And then a curious thing happened. When I relaxed and just let myself go, I floated calmly and easily across the pool. No stress or extra effort required. If only I could stop churning against things in my life as readily as I did in the pool!
Have you ever found yourself expending enormous amounts of time and energy trying to control a situation (or worse, a person) and exhausting yourself in the process? Me, too.
The Type-A Trap
As a recovering Type-A personality, I spent years striving for perfection (though I didn’t recognize or admit it at the time). I just embraced the idea that if I tried harder, worked longer and kept pushing myself, I could live the ideal life. Exceed expectations. Make everyone happy. Do and be enough.
My philosophy was to leave nothing to chance. I’d tell myself things like…
- Just a little more research and then I’ll have exactly what I need. Who cares if it’s getting late and my eyes are starting to blur?
- If I wordsmith this presentation one last time I’ll finally get it just right. Got to keep the boss feeling happy that she hired me.
- I’ve got to triple-check these numbers. Can’t make any mistakes. After all, Sister Mary Gabriella did tell me (in front of the whole 5th grade!) that I was bad in math.
If you’ve ever found yourself swimming against the relentless tide of perfectionism like I did, there have probably been times that you’ve felt overwhelmed by waves of exhaustion and self-doubt.
Newsflash: You are not the master of the universe! You cannot control the world and make it perfect! You will never succeed in doing this and will only make yourself (and probably everyone around you) miserable in the process.
Finding Your Flow
Here are a few of my favorite ways to get myself into a better flow when my perfectionist tendencies threaten to swamp me.
- Pause. Take a few moments to breathe. You’ll feel yourself becoming calmer and more relaxed within minutes.
- Pay attention to the situations and thoughts that trigger your need to do everything perfectly. With increased self-awareness, you have the opportunity to challenge your thoughts and quickly turn them around before old perfectionist patterns take over.
- Let go of trying to control other people. It is impossible to do and only creates frustration for you and resentment for them.
- Accept that change and uncertainty are an integral part of life. How can you find an element of excitement and growth when new opportunities arise instead of responding with fear and the need to control?
- Keep your perspective and sense of humor. If you can laugh and smile, life is going to be a whole lot more fun.
Instead of fighting to control life’s inevitable current of uncertainty and change, try opening your heart and your mind to the endless sea of possibilities letting go can bring.