Posts Tagged ‘health’

14 steps to a better you: promiss less, do more

In Too lazy to assign a category on June 9, 2008 at 10:27 am

A successful live means you've got realistic expectations of yourself. You don't have to be the perfect partner / friend / colleague / parent. People that are unreasonably demanding, put themselves under pressure and might become stressed or burned out. It can also influence others. If for example your boss asks you to write a report by tomorrow and you say yes, it's possible you can't honour your promise, and others might be disappointed or get the feeling they can't count on you. It is important you put realistic demands upon yourself.

Being too demanding might stem from a negative sense of self-worth. You don't think you're good enough, and think you'll only be loved if you excel. It's also possible you don't know your limits, or you overestimate yourself. This can also happen if you've got a healthy sense of self-worth. If you've got a positive image of yourself, it's possible you always tend to think it's no problem writing that report by tomorrow (to stick with the example above). People too demanding of themselves, want too much.


Being demanding is related to being perfectionist: you want to do things as good as possible. Being perfectionist isn't wrong in itself. On the contrary, there are advantages. It helps to bring out the best of you. Perfectionism is quite alright, as long as it stays healthy.

This means you like to excel and it's a challenge to do something without mistakes. It becomes unhealthy once you demand you do everything in a perfect way. By putting that much pressure on yourself, you become stressed and afraid of failure. Because nobody's perfect, you'll always be disappointed too. You'll always fall short and can never feel proud about yourself.

Be realistic

If you don't want to become overwrought or disappoint others, be realistic. Following tips can be helpful.

Work on your sense of self-worth

The best way to steer away from unhealthy perfectionism, is to work on your self esteem. When you think positively about yourself, and accept yourself, you won't feel the urge to be perfect and promise heaven on earth.

Want versus have to

Perfectionism becomes unhealthy if you have to be perfect. Notice there are so many things you have to, deliberately replace the words have to by want to or can. "I want to get an A on this exam", feels more relaxed than "I have to get an A on this exam" or "I can' make mistakes". That way it's also possible to discover what you want and don't want. Perhaps you'll notice there aren't so many things you have to do. Perhaps you'll find out someone else should do some of the things you saddle yourself with.

Be honest

In order to become realistic, you'll have to be honest, first and foremost with yourself. When someone asks you something, don't answer automatically in an affirmative way, but ask respite. Say for example: "I'm not sure if that's possible, I'll let you know as soon as possible" or "I have so see whether this fits my schedule". Verify how much time and energy it will consume. Is it realistic? Do you want to answer the request? Can you? When you've made up the balance, it's time to be honest with the other person. If in doubt, hold back a little. Say for example: "I will do my best, but I'm not sure it will work". Also ask for what you need. Think time, money, materials or help.

If you're honest with yourself and others, you take away the pressure. It also prevents you from disappointing others. If, perhaps against all odds, you manage to succeed anyway, you and others will be pleasantly surprised.


The following exercises can help you to be more realistic and honest.

Realistic promises

Think about a recent situation in which you made a promise or commitment that wasn't entirely realistic. Answer following questions: whom did you make this promise to, and about what? To what extent were you fooling yourself? To what degree did you have to convince yourself to keep this promise? If you knew the promise wasn't realistic, why did you make it anyway? Was there something you were afraid of? Did you want to avoid something, like a fight? In retrospect, what would you have done or said instead?

Future requests

Imagine a request you can expect to be made in the upcoming month by your boss, colleague, partner or family. Imagine how much time and energy it's going to ask from you. What's the situation? To what extent to you have the time or energy to answer this request? What can you say in order to make a realistic promise or commitment?

Test: how much of a perfectionist are you?

Answer the following questions with yes, sometimes or no.

   1. I feel guilty if I don't get it 100% right
   2. I'm afraid others might not like me as much if I fail
   3. When I start something, I'm afraid of failing
   4. No matter how well I do, I'm never satisfied with my achievements
   5. I worry about mistakes
   6. I am proud if I get it 100% right
   7. I like to give the best of me
   8. My successes stimulate me
   9. It's a challenge to be the best I can
  10. I like to be better than others

For each time you've answered yes, you get 2 points. For each time you've answered sometimes you get 1 point. Add up the points for questions 1 to 5. This is your score for unhealthy perfectionism. Add up the points for questions 6 to 10. This is your score for healthy perfectionism.

Unhealthy perfectionism

8 points or more: you suffer from unhealthy perfectionism and put too much stress on yourself. It's important to work on your self esteem.
4 – 7 points: to an extent you suffer from unhealthy perfectionism. You'll feel much better if you are realistic, and throw guilt overboard.
0 – 3 points: you don't suffer much from unhealthy perfectionism. Mistakes and shortcomings don't get under your skin. You know you're only human.

Healthy perfectionism

8 points or more: you're a perfectionist in a good way. You like to excel because it makes you feel good. Beware though. Don't mix up the things you want and the things you have to.
4 – 7 points: you're a perfectionist to a certain extent. You like to do things as good a possible, but you don't strive for perfection all the time.
0 – 3 points: you're not at all a perfectionist. That's fine, but if you want to improve your achievements, a healthy dose of perfectionism might help you.

Healthy and unhealthy perfectionism can coexist. It's possible you like to achieve but at the same time you think you have to.

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14 steps to a better you – needs

In Too lazy to assign a category on December 30, 2007 at 2:11 am


To be happy, it’s necessary to give yourself what you need. To be able to do that, you first have to know what it is you need. Needs are different from personal values. Personal values refer to areas of life, areas that interest you, areas you’re passionate about. Things you need in order to feel good about yourself, to be yourself, are your needs. Those things can be both small and large. Possibly you need attention, love, flexible work hours, more time with your partner, a ham and cheese sandwich or a hot bath.

Sometimes it’s perfectly clear what you need, and it’s quite simple to give yourself what you need. When you are hungry, you make a sandwich or something else. It’s possible you feel lonely because you don’t have a partner. In that case you’ll have to find yourself a new love. Sometimes it’s not so clear what you need. You feel unfulfilled but you don’t know why. You’ve got everything you ever dreamt about 20 years ago: a beautiful house, a family, enough money … and yet still you feel restless and unsatisfied.

Unfulfilled needs

The theory by psychologist Abraham Maslow, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, can help you discover what it is you need. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied.

The bottom of the pyramid consists of physiological basic needs, like shelter, food, and warmth. You don’t feel anything when these needs are met, but if they aren’t, you’ll feel anxious. If you are hungry or thirsty or your body is chemically unbalanced, all of your energies turn toward remedying these deficiencies, and other needs remain inactive. When you are really hungry and terribly cold, you won’t enjoy listening to music, or looking at art. Instead you first want to eat and put on some extra clothes. If some needs are not fulfilled, a human's physiological needs take the highest priority. Physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviours, and can cause people to feel sickness, pain, and discomfort.

Safety needs are one step higher up the pyramid. After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. They need to love and be loved. All humans have a need to be respected, to have self-esteem, self-respect, and to respect others (fourth layer).

They upper three layers are growth needs, enduring motivations or drivers of behaviour. These are cognitive needs, aesthetic needs and the need for self-actualisation. In Maslow's scheme, the final stage of psychological development comes when the individual feels assured that his physiological, security, affiliation and affection, self-respect, and recognition needs have been satisfied. As these become dormant, he becomes filled with a desire to realise all of his potential for being an effective, creative, mature human being.

Maslow's need hierarchy is set forth as a general proposition and does not imply that everyone's needs follow the same rigid pattern. However, his theory is highly informative. It can help you trace unfulfilled needs. If you encounter the same problems in love, over and over again, it’s possible you haven’t met the underlying need of safety. You may have an alarm system in check, but perhaps you don’t feel safe emotionally. Perhaps you feel others can’t be trusted, and you can’t leave your guard down. This feeling of unsafety makes it hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable in a relationship, and can lead to a fear of abandonment. In order to get what you need out of a relationship, you will first have to (re)find a feeling of safety.

The same is true for other layers of needs. If you notice it’s impossible to be successful or get recognition in your field of expertise, perhaps you didn’t fulfil some underlying need. Perhaps you don’t have a sense of belonging, and you feel lonely. Perhaps you don’t seem to be able to connect with colleagues at work, and don’t use your full networking potential.

Recognise your needs

If you aren’t in touch with yourself, it’s possible you don’t recognise your needs. It happens to everyone to some extent. When you e.g. are highly concentrated, you might not notice you need to go to the bathroom, or might ignore the feeling, until it’s (almost) too late.

Some people ignore other needs, especially needs they think aren’t socially acceptable. If you were told that crying is a sign of weakness, you possibly push away your tears, swallow your tears. If you were told sex is dirty, it’s difficult to recognise you need sex.

Pushing aside your needs is unhealthy. It makes you feel frustrated and unfulfilled. Many needs can’t be pushed aside for long either. They’ll find a way out, and can manifest themselves in annoying ways. It’s even possible you’ll get depressed and develop all kinds of psychosomatic symptoms.

An example is the burn-out. People that are experiencing a burn-out have worked hard, but were at the same time ignoring other needs, the need for rest, relaxation, healthy food, … At a certain point body and mind can’t continue to work until those needs are met. Unfortunately the situation by then has gotten real bad; people have crossed their boundaries so far, that it takes a very long time before they can feel healthy and happy again.

Determine and write down your needs

Determining your needs requires you to have an honest and accepting look at yourself, without judging your needs. What is it you really need? What’s stopping you from satisfying your needs?
Is there a voice in your head telling you it’s wrong, or are you afraid of what other people might think? How can you give yourself what you really need? Write down the three most unfulfilled needs. What do you long for that you haven’t got?

Not all needs are equally realistic and not all needs can be totally met. If you e.g. need comfort and luxury, but you don’t make a lot of money, it’s not a very realistic need. There’s no use to dwell upon this, as it will only frustrate you. Do you have everything you’ve always wanted, the house, car, family, career … then perhaps it’s important to learn to appreciate the small things in life.

Instead of constantly wishing for a better life, take up the challenge to enjoy what is, the here and now. How to do that will be explained later on.

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