change and focus on what has been done.
10. Don’t wait until everything is 100% perfect to relax and feel good. Take a moment to savor accomplishments and everything that is going well.
As I mentioned very briefly, when we drive ourselves too hard it’s because of our value system. The beliefs we were taught as children gave us a good moral compass but when standards are too high, it comes at a great cost.
If you would like to continue to do exemplary work but stop feeling that it’s never enough, I invite you to speak with me about how we can team up. Click here to schedule a free consultation. You’ve earned the right to be proud of your work and to enjoy your life. Let me show you how.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.