- Do we really need to be on top of our game all the time?
- Do you compare yourself to others and feel insufficient?
- Are you burning the candle at both ends and still come up short at the end of the month?
- Do you seek more and more stuff and never feel satisfied?
If you identify as a want-to-be top performer, consider this alternative: Learn to gear down. Find balance, set realistic expectations, build momentum and enjoy sustainable productivity.
The need to perform is something we learn at an early age.
At some point in your early life, you may have been praised for good performance.
- You ate all your food – Good girl
- You put away your toys – Good boy
- You drew a picture – Good
- You kept your mouth shut – Good
- You said Mamma – Good Child
- You said Dadda – Good Child
Then you may have joined a sport or activity.
- You scored a goal – Good
- You danced well – Good
- You memorized a song – Good
Receiving praise or recognition for effort is common. Those that are judging your performance, do so with good intentions. In a sense, the judges do so as a way to acknowledge your existence. They are saying “I see you”. Perhaps they are really trying to say: “I care about you”.
Quickly, we fall into a pattern to please others. Not only do we perform for affection, we also perform to avoid rejection or pain. Our judges know this and they offer “feedback” to accommodate their own needs.
- You are too noisy… Bad child.
- You are too messy… Bad child.
- You are distracting… Bad child.
We begin to judge ourselves.
Over time, judgement becomes normalized. We seek favourable judgement. We misinterpret favourable judgement as validation of worthiness – We become performers.
Dance for your dinner.
We soon understand that performance has economic value. A business owner will purchase units of performance. If you consistently perform well, you are paid bigger bucks. So the conditioning continues.
After awhile, as a delusional mess, you even sacrifice your health in order to perform for your meals. You form new beliefs to justify your behaviour. Here are some limiting beliefs:
- I am good only if someone says I am good.
- I am valuable only if I please my boss.
- I must increase my stamina and endurance to perform in a social and economic way.
- I must sacrifice my sense of balance and health in order to maintain a perception of high performance.
- I am worthy when others validate my actions.
Push The Pause Button
Of course, this may seem extreme, but if you find yourself out of balance, you may need to push the pause button, reassess the situation, and make healthy changes. It may help to work with a professional counsellor who can facilitate the process of self reflection and rebalancing.
The Truth Is… you don’t need to perform for personal validation.
Learning to acknowledge your own identity, validity, and goodness is essential. Your need for external validation will disappear once you come to know yourself better. Without the need for external validation, you are free to work without feeling pressure to perform.
You can continue to be a good employee, trading units of labour for pay. You can meet those contractual work obligations with an immunity to the childish manipulations that enslave so many who still rely on external validation to feel good. With a renewed sense of freedom, creativity flourishes and productive innovation is inevitable.