Striving for perfection can make it extremely hard to relax. After all, the two concepts seem to be at odds with each other. How can you relax when your worth depends on continually striving to be the best? This is a question that many perfectionists face, although they may not be consciously aware of it. Over time, you may have forgotten how to relax or what relaxation even means.
People who struggle with perfectionism often feel tense and uptight. If they do engage in leisure activities, there is a niggling feeling that they should be doing something else. Have you ever struggled to relax because you felt like you should be getting other jobs done? If you feel guilty when you take time for yourself, this is another red flag. You might strive to do everything perfectly and put others’ needs before your own. However, this just leads to resentment over time.
For example, Jen tries hard to manage responsibilities at home with a demanding job. She puts the needs of her children, husband, and job ahead of her own. As a result, she feels exhausted and unhappy. She struggles to relax and find time for herself, even when she’s unwell. Over time, Jen’s performance at work decreases, she’s frequently ill, and she falls behind on the housework. This just makes Jen feel like even more of a failure.
As you can see from this example, perfectionism is not sustainable. If we don’t balance work with rest, sooner or later we feel the consequences. Our productivity suffers or we become ill. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of our responsibilities or other people. As such, part of overcoming perfectionism involves learning how to relax. If you feel stressed, you must make relaxation a priority in your life. Prioritising time for leisure is essential for optimal health and well being.
Before moving on, take a moment to think about what relaxation means to you. What sorts of things do you do to relax? What are your interests or hobbies outside of work? How do you take time out for yourself? How does your mind and body feel when you are stressed versus when you are relaxed? If you struggle to answer these questions, you have some work to do in learning how to relax.