Today we ask that you examine your beliefs around stress.
Most of you don’t like the feeling of being “stressed.” This is a feeling of being tight, anxious, worried, scared, exhausted, and spread too thin. It is not a pleasant feeling.
And yet many of you believe that it is necessary to experience stress in order to accomplish anything.
Society promotes the image of the “Superachiever.”
This is the “Type A” personality. The ambitious, workaholic perfectionist. Such people work late into the night, guzzle down caffeine and stimulants, and get little sleep in pursuit of their goals.
The Superachiever takes many forms. He or she may be the corporate ladder climber, the entrepreneur CEO, the doctor who never sleeps, the lawyer who puts in eighty hours a week at the firm, the Supermom who juggles a career and perfectionistic motherhood. He or she may be a super-athlete, running marathons, competing in triathlons, pushing through injury and pain. She may be a woman who obsessively works out and slaves over her appearance and clothing in order to achieve a fashion magazine-like appearance. He or she may be Super-religious, obsessed with being the Perfect Christian, the Perfect Jew, the Perfect Muslim, the Perfect Buddhist.
There is no judgment about this. There is nothing wrong with having goals and working toward them.
The issue is that society holds up models of such “Superpeople,” promoting Superachiever-hood as the proper role of any responsible person. To be considered a “slacker” in such a society, to not be a driven, perfection-seeking person of one creed or another, is considered lazy, irresponsible, and even immoral.
Many people simply accept all of this without question.
And yet there is no absolute truth to this. It is a belief system, nothing more.
Many people who judge religious people as being foolish for their blind faith, swallow dogmatic beliefs about workaholic super-achieving perfectionism even more blindly than the average fundamentalist.
People are taught from early childhood that they must strive for perfection. They should be Supermen and Superwomen. They should be Supermoms and Superdads, Superworkers, Superathletes, Superearners, Superachievers, Superpeople.
Naturally, any “Superperson” must be constantly stressed. You cannot really achieve a high level of superiority without being a caffeine-guzzling workaholic who burns the candle at both ends, never sleeps, and constantly stresses and strategizes. Can you?
Even people who consider themselves very progressive and spiritual fall into this. They must be Super-ecological, Super-spiritual. They must do more yoga and spend more hours in meditation than others. They must be the perfect holistic spiritual parents, raising perfect holistic spiritual children. And they are very stressed about being green and ecological and holistic and spiritual and perfect. They feel very guilty if they do not live up to their perfect ideals.
You know, really this is all very crazy.
It is also highly counterproductive.
Consider the case of the “Supermom,” who constantly stresses because she must create the ideal environment and upbringing for her children. What do you think happens there?
The stressed mother passes her stress down to her children. The children become stressed and unhappy. Eventually they may come to resent their controlling, perfectionistic mother. They may rebel in different ways. The mother will not get the perfection she seeks.
Such things are true in general with the pattern of the Stressed Superachiever.
This is not to minimize people’s achievements or devalue their efforts.
The question is:
Is it necessary for people to be exhausted, stressed, anxious and unhappy in order to create and do good things?
Isn’t it possible that a relaxed, happy, stress-free individual might create more, with far less wasted effort?
And yet people believe that relaxation is a sign of irresponsibility and laziness. You are only allowed to relax when you are on vacation. Even then, you should be productive in some way.
These beliefs are really very crazy.
If humans beings allowed themselves to relax and enjoy life more, what do you believe would happen?
Would civilization end?
Would everyone be lazy and irresponsible?
Or would you, in fact, have a much healthier and mentally stable population capable of creating far more with less waste?
At least ninety percent of physical and mental illness in industrially developed countries is stress-related.
The point is: the Cult of the Perfect Superachiever is making a lot of people very sick. And there is nothing productive about that.
What would happen if you stopped believing that being stressed is a sign of moral virtue?
You don’t like being stressed, do you?
Do you believe that you do more because of stress? Do you believe that without stress, you and other people would be lazy? Maybe you believe that you are lazy and irresponsible, because you are not a workaholic like other people.
Maybe you believe that you would be bored if you did not experience constant struggle. After all, that is what all your movies and TV shows and novels are about — people under stress, people who are struggling. Without stress and struggle, there’s no drama.
But is it true, that you would be bored? Maybe if you had less drama in your life, you would actually be far more creative.
There’s no judgment around any of this.
We simply invite you to examine your beliefs about stress. Particularly if you believe that being stressed out and pushed beyond your limit is a sign of virtue and makes you “worth something” in this world.