Do more. Be more.
The pressure to be the best person we can be is enough to break us. The fear that we won’t be able to live life to the fullest makes us question life altogether. The need to be accepted by others keeps us from accepting ourselves. From the moment our feet hit the floor to when we lay our head down at night (and even after) we battle loneliness, hurt, fear, judgment- the list can go on. While we try not to let these all too common emotions occupy our thoughts, we find ourselves embracing the pressure to be more than we are and to do more than what we have already.
Have a broken heart? Instead of taking time to heal, we feel pressured to suck it up, move on, and give our heart to someone else.
In a conflict with a coworker? We feel pressured to take the high road, so that we may be able to maintain our place in the company and earn a decent wage.
Binge-eating pizza and watching Netflix? Many of us cannot enjoy this simple pleasure, because we feel pressure to do something productive with our time.
These are only a few of the “pressures” that we face on a day to day basis, and that doesn’t even begin to cover the pressure of being a good spouse, a good boyfriend or girlfriend, a good parent, a good sibling or child, or even a good friend. It also doesn’t count the pressure that many feel to be a good Christian, not just for our sakes but for God’s as well.
Growing up, my parents taught my siblings and I, to work hard and then play. If a task needed to get done, it did. For those who know me, I cannot leave dirty dishes to sit in a sink for any length of time. I have to wash them right away before I can even think of doing anything fun or enjoyable. Now, at 26, I am trying to break that habit as I have begun to realize that while healthy pressure can spur you on to do great things and to accomplish more than you could ever imagine, unhealthy stress can cause you to feel as if you never measure up. God wants us to succeed, not to just feel a little bit less of a failure.
What is the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Pressure?
While I am no expert, I believe that there are two kinds of pressure that we need to identify in our lives, to fully process how they affect us both personally and professionally.
Healthy pressure is the belief that we are capable of doing a task, but we want to ensure that we showcase our skills and abilities in the best way that we can. Some people who are in public speaking, feel as if nerves are a healthy form of stress, as the nervous feeling in their stomach forces them to study harder, practice more, and adequately prepare themselves for speaking in front of a crowd of people, no matter the size.
Unhealthy pressure, on the other hand, is the stress or tension that we feel in having to measure up to other people’s expectations or unrealistic expectations that we have set upon ourselves. For example, when a friend of mine had her first baby, she wanted to be the perfect parent. When she was unable to attain perfection (which is inevitable no matter who you are), she felt as if she had failed herself, her husband, and her child. She became bitter, exhausted, and felt as though she was unfit to be a mother- which couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
In a 2015 interview between Brené Brown and Oprah Winfrey, Oprah asked, “What’s the greatest truth that you practice regularly, that you embrace in your daily life?” Brene replied with the simplest, but maybe the most powerful of answers, “Be brave. Show up.”
I think that this lesson can be applied to every part of our lives. Instead of feeling pressured to be better and to do more, maybe we need to say to ourselves, “It’s okay. You don’t know what today is going to look like. You don’t know how you are going to feel about this issue or this situation, but all that you have to do is be brave and show up. If that’s all that you do today, that’s okay!”
Now it can be easy to swing to the other side of the pendulum where we show up and take no regard for other people’s feelings or how we present ourselves (keep the pyjama pants at home), but the lesson here is that you have to try your best. Instead of feeling like a failure because you cannot reach the unattainable goals that you have set for yourself, or feel as though you are not living life the “right” way, be kind and extend grace.
Life is hard. Life will kick you to the curb, run over you, and then run over you again, but if you dust yourself off and allow yourself to “show up” without any crazy expectation on yourself, the pressure to be more than you are can begin to diminish.
God already made us as a perfect reflection of Him! When we let go and show up despite everything in us saying that we aren’t good enough or worthy enough, we can allow God to take control and break free from the pressures that this world has set on us.
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.– Roman 8:6