Are we being too demanding?
I should exercise more
I really need to put more work into this project
I need to make this decision
I need to get better at keeping the house tidy
I should develop myself more and read something useful
I should stop wasting time
Do these sound familiar? Most of us make so many demands of ourselves on a daily basis. They run in the background making us feel guilty, always catching up, never content with ourselves.
How much pressure do we put on ourselves by making all these insane demands to be perfect? Who do we want to be perfect for? Is there someone evaluating us, deciding on what mark to give us on how well we do life?
When we start asking these questions we start to see that behind all these demands is one fear – of not being good enough. We are afraid that we are still in a school classroom and somehow we are going to fail life.
Except you can’t really fail life. Life is not a pass/fail class, and it’s not even a marks out of 10 type of class. Life is to be lived in all its messiness and imperfection, with its lessons, hard knocks and exhilarating turns. There is no one at the end of your life with a clipboard going through all your mistakes and failures, deciding whether you should be awarded love (although some people believe this).
We get deeply conditioned by our schooling systems to constantly perform, to prove ourselves worthy. We need to always make sure that we are good enough because if we don’t then someone else is doing it better, and that would be catastrophic because then we don’t get that award or that job or [fill in the blank].
I am intimately familiar with this demanding voice with its unattainably high standards of perfection. It has been with me most of my life, pushing me to do more, telling me I am never good enough. But lately another voice has been growing stronger, creating a little battle inside. That voice simply says “I don’t want to”. When I ignore it for a long time it starts to wreak havoc. I get unhappy, upset, stop taking care of myself and just end up giving up on everything and wasting hours on the internet.
But after a while I started listening to it, and as I did magic started happening. I started to see this voice as a little girl who is tired of being ignored. There is one question nobody ever asked her – “What do you want to do?”. So I ask her. And then I listen. Her answer comes softly and quietly, and it’s always something simple. “I want to go for a walk” or “I want to stop thinking about this” or “I just want to watch a silly movie and eat chocolate completely guilt-free”. Whatever the answer is, it feels good. My whole body relaxes, softens. My mind softens too, and I often laugh at myself.
The magical part of this is that once I let go of the demands and relax, those things I wanted in the first place start to come together effortlessly on their own. When the child in me feels heard and satisfied she can be a powerful ally in making my adult desires happen (if at that point I still consider them valid desires).
Striving for something and pushing yourself creates tension. Tension creates stress. Stress makes you blind to easy solutions and creative ideas. You get anxious and self-critical and stop enjoying life.
So how about this? Stop demanding so much of yourself. Listen to that voice that says “I don’t want to”. Pause. Breathe. Go inside and ask yourself, “What do I want to do?”
Doing this creates space. You relax. Your energy flows more. And from that place you invite magic into your life.
You stop pushing and start allowing. You stop “shoulding” yourself and start doing what feels good.
In the words of Byron Katie, “There’s an easy way to find out if you should be doing something. If you’re not doing it, then you shouldn’t.”
Let’s be a little more kind to ourselves and create space for magic to happen.