The following is an excerpt from "Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too," by Susan Callahan, Anne Nolen and Katrin Schumann. Reprinted with permission from The McGraw-Hill Companies, mhprofessional.com.
Lower that bar
How often have you said, "It's crazy life's so crazy! How did it get so exhausting? Why am I so busy?" Why has this complaint become the modern mother's mantra? Because we're consumed by the frenzy of accomplishment: the never-ending need to achieve, the push to always be the best, and the pressure not just to keep up, but to exceed expectations.
Who raised the bar so darn high? We live in a time when children play multiple sports every season of the year. That special gift you got your child a few years ago? It's already been replaced by the high-definition version that parents and grandparents are waiting in long lines to get a hold of. Mothers are expected to look ten years younger than their real age: health clubs and diet centers are on every other corner. Homes are impeccably decorated, seemingly overnight, and they're expected to be picture-perfect at all times. The list goes on, and on, and on.
It's high time to stop beating yourself up about your shortcomings and to start understanding the value of your efforts. Instead of limiting your life by suffering constant self-doubt or disappointment, you can free yourself to operate according to your own standards. Give yourself a break by taking some well-deserved time-outs.
Having high standards is considered healthy behavior, right? So what is it about the standard of perfectionism that's so oppressive? Well, countless psychological studies point to links between perfectionism and dysfunction.
"One of the most pernicious forms of self-generated stress stems from perfectionism," explains Dr. Jon Allen in a 2003 Perspective magazine article.
A continuous cycle of striving, failure, and self-criticism creates stress, which pumps our blood full of hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. Both have been proven to harm the immune system, making people more vulnerable to a variety of illnesses from the flu to cancer.
Perfectionists often want and expect others to be perfect, too, perpetuating the cycle and leading to disagreements, wrecked relationships, and even more stress.
But Dr. Allen, a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, adds: "The good news is although perfectionism can be a relatively ingrained personality trait, it can be moderated over time."
Look at it this way: If you're setting your own standards and are happy fulfilling them, everything's all right. But if you feel that you're always failing, can't escape the craziness, and that it's all out of your hands, then you're probably aiming too high.
Do you see any of these tendencies in yourself?
• Whenever you make a mistake, you're very hard on yourself. You're always second-guessing your decisions.
• You find yourself getting angry when your family lets you down by making the house messy, not performing well, or not putting their best foot forward.
• Asking for help seems like a sign of weakness. You don't do it a lot.
• You don't like to think someone else is doing better (at anything) than you are. You often compare mental notes on other women's houses, marriages, and kids.
• Even though you don't want to, you find fault with your partner, kids, or friends more often than you think is normal.
• Other people's demands on you seem unreasonable or overwhelming, yet you don't want to disappoint by not living up to them. BR>
• You believe that other mothers are "successful" without having to try so hard. They seem to make fewer mistakes and suffer less anxiety.
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