“Be careful what you set your heart upon, for you will surely have it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Along with anxiety often comes our perfectionist personality because it is a common trait. Overall this can be very advantageous because you are typically intelligent, driven, ambitious, creative, and very highly motivated.
The problem is that often with perfectionism come the critical, unrealistic expectations you have of yourself and other people.
- You can’t change anyone, but yourself
- You can’t change your past
- You can’t always get your own way
- You can’t always get others to do, or act the way you want
- You can change how you feel
- You can change your future
- You can change how you react towards yourself, others, and in all situations
- The key is to be less affected by people and situations, including ourselves because this decreases our anxiety.
When reflecting on why we feel anxious or depressed we often look at other people, work places, or family/friends as the reason for our distress.
Our attitude and negative thinking are causing our anxiety.
List of unrealistic expectations you may have about yourself and others:
1. Life Should Be Fair To Me
I deserve to be happy
- You’re a good person, who may have had a difficult past, or an illness. Basically you feel that you work hard, follow all the rules and you “deserve” good things to happen to you. We deserve to be happy, but if we’re not it is because we (often unknowingly) have made a choice not to be.
Dwell instead of deal
- Your misery or happiness is determined by you. It is always a choice, no matter what curve ball comes your way. You’re suffering from anxiety and depression and God forbid you lose your job, get sick, get divorced or fall behind in debt.
- If you learn how to deal with a bad situation and not dwell on it this can make a big difference in how you feel.
Life is not fair
- Maybe you think that life is not fair. You’re already dealing with enough problems. “Why are bad things happening to me? I don’t deserve this”!
- Life isn’t fair – It knows no boundaries and we just have to hope for the best. If we are dealt with a bad hand, we have to work harder to maintain a good attitude because a bad attitude isn’t going to change the problem. It will just give us more negativity, stress, and anxiety.
Make a plan
Make a plan for happiness and peace. What steps do you need to take? There is help if you have anxiety. You must take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else because if you’re not healthy and feeling good, it is difficult to achieve what you are capable of.
Help Yourself First
If there were an emergency in an airplane, you would need put the oxygen mask on your face before you can put on your child’s. We are no good to help others if we are not helping ourselves first.
2. People Should Treat Me The Way I Treat Them
If people treat you well, this is a bonus. If you are not treated well and you get angry and frustrated, you are the one who loses emotionally because they have no idea how you feel, yet you’re the one who suffers. It’s their problem if they are rude; don’t make it yours by getting upset about it.
Focus On The People Who Care
We are typically people pleasers and tend to work harder at trying to win a person over who has little interest in getting to know us. Instead we should focus our attention on the person who is. We can be respectful to everyone, but take the time to nurture relationships with people who would like to do the same.
3. I Expect My Kids To Act A Certain Way
After you’ve taught them values, how to be a good person (all the life skills you can think of), your expectations might be:
- A phone call each week to hear what they are up to
- They should make all the right decisions
- To share their thoughts and feelings with you
- Be grateful for all that you do for them
- Expect them to always achieve in school or work
- Basically be a miniature version of you
If you get rid of all these expectations, you will not only take the pressure off yourself, but you might develop stronger relationships with your kids who already know you are there for them whenever they need you.
Dwelling Doesn’t Mean We Care More
Dwelling over something you can’t change may further strain your relationships. Not dwelling may even improve them.
4. I Should Be A Better Parent
The pressure I put on myself to do all the right things for my kids was unrealistic.
I was always striving to be a better mother and I wasn’t living up to my own expectations of consistently making the right decisions. This just caused more stress because somehow I had this belief that parents should not make mistakes. This wasn’t something I wanted to pass down to my kids.
We are doing the best we can
We’re doing our best as parents. We are not capable of doing any better, but we tend to have high expectations that we can never live up to. This new way of thinking let me off the hook because I am far from perfect, so it’s ridiculous to expect this of myself.
5. I Should Be Happy
You look around and compare yourself to other people who look happy and you are not. You can do something about it.” I want to be happy” is different than I should be happy. How bad do you want to get better?
Do Something About It
Take action if you want to be happy. Also when we’re anxious, we are struggling and often see others as having perfect, carefree lives which is almost never true. Most of us have obstacles to deal with.
6. The House Needs To Be Cleaned Before I Can Go Out
Who says it should? We only get 52 Saturdays a year – we certainly don’t want to give them up cleaning the house. You have made a habit out of cleaning before fun.
We Don’t Have To Clean on Saturday
People (especially ones you care about) are not coming over with a magnifying glass to check for dust. If they are, then they deserve to find it. Is it going to matter a year from now if don’t clean your house this Saturday?
Make a List
Look at all the shoulds in your life, by making a list of everything you think you should do
- I should exercise more
- I should have more friends
- I should be more outgoing
- I should go to school
- I should be smarter
- I should watch the news so I know more about what is happening in the world
Cross of The Shoulds
Cross off the shoulds you think you’re supposed to do, but don’t really want to do. This is tremendously freeing because you realize that you’ve felt guilty about something for a long time because you or other people thought you should do it. It’s your one and only life, so put yourself first.
Don’t should all over yourself.
- If you don’t like watching the news, then cross that off because you could spend your time doing something you do like.
Embrace Being Introverted
- You’re more of an introvert than an extrovert who enjoys spending time alone or with a few people instead of a group, cross off that you should be more outgoing.
- You’re exercising a few times a week but you feel guilty and think you should do it more, so cross that off too.
You Are Talented
- Trying to be smarter is unrealistic for the most part ( I’ve tried LOL), and that should be crossed off as well, because you are unique and talented and there is only one you. If somebody is smarter than you, it does not make them a better person, just smarter.
If there is a should that is something you truly want, then make a plan with steps you will take to make it happen.
To exercise more, try putting your workout clothes, shoes and coat by the door. When you get home, you won’t have to go find them so it is more likely that you’ll follow through. The reward you get when you exercise is how you feel when you’re done.
Perfectionists are Achievers
I don’t think we can change our personalities, or change that we are perfectionists but that’s OK, because we can change our ridiculous expectations of thinking we’re supposed to perfect in all that we do. We will always be motivated and strive to do our best but we won’t beat ourselves up for all the mistakes we make.
- Dr. Richards from The Anxiety Network does not put himself under scrutinizing pressure anymore because he stopped analyzing every situation for the perfect way to do it. Instead of ruminating about it, whatever he does will be acceptable.
No More Fear
- If he later realizes that there was a better way to do the job, he chalks it up as a learning experience for the next time. His expectations of himself changed because he no longer performs with the fear of being judged. He does it solely for his own enjoyment.
- Kathleen Smith from Psycom writes about 5 Things you need to stop telling yourself if you want to improve your mental health.
I MUST BE:
- Loved by everyone at all times
- Successful about everything
- Upset about things I fear
- Avoid all conflict
- Have control over everything
- “Musts are beliefs that we have about how the world should work and how we should behave in it. But the reality is that these “musts” are not rational”.
- The most successful people don’t worry about being judged, they’re not afraid to voice their opinions, and they have failed the most often in their attempts to achieve their goals.
Give Yourself a Break
We often take life too seriously, but we can learn not to! Being a perfectionist does not have to cause us anxiety. We can strive to be our best and have more fun!
What do you like about being a perfectionist?
Change Your Brain Change Your Life (revised expanded edition), by Daniel Amen
This is not simply a book about anxiety. It has sections dealing with all sorts of emotional issues: anger, focus, anxiety, depression, obsession, lack of focus and memory issues. This book is about the relationship between our brain patterns and problem-behavior that can help us cure a myriad of mental problems.