Growing up, a lot of us deal with one of, if not all of, these 3 P’s: perfectionism, people pleasing & procrastination.
The natural instinct to be social and have friends when you were young didn’t necessarily mean you would find yourself being a prisoner to people’s opinions for the rest of your life. But you obviously wanted to do anything to make and keep said friendships. Like saving the red Skittles for your BFF because you knew they were her favorite… even if they were your favorite too.
I’m a thoughtful friend. You say you like red Skittles, I take note. You run out of your favorite soap or coffee; when I see some at the farmers market, I’m going to get it for you. If the boss is being unreasonable and I can brighten up your day with your favorite chips, I will. Without hesitation. I’m a baker, so anytime I can spread some love with my sweets, I’m going to. That doesn’t always equate to people pleasing.
Being a people pleaser is worrying more about other people’s opinions than your own, to the point of your own detriment. It usually goes hand in hand with hating confrontation. You never want to say no. And because you want to avoid confrontation at all cost, you compromise. Which in the context of relationships is something we are told is necessary and healthy. However, there’s a difference between compromising on an issue [dinner, movie, etc.] and compromising yourself. Taking a knee might seem like an issue to some, but those who see civil rights being violated daily & a crooked criminal justice system know their silence is more compromise than a knee or a fist ever could be.
Likewise, you can only give out of the overflow of your own cup. Even the biggest superstar needs help from his teammates. When your cup runneth over, you have plenty to share. But when your cup runs dry, you’re depleted. And putting others above your own at that point is only going to make you more exhausted and, in turn, make you feel useless. When we define our happiness on the success of other people’s opinions of us, we are always going to fall short. And we’re going to harm those very relationships by placing unrealistic expectations on them.
Wanting all A’s in school doesn’t mean you’re a perfectionist. Following the rules meticulously or striving to be the best at a sport or hobby doesn’t either. The need for perfection is a compulsion that doesn’t end at striving for flawlessness, but includes having an overly critical view of yourself when the perfection is unattainable.
When you have sleepless nights because you didn’t get an A on a test. When a teacher doesn’t like your writing and you struggle with how to adjust. When you eat, breath, sleep that sport or hobby to the point the fun is taken out of it, that’s perfectionism – which is ironically setting yourself up for failure.
High standards shouldn’t be tossed aside altogether. Goals are never a bad thing to be dismissed. My middle school basketball coach always said, “It’s not ‘practice makes perfect’, but rather, ‘perfect practice makes perfect.’” His point being if you practice half-heartedly, your game performance will be half-hearted as well. In college, my sorority taught that standards wouldn’t be lowered for us, but that we had to rise to meet them. A former pastor, whom I worked for before he passed, lived by the motto, “excellence is a standard, not a goal.” So, I’ve been around some pretty high bar-setters. Still, it’s about having realistic ideas about what is attainable and giving grace to yourself for what isn’t.
If a competitor is producing 21 articles a week for their online magazine, the goal to compete with 21 articles a week isn’t a bad one. However, if you’re only employing one writer [while your competitor has a team], you have to adjust your goals to what is reasonable. If your free throw shooting is abysmal, you’re not going to aim for 100% or even 95%. It would be setting yourself up for failure and possible depression, taking you further away from your goal. But that doesn’t mean you don’t aim to improve.
It may not be that you thought of it as procrastination, but you didn’t clean your room the first time you were asked. You waited until RIGHT BEFORE there would be consequences for not cleaning it. You didn’t realize your stalling on eating vegetables you didn’t like could lead to deferring on larger issues later on in life. When you didn’t focus on free throws in your youth, yeah, you may get to the NBA, but teams will still haunt you with fouls just to get you to the line. Last minute study sessions. All-nighters in college to finish papers. Inability to commit to a relationship. Figuring out who you really are.
Not that taking longer to find yourself is always a sign of procrastination, but we live in a world where we overload students with homework and then overload employees with responsibility, on and off the clock, leaving very little time for self-discovery. God forbid we actually had to work full time to get ourselves through school. Psychologically, that has to play a role in us realizing our individual purpose. But do we even find… no… make the time, to figure that out?
Ever since I can remember, these 3 things have stifled me in different ways, collectively as well as independently. Whether simultaneously, or just because God works all things together for our good, these things have also developed me in ways I wouldn’t have grown without them.
Procrastination was my BFF in school, especially college. I was always waiting until the 11th hour to work on papers… even writing many of them without actually doing the reading that the writing was based on. But I excelled in the pressure of that deadline. I think my perfectionism would have taken over if it wasn’t a successful tactic for me. But because it was, my creative juices were unleashed in that now or never moment & my perfectionism took a back seat. Nowadays, I find myself procrastinating when it comes to menial tasks but being more proactive when it comes to the creative outlets of my purpose. What excites me cannot wait, but last night’s dishes?! I’ll pass.
Being a perfectionist for many years, I didn’t realize how much anxiety I was weighing myself down with because I was trying to prove myself. Prove my worth.
See, I had to prove to the father who walked out on us that he made a mistake in leaving. It was never about me being worth him staying, though. It was about me being worth something even though he had left. Look at me. I did this without you. As I got older, my perfectionism found other reasons to feed on to dominate me. I think failing at my first attempt at entrepreneurship was actually one of the most freeing moments of my life. It didn’t kill me. I survived it. I could survive other failures too.
Being a people pleaser still took a little longer to break. Even though my dad has always dubbed me a social butterfly, I always craved quality relationships over quantity. If you had a dollar, would you want 100 friendships that are a penny deep or 4 that are quarter deep? I would take the 4 any day. But what if you had 10 friendships that were quarter deep?! You want to do what you can to maintain them. Even if it means you spread yourself too thin. Even if it means you have a hard time saying no. Even if it means you’re overly accommodating. Because your intentions are genuine and pure. Those relationships matter more than anything.
Honestly, I tried to understand where my shift finally happened.
I mean, in little ways, I found balance. I found a way to start saying no. But, if I’m being truthful, hardships do it every time. The cream rises to the top, as the saying goes. And the past few years have been some of the hardest of my life. Because of that, my peace is the most important thing to me. I pursue it purposefully. I stay away from whatever doesn’t add to it intentionally. I want others to be happy, but not at my own expense. I love people, but I won’t trade company for covering. I won’t trade peace for people. Ironically, in cutting out the excess, it gives me time to focus on my 10 quarters. The hardships sometimes flare up the perfectionist in how I’m doing maintaining my relationships. Sometimes, I feel like a failure. But it’s also allowing the relationships to go deeper. By not procrastinating communication, I open it up to vulnerability, and saying right where I am, how I am.
The funny thing about the 3 “P”’s I struggled with for so long… they were all suffocating the one true “P” I needed. Tackling the big 3, I have found more peace than I ever could have imagined!