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Tree of Life Counselling

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  • Writer's pictureAmy Bambury

Why being a slave to your own high expectations can kill you

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Are you always trying to reach for more? More money, More skills, More knowledge. More responsibility, Power, Friends, Success? The list could go on and on. Maybe you create a goal and when you get close you move it to make it bigger or better.

Maybe nothing feels enough. there always needs to be more.


YOU need to be more

It's such a drive isn't it., such a buzz, striving, achieving and feeling you've improved or beaten something or made a dream a reality.

It's also tiring at best and exhausting at worst.

There's always a need to be 'doing' something, like thinking or planning or acting... striving... perfecting...there's no time to stop, because then you are doing nothing, and nothing isn't valuable, measurable or worthwhile. (Apparently.)

This is all well and good, except for the small fact that you are human. Your brain can only process so much at a time and your body can only cope with so much stress.

Your brain only works as well as the fuel you feel your body, and the sleep you get. You've heard of brain fog right? If you eat a lot of crap, or don't get enough sleep, your brain will not fire on all cylinders and therefore you will have the fog. (this is not to be confused with menopause fog- that's another blog all by itself!) Your stress levels increase and so does your cortisol, causing you to have acid reflux or chest pains.

Likewise if you bombard your brain with all the fantastic ideas about growth and change and dreams and are busy acting on things too, it needs some time to organise. Organise what's happening and when, and naturally it will seek some 'off' time.

If not, then begin the headaches.

However the 'striver' or 'perfectionist' wont allow this 'off' time, as it's not seemingly productive.

Unfortunately the problem then, is, other things start to happen, first you cant think straight, then maybe your sleep is affected and before you know it, you're not 'all over it' you're feeling more 'under it' as the overwhelm takes over and you are lost in your own sea of expectation.

In a panic you might all of a sudden become obsessed with cleaning or the gym or something

else, in a bid to gain some sort of control, or some way of feeling you are making a difference, so that you still have some sort of success in your periphery.

The kitchen is the cleanest it's ever been, or you've pushed more weights than you ever have = I am still winning. ( what you are actually doing is just 'adding' to all the things you are already doing, because there's a standard you need to reach)

So, What do you need to do instead?

STOP...(stay with me here, it's not permanent)

Yes I said it, that dreaded word. Stop.

You may not even know what that looks like and it may quite frankly scare you. That's ok.

What's not ok, is your brain and your body struggling to keep up. If you don't stop, it will just get worse. The headaches become migraines, the chest pains become more intense as the pressure builds there. Or heaven forbid...a heart attack.

Panic arrives and anxiety too. Your joints hurt, the tension in your shoulders and neck are painful.

Your body is trying to tell you something.

In fact, it's practically screaming at you.

If it had a voice it would be saying something like...'STOP!!! you're killing me! I cant keep up with all you are doing and thinking, it just never ends! It's incessant and it's never enough!'

I'm hearing those of you that are saying to yourself, things like...

'but I should be able to cope' (why? have you seen lately what you've been doing? and where is this voice coming from? Who's voice is it?)

'other people can cope' (are you sure? How do you know? They might be sinking a bottle of gin every night or crying themselves to sleep)

'If I cant cope, I'm a failure.' (again, where is this voice coming from and when did you start with such high demands of yourself? and isn't failure a great teaching tool? some would say its the best feedback you can get and a neccessity...)

Stop. It's time to form an allegiance with your brain and your body.

Stop, just for an hour, write it all down- doesn't matter how, but get it out of your head and onto paper or a screen. Write everything you are working on, thinking about, planning to do, write it all down.

Mentally scan your body, what is it telling you? where are you feeling the pressure? what does your body need...


how can you give it

What can you put down or postpone so that you can have some breathing space and re calibrate.

You are not a machine, you have needs. You need to meet them, or you will be stopped. By you. And if you get stopped, you may never be the same again.

Listen to your body, hear what it is telling you. It's on your side and wants to succeed with you.

Be kind in your expectations, be realistic, don't be a slave, this is your life and you get to choose what you do with it, choose YOU, in every sense of the word.

Work hard, but play hard, rest hard.

Its a balance. and it's unique to you


If you feel that you want to get to the bottom of your need for perfection, or you feel your high expectations are something that you 'd like to let go of but cant, get in touch. Counselling doesn't have to be long, it can be short and focused and help you refocus on your needs and you happiness. You wouldn't believe just how much it can help clear the way ahead for you.

Stay tuned into you, tuned enough to live your one and only life, with enough joy and happiness to make it all worth it.

Until next time

Amy B

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