Our world today is a stressful place, full of pressure from every direction. That much is obvious. In fact, there are many things designed specifically to put pressure on us and keep us feeling stressed, and they are getting stronger and stronger over time.
Being a parent and having to raise kids adds another dimension to the pressure, because we not only have to stay calm ourselves, we also have to help our children relax and teach them how to handle pressure or everyone will go nuts.
I was unlucky in that respect.
My dad was raised by a very strict father, who taught him there was a “right” way to do everything – eat, dress, shave, speak, study, work and behave. Every other way was “wrong”. This was not a matter of personal preference but of “general consensus” and he treated any deviation from propriety with the same high severity.
There were things my dad decided not to do to me, like using physical violence. I was not beaten as a child, although my dad was beaten when he was little. That was a good thing. However, I grew up with strict rules I was expected to follow and not many things were open for discussion.
I remember I was about to leave home when I was 16 to go to a party wearing jeans and sneakers. My dad asked me, “Where are you going dressed like this?”
I said I was going to a party with my friends. He said, “You can’t go to a party wearing jeans and sneakers. You have to wear something more appropriate. I will not let you go out like this”.
No matter how hard I tried to convince him I would look like an idiot being the only one wearing dress pants and shoes, he would not give up. There was a “right” way to dress up for an evening out and I was going to dress up that way. End of discussion.
When I brought home an exam paper with a score of 97 out of 100, my dad would ask, “Why didn’t you get 100?” When I played my accordion for him to show my progress and I had not mastered the piece yet, he would say, “That’s good, but keep practicing until it’s perfect”.
So I grew up expecting perfection of myself, because nothing else would do. It was frustrating and scary. Trying something new was dangerous, because it is impossible to get perfect results from the beginning at most things. Meeting new people was stressful, because without knowing everything about them from the start, I might say something inappropriate or make some stupid mistake.
This kind of pressure got me to the point where I had to know everything in advance before I made a move. I remember Ronit and me moving from one place to another, which we did many times, and my response to the enormous task was to stop and wait for it to blow over. With so many things to consider, there was no chance I could guarantee a perfect outcome, so I shut down and poor Ronit had to give me one task at a time and make sure I did not run away.
At work, things were very similar. As long as I had time and control over the situation, I produced great results, but I did not do well under tight deadlines or with managers who looked over my shoulder and wanted updates every day.
For many years, as long as I was employed, I had the comfort of steady pay coming in and having something familiar to do, but whenever that changed, the uncertainty nearly drove me mad with pressure, and that made it harder to find and secure a new job.
“Hi, my name is Gal and I’m a perfectionist”.
What’s wrong with a little pressure?
Quite simply, although it is good to have goals, pressure blocks the mind. Stress has been proven to inhibit memory and creativity and without these, it is very hard to function.
Imagine someone walking towards you. You recognize his face, but the context is different from where you normally meet him. More than likely, you will feel pressure to remember his name, so you will not. That pressure almost ensures the name of that person will stay hidden from you, until … he is out of sight and you relax. How many times has this happened to you?
In a famous research, students were given a simple task. Some of them were told this would determine their future and some were told it was fun. Can you guess how many of the first group completed the task successfully? 0. None. Can you guess how many of the second group did? All of them.
This was because the first group was put under intense artificial pressure, which effectively blocked all of their creativity. They could not think of anything “out of the box”, which the more relaxed and playful group worked it out easily.
In kinesiology and other alternative healing methods, the main aim is to combat stress. Stress messes up many biological processes in our body, creates toxins and makes our physiology deteriorate more rapidly.
So what can I do?
Well, I decided at some stage to switch from the mental rule “Nothing counts unless it’s perfect” to “There is only so much I can do. As long as I do my best, that’s good enough”.
I accept that I need to sleep, take breaks to eat and go to the toilet. I accept that I need to do things to keep my body active, healthy and in good shape. I accept that I may not finish everything on time and that I may make mistakes sometimes. I accept that I do not know everything and that learning is part of every task and every day.
The most important things for me now are making steady progress and doing my personal best.
The rewards of this change are great. By working on my health, I gradually become more productive and actually accomplish more. By being comfortable with my limits, my work estimates are more realistic and I communicate better with those who await the outcomes of my work, which allows them to relax too. By learning all the time, I keep getting better and better at what I do. By remaining calm, I am more creative and I produce better results.
How can I help my kids?
The movie Monsters, Inc illustrates this point clearly at the end, when the amount of energy collected from laughter breaks all the records of what had been collected from screams.
Once you change your view about pressure and its effects, and you realize that encouragement goes a lot further than pressure, it is easy to switch your parenting style from that of a strict boss to that of a loving guide.
I have been truly lucky to have had Ronit by my side all these years. I have been lucky to have found life coaching before I popped. I want you to be as lucky as I was and I want your children to be even luckier.
Step 1: Relax
Take care of your health first, do things to relax deliberately, have fun, do the best you can and let go of the rest. As you do this, pay attention to the results and you will see you are actually using your time better.
Step 2: Show the way to your kids
Take care of their health first, teach them how to relax when they need to, help them do the best they can and let go of the rest. As you do this, pay attention to the results and you will see your children blossom, do better and love you endlessly.
Have a peaceful, fun day,