Burnout is a Slow Burn
For perfectionists, the saying “ do your best” is a rabbit hole statement. To begin with, perfectionists tend to have unrealistically high expectations, so “doing your best” can send them off the deep end of overdoing, overscheduling, overextending themselves leading to burnout. Burnout leads to frustration, doubt, and at times resentment for never finding the finish line and feeling like nothing is good enough. This lifestyle creates a milieu of problems related to emotional and physical health. It can also become habitual. Perfectionists may carry on living a life that is overscheduled and scrutinized until they crash, feel bad about themselves because they failed, and start all over again taking on more than they can because they are doing their best.
How about instead of, “do your best” you qualify it with- do your best, with what you’ve got right now. Take stock of your resources: energy, time, schedule, responsibilities towards self and others, amongst other factors. This will allow you to focus on doing your best within these parameters. Note, this is not to be used as a copout or to create false limits to your abilities to strive higher for better. In actuality, this is a sign of realistic self-care and holding yourself accountable for your life choices and where some tweaking needs to be done. Many perfectionists will object to taking into consideration what their life looks like in actuality as if their capability of doing and conquering is being questioned. No. You can do it all, but at what cost? And is it worth it? Capability isn’t questioned, it’s how and what can be done to showcase your ability to lead a life in flow and less stress.
Many perfectionistic parents will say to their anxious child before a test, performance, competition – “just do your best.” But for children who think that their best is never good enough, this amps up their anxiety even more so. How can you reframe their anxiety and motivate them to use their potential to succeed? Connect with your child’s feelings first. Just as you would try to do with a friend and hopefully, yourself. Name the feeling, “ it seems like you are anxious about how that will turn out.” Letting someone know that you can sense how they are feeling is the biggest gift in a relationship. You are essentially saying, “ I understand you and I am here for you.” Who doesn’t want to feel that when they are going through a tough time? Once you name the feeling, figuring out what is stressing them out will help pinpoint what really needs to be worked on instead of a blanket statement.
Try it, next time you feel anxious or see someone feeling unsure of an outcome, use empathic and strategic communication to prevent the overload.