Simplicity. It’s a word that, these days, seems aspirational rather than common. But why? Does life get complicated because people and things around us make it complicated, or does life get complicated because we make it so? As with most things, it’s a mix of both but today I thought I’d talk about the ‘self’ side of that coin.
Now, I know it’s not just me (although sometimes I can become so overwhelmed with something that it does feel isolating) but I seem to have some piece of DNA within me that constantly feels the need to complicate things. To go one step above or beyond. To take on that extra project even though I’m already tapped out. I think deep down all of these things have something to do with a simple fact: I try too hard to impress others. I realized this a few years ago when reading about ‘The Busy Trap,’ which exposes the truth that most of us get a strong feeling of self-worth from feeling busy or needed.
Since then, I’ve tried to cut myself a little slack and truly not sweat the small stuff. I’ll tell you, while it will always be a constant battle in my life, I’ve discovered a few small wins that have decreased my stress and made my life a lot simpler. Try one yourself over the next week and let me know how it goes!
- Allow yourself to give a simple, practical gift. Gift-giving can somehow become a major source of stress during any given week and it shouldn’t be so. It’s easy to succumb to the pressure of feeling like the gifts we give need to really impress the receiver by being totally unique or by producing some sort of happiness high. However, when I thought about being on the receiving end of a gift, I’ve always been totally stoked to receive a gift card to somewhere I go all the time. For example, I hate the fact that the only face lotion that doesn’t make me break out like a pubescent teenager costs $60, so I happily accept a Sephora gift card for a birthday and never think, “gee, I really wish that person would have created some sort of DIY face scrub with pink sea salt and jicama and put it in a mason jar for me instead.” So, if you can’t find a gift that accurately represents what you want to communicate to someone, buy a small plant or a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant and instead just take some time writing a thoughtful note about why you appreciate that person in your life to go along with it. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for not being creative enough or rich enough to make or buy something fancy.
- Ask for specific things during your next dinner party. Hosting even a few friends over for dinner can turn into an all-day affair of stress. Between the cleaning, the cooking and making yourself look presentable, it’s okay to ask your guests to help out in a specific way. Sure, it might sound ideal to be the host with the most that says in the most gracious tone, ‘don’t bring a thing – just yourself!’ but here’s a thing, people want to bring something and prefer be told what it is when you invite them over to dinner. No one likes to show up to a party empty-handed, yet even picking out a bottle of wine can be stressful for your guest if they don’t know much about it (I mean, who does?). My go-to when inviting people over is asking for them to bring dessert; I’m a pretty good cook but terrible baker so in this case I prefer not to stress myself out about the sweet stuff (pun intended… I love me a good, bad pun). Friends always seem happy to bring this because a fancy set of cupcakes or a delicious pie can picked up easily on the way to dinner and then they contribute to a whole portion of the meal. Or maybe you need a special platter or a few extra wine glasses. Don’t buy them if you’ll only use them once – ask your friend to bring their set and s/he will be more than happy to feel like they’re contributing to the meal without needing to spend any money.
- Fail at something? Post a photo of it. We spend hours out of our schedule cultivating our digital personality and making our lives seem a lot more perfect than what they actually may be. I think this can really over-complicate things and add stress to our days unnecessarily. Let’s all make a pact to stop pretending our lives are perfect online, shall we? Did you knock over a plant and now there’s a pile of dirt on your new carpet? Did your dog fail his obedience class? Did your blueberry muffins turn into black powder an hour before you were supposed to bring them into the office? Why get upset when you have an opportunity to laugh at yourself and give others something to laugh about too? Post a photo of your failure with a smiley face and you’ll be amazed at the freedom of letting yourself make mistakes and being confident enough to laugh them off in a public setting, even if it is only your Facebook friends. Others will appreciate your honestly and good humor for it.
- Remind yourself that you’re not saving lives. (Unless you’re working in the ER and you actually are saving lives, but let’s hope you’ve got some good training for that!) I say this mantra to myself every time I feel overwhelmed with the amount of things I need to get done in a day. If I need to cancel a lunch, move a meeting or ask my husband to pick the dog up from daycare instead, I try to remind myself that no one is going to hate me forever if I ask for their help or forgiveness. No one’s gonna die, tomorrow’s another day, life goes on, etc. etc. Unless that sort of thing is a habit for you and you have a hard time taking another’s opinion into consideration, relax by knowing that whatever is stressing you out during your days ultimately doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of life. If you’ve got your health, a roof over your head and food on your table, everything else is secondary. It’s really as simple as that.
About this blog: Joy. We want your life to be full of it. That’s why each Friday at Bneato Bar we write about ways to add more of it to your life. At the end of the day, it’s why we do what we do.