Less is More

Something I have learned over the course of the last 17 years in struggling with mental illness, is the application of the principle in the title: “less is more.”  Learning how to do this was not easy for me, but it has helped me in so many ways.

The old me–the me of not that many years ago, lived with a different mantra: “If less is good, then more is better.”  I had this idea that the more elaborate and complex something was, the better it was.  Also, the more time and effort I spent on the something, the more value it had, and the more value I had.

Let me give you some examples.  When my older children were small, I would read to them often.  Reading to children is good right?  Well, I made it better.  I didn’t just read, I made it fun.  I did all the voices and sound effects.  And I didn’t just read a couple books, I would read a whole stack.  “Less is good, but more is better.”  I’m sure my kids really liked this, but I felt exhausted afterward.  Present day me knows that if something makes me exhausted, it’s probably a good idea to tone it down.  However, at the time, this was proof that I loved my children and wanted to do what was best for them.  I had done more than the bare minimum, therefore it was better.

Here’s another example.  When having family over for dessert, or planning a family get together for my son’s birthday, it was not enough to grab a cake mix and some ice cream and call it good.  That would never do.  This is my family, we’re talking about!  Only the best for them.  That means everything baked from scratch.  This meant hours in the kitchen, preparing not one, but multiple dessert items so that there would be options.  More is better, remember?  Exhausting work, but–had to be done!  The more I work, the more love goes into it–right?

Another example: I was asked to serve in a position at church that would involve me overseeing all of the children, including their Sunday and weekday classes and activities.  It was a big responsibility.  This was the perfect opportunity to really dig in and put everything I had into making this the best run children’s program ever!  Was it enough to do the bare minimum?  Are you kidding me?  Of course not.  These kids deserved better than that!  I went the extra mile in every way possible and ended up completely burnt out after serving just shy of 2 years in this position.

I could go on and on with examples because this was literally my guiding star.  If I didn’t almost kill myself to do every little thing in my life, then it wasn’t good enough.  Oh sure–it was good enough for everyone else.  But it was not good enough for me.  I could not accept it—I could not accept me, if I wasn’t going above and beyond.

Then, deep depression hit–you know the story.  After my youngest son was born everything came crashing down.  Not only could I no longer go the extra mile, I couldn’t really do much of anything.  And I can honestly say, especially when discussing this particular topic, that I am so glad depression slowed me down.  I was forced by my circumstances to do a complete reset on how I approached my life.  I got to start over.  I got to learn a new way of living that helps me be a much happier, much more balanced person.

How was it a reset, you ask?  I couldn’t function in life. I could barely get through from minute to minute.  I was doing the barest of bare minimum efforts required to keep myself and my family alive.  As I got feeling a little better over time, I had to be careful, when adding things to my life, that I didn’t overload myself.  So I rebuilt my efforts from the ground up.

Now, instead of going above and beyond, I ask myself, “What is sufficient?  What is the simplest way to do this?  How can I expend the least amount of energy and still get the job done right?”  This is a much more relaxing way to approach life.

I learned a lot through this process.  Among other things, I learned that I could read a couple of books to my children when I have time, and that would be good enough.  I figured out that I really dislike entertaining and so avoid doing this these days.  When birthdays roll around, I reach for the cake mix and ice cream.  And I figured out that when given a task or assignment, I don’t have to make it bigger than it is.  I can just do my best to do what needs to be done and that is enough.

I find it much easier to manage my bipolar symptoms with the philosophy “less is more.”  I now have minimal amounts of stress in my life.  Because I am not killing myself to get things done all the time and trying to “wow” everyone with how hard I am working, I have more down time.  This translates into living at a slower pace, which I find very beneficial for my overall health and happiness.

“Less is more” can be applied to so many areas in life.  I have also benefited from using this wisdom to guide me when making purchases, or decluttering.  “What is sufficient for my needs?”  is a great guiding question that is helpful in these circumstances.

How have you benefited from following the philosophy “less is more?”  Do you ever find yourself caught in the trap of thinking you have to go the extra mile all the time?

As always, I would love to hear your story.  Comment below to share your experience.

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19 Replies to “Less is More”

  1. I used to be like that always doing always going never thinking what I did was enough. But now I have learned I am enough. I can only do what I am able for. No more no less and that is enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s so much better to face life only doing what you can. I’m so glad we’ve both learned this!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I always felt like I had to go all out. I needed to be the best. Most of the time nobody noticed or cared. I was making myself sick for no reason. Perfectionism is definitely a weakness that I am working on. My severe anxiety really causes me to obsess and stress. Life is so much better now.
    I enjoyed your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Perfectionism is something I still have to battle but I’ve made so much progress. I’m glad to hear that you have as well. Thanks for reading and sharing your story! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I to haveclived this way in my life feeling i could never do enough for one or anything i was doing. It had to always be my best or i felt like i was a failure.. I like the concept of less is more..going to try it and see how it works for me.. Ty for sharint

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  4. Excellent post. I thought you were describing me. That was me too. I have always overdone things and gone above and beyond what was necessary. I wanted things to be perfect especially with my children. I also thought “more was better” and learned out of necessity that “too much” is definitely not good for me and I was often “too much” and did “too much.” I struggle with perfectionism – always striving to make things be perfect. Perfectionism sets you up for failure as you can never be perfect or even close to perfect. I love this post and it is something I need to learn to get better at. I never thought about “less is more” but I love that and it is something I will remind myself when I sense my perfectionism is surfacing or if I am just doing more than I need to do. Thank you so much for this post. I loved it and learned a lot. You are a fabulous, gifted and talented writer with wonderful insight. Thank again for your words of wisdom. Hugs, Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sue, thank you so much! And I can completely relate to your description here— it sounds like we are very similar. I’m grateful you shared this. I always felt like an anomaly, living my life that way. But I’m learning that there are other people who understand the struggle. I appreciate your kind words and your thoughtful comment!! ❤️❤️ I’m so glad this was a little bit helpful

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  5. I find that if I try to do too much my body shuts me down physically. It tells me very loud and clear to slow down. I don’t like to let it get so overwhelming or I just shut down. I am still learning my warning signs. That is why writing has helped me so much. If I feel I need to write I must need to slow not only my body but also my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great that you are so in tune with your body. I’m very similar, only for me I let my mental state guide me. If I start feeling stressed or depressed, I know I’m pushing too hard and I need to slow down. But I’ve gotten better overall at not letting it get to that point. Thanks so much for this great comment!

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  6. We are, often, impacted by the world’s opinions of what we should be, how we should to certain things, and we’d forgotten, that we each have our own separate ways of coping, of doing things in our lives, that, just because i don’t do things the same ways as you would, doesn’t mean that my way is wrong or bad, and, people still, lacked the respects for one another’s differences, and that, is the biggest problem right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true! It’s so important to be true to ourselves and our own needs and also be respectful of others doing the same for themselves. Thanks so much for this.

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  7. I love this. I really want to apply this to my life. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to do so many things and be so many things that I just crash and feel horrible that it’s not good enough. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am currently like this. Still learning, but this gave me great insight. And I’m glad I’m not the only one going through this. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! It is nice to know that we are not alone. I hope this was helpful in some way. Thank you for your comment ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I really resonate with this! After talking with my therapist i realized the root of my anxiety is my perfectionism. I equate my performance to my worth, which not only burns me out physically and mentally, but also prevents me from pursuing what I want in life—all because I’m afraid of failure.

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    1. I understand this perfectly. I am glad this piece resonated with you. I wish you luck as you work with your therapist on finding a better way. Thanks so much for your comment.

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