This is a big claim, I know, but:
Perfectionism and all its cousins – fear of failure, fear of what ‘they’ will think, fear of disappointing someone – almost always comes down to this thing of
trying to please everyone and their dog
We want things to be ‘perfect’ because, at the heart of it, we feel that anything less than will make people (partners, colleagues, parents, distant relatives, faceless-general-public) less happy with us.
We’re scared of failing because we worry that that failure will displease someone.
Our fears of what ‘they’ will think usually amounts more specifically to a fear that we’ll upset them or they’ll think less of us.
So here’s two nifty things you can do to release that burden of trying to please everyone.
1. Remember you’re not an intentionally malicious, evil, soul-sucking demon
For real though. In most cases, the people who worry about upsetting other people are good people who don’t start each day intending to go out and fuck with people’s lives.
The fact that you worry about making things ‘perfect’ and making people happy is itself proof that you care and you want things to be good and well all round.
(Conversely, the people who are intentionally malicious don’t sit around worrying about these things – which is exactly the problem)
Even without having met you, I’m pretty sure that just by virtue of you connecting with me somehow and reading this blog, you are not the kind of person who sets out wanting to purposefully harm / upset / disappoint / piss off people.
(And if you are, that’s a whole other problem to deal with)
Get really clear on your intentions, where you’re coming from and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Take everyone else out of the equation and acknowledge for yourself, first and foremost, why you’re doing what you’re doing, the way you’re doing it.
So: Do you have a clear conscience?
Are you generally being a considerate, decent human being? (Don’t overthink this).
If, upon reflection, you realise that you are acting/speaking like an arsehole, are you willing to amend that and find others ways of doing/being that are better aligned to your true values, beliefs and desires?
If you do inadvertently, unknowingly end up genuinely upsetting someone, are you willing/able to apologise like a considerate decent human being and make up for it where you can?
Okay, good. Step one, done.
2. Give the responsibility of their reactions back to them
Okay, so (a) you’re clear on your intentions / where you’re coming from and (b) you know you are able and willing to fix any genuine mistakes if they happen.
Given all this, let’s say someone still reacts in a shitty, unreasonable way towards you.
They still think you’re not good enough
They vehemently disagree with your opinion
They ‘dislike’ or ‘disapprove’ of what you’re saying / doing / wearing / eating / thinking
They misunderstand you and form some ridiculous notions about you
They don’t want to go out with you anymore
They start picking arguments and resorting to criticism, gaslighting, emotionally blackmail etc. etc. etc.
At this point, go back to recalling your initial intentions, draw a blindingly clear line around those boundaries and give the goddamn responsibility of their subsequent bullshit reactions back to them.
Listen, in most instances, these people are grown-ass adults, with the thinking faculties, capacities and discernment to make their own (informed) decisions and conclusions.
Those decisions include the responsibility to manage their own feelings and reactions to things that they dislike/don’t agree with; to speak to you like a rational, decent adult to clear any misunderstandings or to assert their own boundaries (which you, in turn, as a grown-ass adult should also respect).
If they’re going to fly off the handle; react badly; think unjust, erroneous, uninformed thoughts about you and take unjust, erroneous, uninformed action as a result of those thoughts – THAT’S ON THEM.
You don’t have time, love or money to fuckin’ babysit their feelings or to do the emotional labour to ensure that you just living your own goddamn life doesn’t ‘upset them’.
Boo fucking hoo.
We so often get caught out because we end up absorbing and internalising these fuckers’ reactions as our own and as our responsibility to then ‘make right’.
But somebody ‘not liking’ or ‘not agreeing’ with something you do/say/are is not your responsibility. It’s never your responsibility because there is literally nothing you can do to make someone like/understand/approve of something they don’t – they have to want to do that.
And, as I said, if they’re not taking the steps to see and respect your point of view or to have mindful dialogue/conversation, then that is not a responsibility that you have to take on. Give it back to them.
(Obviously, I’m not saying that you should just go out and do whatever the fuck you want without any care at all if you cause harm. That’s why Step One is getting clear about what you’re doing/saying and why, and setting those firm boundaries for yourself first.)
So, summary: Do your very best with whatever feels good, comfortable and most aligned with your deep-down values and beliefs. Know where you stand and what you stand for. If people flip out and react unfavourably, don’t absorb that reaction as something that you must now be responsible for and ‘fix’. Remember that these are grown-ass, fuckin adults who should be managing their own feelings and reactions. And give the goddamn responsibility back to them.
Know clearly for yourself the boundaries and intentions within which you are acting. And recognise that anything outside of your boundaries is just that – outside.
You don’t have to take it it into your sacred boundaried circle. Leave it out there where it belongs, and give it the fuck back to them.