You’re great. In fact, you’re so great that everyone wants more of you. More of your skills at work; more of your love and attention for your children, spouse, friends, community; more of your time and energy to manage the numerous tasks of life. And on top of that, you probably could use more time to care for yourself.
Unfortunately, sometimes you might interpret all of these requests for more as criticisms that you’re not enough. How do you cope with everyone wanting more from you?
I get overwhelmed, at times, at the amount of requests for my attention and energy. Even my cat’s meowing can trigger overwhelm. Every evening, after I finally close the door to my daughter’s bedroom, after a protracted good night ritual, I breathe a sigh of relief, and then turn around and face my cat, insistently meowing her head off with a cat toy beside her. I just want to sit down on the couch at the end of a long day!
The truth is, you can’t please all the people (or animals) all of the time. You do your best and your best is enough.
Here are some ways to manage the delicate balance between pushing yourself to do your best and being a taskmaster who thinks you’re never enough.
You can set boundaries with your time. I can set a boundary with my cat. She gets ten minutes of play and then it’s couch time for me. You could set a boundary at work. You will not work through your lunch break. You could set a boundary with your spouse. Saturday nights are date nights or at least commit to spend time together after the kids are asleep.
You can also set boundaries with how you’re treated. I’m not going to quietly accept relationships where what I’m not doing is constantly brought to my attention, while what I am doing is never acknowledged or appreciated.
Boundaries help you manage your workload. If you have no boundaries and just say yes to everything, you will get overloaded and eventually fail and then blame yourself for not being enough.
Sometimes you may have a hard time keeping a boundary if that means disappointing someone else. But if you don’t keep your boundaries and protect yourself from overwhelm, you’ll burn yourself out and not be good to anyone.
Acknowledge Your Accomplishments
A common problem for people who constantly think that they’re not enough is that they don’t take the time to acknowledge all the things that they’re doing. They keep looking at what is left to be done and never look back at what has been done. Or they minimize the importance of what they’ve accomplished by saying, “Oh, that’s nothing.”
When you accomplish something, whether it’s finishing a project at work or giving your child your full attention for a few minutes or getting your car washed, try to slow down before rushing into the next task and acknowledge your accomplishment.
Most of what we do is made up in little steps. Notice and appreciate all the steps you take.
Don’t forget to acknowledge all the subtle, invisible ways that you contribute to the world. Being friendly, being easygoing, conserving water, obeying the law; there are so many ways that you help the world run better for everyone. Reminding yourself of these things can help balance your inner critic.
Yes, I would like to be a superhero and be able to do everything and be everything for everyone without breaking a sweat. But I can’t. Neither can you. We have to be able to tolerate our own limits without criticizing ourselves for having them. If you practice acknowledging your accomplishments, you will see that even though you have limits, you do a whole lot within those limits.
We’ve all seen those people who seem to be managing it all: work, fitness, home, relationships, community. How do they do it? If you compare yourself to others and are dissatisfied with yourself, you have two choices. You can try to learn how to do it like them. Or you can accept the fact that you can’t. If it’s something you really admire in other people, there is certainly no harm in trying to improve in that area…as long as you don’t constantly criticize yourself for your limitations.
Realize, though, that comparing yourself to others is a faulty, unscientific way to measure yourself. There are just too many factors in your life and theirs that you don’t know about.
You also have to tolerate other people’s dissatisfaction with you. Of course, your child, spouse, or employer would love for you to remove all of the burdens from their shoulders. But it’s actually better for all of us if we all play our part. If you jump in to care for everyone’s needs you may actually be doing them a disservice in stopping them from learning to take care of themselves. Even my cat can entertain herself; skittering across the floor with a piece of tinfoil.
Meditate to Quiet Your Mind
If you haven’t experienced the benefits of meditation yet, you really should give it a try. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of meditation to include reducing stress and anxiety, and improving focus, creativity and relationships. Even if you only meditate for ten minutes a day, those ten minutes can make a big difference.
So, if you’re brain is spinning around the thought that you’re not good enough; chastising you with the million reasons why or suggesting the million things you need to do in order to be good enough….meditation can give you a break from those thoughts and help you get some perspective on that whirlwind of criticism.
You are enough!
If you would like to find out more about how therapy can help you, Contact Rena Pollak, LMFT, CGP for a free 15 minute phone consultation.
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