The first thing to say is that there is no judgement being placed on any of these personality traits. Each of us will identify with at least one of them at some point in our lives. There is nothing wrong with you for being a Perfectionist, a People Pleaser or a Procrastinator. On the contrary, they each have positive behaviours attached to them. For the purposes of this blog however, I’m focusing on why they may be causing you stress.
To that end, it is my intention that if you identify with any, or all, of the three P’s, I hope you gain some understanding, and at least one thing that you can do that will have a positive impact on your stress today, and, if you keep up my suggestions over a period of time, that these new behaviours may reduce your stress long term.
Generally speaking, perfectionism comes from critical parenting. You learned as a child to do things right, or risk being criticized. As a result, your self talk is constantly seeking ways to improve things, whether it be the task in front of you, other people and their foibles, a recent conversation, or a particular world problem.
Your main stressors are your constant self criticism, and criticism of the world around you. This means you enjoy little reprieve, and anger and resentment can build up. You may often feel like a shaken bottle of pop that is corked and can’t spill its contents (it would make a mess after all). Your constant striving for improvement means you find little time for rest.
The act of self forgiveness is a powerful one indeed. You are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Just for this moment right now, forgive yourself for the critical thought that has been beating its drum today, and breathe deeply. You may want to repeat the mantra “I acknowledge and forgive this thought fully and completely”.
Your need to be liked is your main driver. As a child you may have felt most loved and secure when you met the needs of a significant other. You may be pre-occupied by thoughts about how to gain approval, or avoid rejection.
Your ability to adapt your personality depending on who you are with, means that you sometimes feel that the real you gets lost. You might wear yourself out trying to please others, and then feel resentful that your needs aren’t being met. A sense of feeling controlled by others may also leave you feeling angry.
Start by recognizing how you are feeling right now as you read this. Its okay to feel all your feelings. As the day progresses, tune in again. Your acute sense of how others are feeling has its place in the world, and is valuable indeed, but today is about you. Give yourself permission to focus on you, naming your feelings and accepting them. If you need to, find a way to soothe any uncomfortable feelings. Keep the practice going by making time for this practice daily.
Its easy for you to get side-tracked because making a commitment means stepping out. Taking sides, whatever it is about, makes you feel vulnerable . You may have been criticised whenever you stood up for something you wanted, so you have found refuge in the safety of not knowing what you want.
Decision making. It feels less threatening to obsessively think about a decision than to make a choice and risk having your efforts discounted, or having to defend a point of view against someone else. Making a decision also means letting go, finishing up, or some kind of change, stimulating a fear of separation.
Feeling so merged with what others want, may leave you blaming them when things aren’t going well. Feeling out of control is one of the biggest stress factors there is. Taking responsibility is the antidote, but this can feel scary. Be gentle with yourself and find something really simple that you could take responsibility for today, and make a commitment to see it through. Remember to give yourself a pat on the back when you’ve achieved it, then make a decision each day to take responsibility for something.
Start small. A big hairy scary goal is not the thing to tackle first. That said, if you do have a big goal to tackle, break it down into much smaller, manageable chunks.
If you would like to understand your stress and talk about how you might free yourself from it in a free, no obligation chat, then please get in touch and we’ll arrange a telephone or skype call. Alternatively, visit my mindfulness page for free access to my live Monday morning online meditation. Its for beginners and regulars alike. A great way to start the week!