The world in which we live moves at an extraordinary speed, to the point that every day becomes a race in which we need to combine speed, endurance and successes, making each day an almost impossible mission.
These demands – and often also the self-demands – make us feel under pressure. We want to be able with everything. Being up to expectations – our own and those of the others. Do things perfectly. Succeed and be happy. And sometimes, simply, it is not possible.
Tired of being tired
“The burnout society”, the philosopher Byung-Chul Han defined the world in which we live, a society where people “Live with the anguish of not always doing everything that can be done.” The anguish that comes from thinking that everything is in our hands and that we are not doing enough.
In that society, the figure of the exploiter and the exploited are amalgamated and coexist in each of us. As a result, “Now one exploits himself and thinks that he is having success”, said the philosopher.
The maxim we are guided by is as simple as implausible: do everything you can. Always. And that leads us to a state of deep wear – physical and emotional – to the point where we get tired of being tired. It is an overwhelming experience in which we do not find the way out because one voice inside us tells us that we have to continue – whatever it costs – and another one begs us to stop, because we can no longer cope with it.
At this point, whatever we do, it will go wrong. Because we can’t concentrate, because we lack the strength and motivation. Because we don’t have energy or desire. Then we lose our balance and feel lost, probably gripped by the pangs of anxiety.
And just when we think that nothing can be worse, that daily fatigue becomes a vital fatigue, as the novelist Henning Mankell warned: “What annoys a person who suicides? The life itself. Boredom. Tiredness that descends on every morning when you look at yourself at the mirror”.
Perfectionists are more likely to fall into those states of over-demand due to their inflexible, over-demanding and/or controlling behaviors. These people often experience great pressure that eventually causes them suffering.
A study by Brock University found that perfectionists are more likely to feel bad and complain about lack of sleep, headaches, backaches, digestive disorders, dermatitis and fatigue than those who are not. In addition, they fear failure a lot because they are very concerned about what others think of them, so that they often act according to what they think others would like and not according to what they would like themselves, which generates a state of dissatisfaction and frustration.
We need to stop long before reaching that point. We need to understand that sometimes we can’t cope with all, and nothing happens. That sometimes we can’t do everything. And it is normal.
Mind has no limits, fatigue yes
To assume that in life we can’t cope with all – and it is not necessary that we try to do it – it is extremely liberating. Whoever carries all the weight on his back, before or after, needs to loose ballast or will run the risk of drowning under those demands and responsibilities.
It is important to understand that in these circumstances it is not worth taking an afternoon off to disconnect, paint mandalas or practice half an hour of yoga because these solutions are small patches to a much greater problem that we need to face in a radically different way.
How did we get to that point?
Why do we think we should be able to do everything?
Sometimes we perceive many tasks as urgent or essential, but in reality they are not. That is why it is important to ask: is it so serious if I do not do it? Are the consequences so horrible? Is it the only possible alternative?
If the answer to these questions is “no”, then we should stop thinking about that task as if it were a matter of life or death. If we have time to do it, great. If we don’t, nothing happens. It is not worth it to stop enjoying the really valuable and relevant things of life just because we overload ourselves with irrelevant and sometimes even absurd obligations.
We must ensure that the “urgent” does not take the place of the important. Our ultimate goal in life is to be happy, not to meet an endless list of tasks … Tasks must be subordinate to our goals, so we should not confuse the means to the end. Therefore, we must learn to say “no”, to give up things we don’t need and not want to cover everything.
We also need to learn to forgive ourselves, be less demanding to ourselves and occasionally practice self-indulgence. If we had a bad day, if surged an inconvenience or if we cannot do something, we shouldn’t feel overwhelmed, we have to accept it as part of life and move on. We can’t with everything. And we don’t need to try to do it either.
Molnar, D. S. et. Al. (2006) A mediated model of perfectionism, affect, and physical health. Journal of Research in Personality; 40: 482–500.