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Do You Put Pressure on Yourself?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
April 07, 2014

Pressuring yourself might be causing resistance, stress, anxiety, physical pain, insomnia and even illness.

How many of you put a lot of pressure on yourself? How often do you feel anxious because of this pressure? How often do you have trouble sleeping because you feel so pressured?

I was having a Skype session with Angie. She was feeling very physically uncomfortable because her back was out. In addition, she had been struggling with fibromyalgia for a number of years, and she was often in a lot of pain. She had tried many ways of healing – diet, exercise and various forms of psychotherapy.

As we spoke, I could feel the pressure Angie was putting on herself to get well, to be a better parent to her two daughters, to finish school and to get things done. I was feeling tense in my own body from the sense of pressure coming from her.

"Once I get well, I need to figure out what I really want to do with my life. I don't know what my passion is. My kids are getting older and I really should become productive. But I'm always so busy now that I don't know how I will fit that into my life."

"Angie, can you hear the pressure you are putting on yourself?"

"Yes, now that you mention it, I can feel it. But I think I always feel this. I always feel a background of pressure and anxiety. I can't remember a time in my adult life that I didn't feel this. I think it started in college."

"This might be greatly contributing to your illness and to your back going out. Pressuring yourself creates a lot of stress in your body, and stress is a huge contributor to illness. As we've talked about, when you go into stress, the blood leaves your immune system to get ready for fight or flight, which is likely contributing to your autoimmune problem.

"I'm wondering if staying sick is a way to not have to figure out what you want to do with your life. What if you made it okay to be healthy and to do nothing? What if you took the pressure off of finding your passion? Can you imagine being healthy and just being?"

This was a novel idea for Angie, but she immediately felt a deep sense of relief.

How do you pressure yourself?

  • Do you tell yourself you are not getting enough done?
  • Do you tell yourself that you are not healing fast enough?
  • Do you tell yourself you have to get yourself together so you can find a partner?
  • Do you tell yourself that you have to be more organized?
  • If you are in school, do you tell yourself that you have to get A's?
  • Do you tell yourself that you have to work harder or work longer hours?
  • Do you judge yourself for your parenting?
  • Do you judge yourself for a lot of things?

Take a breath and notice what you might be judging yourself for. Self-judgments create a lot of inner pressure, and may also create a resistance to the pressure you are putting on yourself. There is a possibility that, as much as Angie wants to heal, another part of her is resistant to healing - because of the pressure she puts on herself to meet certain expectations, once she is healthy. As much as she hates being ill, it might be her way out of having to meet her expectations.

What would life be like for you if you didn't put pressure on yourself? Do you believe you have to pressure yourself to get things done or perform well? Actually, the opposite might be true. Try taking the pressure off and see what happens!


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