Be Kind, But Firm

boundaryNothing is ever good enough. Past mistakes keep haunting you, so you beat yourself up over them. Maybe you are a perfectionist. I used to be one, but gave up on perfectionism. It just wasn’t worth it.

Beating Yourself Up
Whenever I did something wrong, I would punish myself for it. Beat myself up. Because I thought I needed to be perfect in order to be a good person. I only was good whenever I managed to do everything I planned. Perfectly. I found out the hard way that this is a recipe for disaster.

For example. Before I got burned down I would compile a huge to-do list and schedule my week so that everything would be finished on Saturday evening. Whenever I failed to meet my high standards, I would tell myself I didn’t work hard enough, that I was lazy and that next week, I wouldn’t get the break I scheduled, but had to do the work I didn’t finish this week. That would be my punishment.

I still make to-do lists. And I still plan my days. But instead of focusing on what I failed to do, I now look at my achievements at the end of the day. Focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

Today, I didn’t feel well. I didn’t do everything that was on my list. But despite everything I managed to do some things. When I say my Compline and review my day I will be proud of myself that I vacuumed the house and mopped the floors despite feeling crummy. The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

Being A Pleaser
I was a pleaser. I was afraid to reject requests, because I feared that the other person wouldn’t like me anymore if I would say ‘No’. Right after my Confirmation, people started to ask me to help out in the Student Parish at the cathedral. There were many things to do. Update the website; design and print flyers; plan activities; be a student representative in the Parish Council, visit other student groups, man the booth at the university’s freshman introduction event. And since I had the time to do it, and saw the need, I did all these things at one point.
I told myself that a former sorority member with experience in organizing student events had the moral obligation to do it when others weren’t able to, so I didn’t have any reason to say ‘No’. At least that’s what I thought. After I stepped down, all sorts of people magically stepped in to do all these tasks. I wasn’t that mission critical after all. And guess what? Everybody still liked me after saying ‘No’!

Urgency and Importance
I now tackle these requests differently. First, I ask two questions: Is it important? And is it urgent? If it is important, but not urgent, I don’t have to say yes. Maybe someone else can do the job. The same goes for requests that are urgent but not important. The fact that something is urgent, doesn’t mean that I have to do it.
If it’s both urgent and important I will answer ‘perhaps’. I never say ‘yes’ on the spot. I don’t want to come back to the person saying I can’t do the important and urgent task I signed up for and it’s too late to find someone else. I will go home, think about the request a bit more and see if it fits with my schedule. And maybe I even do it! Not because I need to do it, but because I want it.
The interesting thing is that I don’t get the number of requests I used to get before. People now know I am busy, and not always interested in doing things for them. Saying ‘No’ is not only good for me, but also for the others: other people now know that IF I say ‘Yes’ to something, I will do it and they can stop worrying about it. They know that if I can’t do it, I won’t do it. Less stress for both parties, a win-win situation.


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