We have it better than ever; we live longer and are safer and more prosperous than ever. Yet we are becoming increasingly unhappy, partly due to performance pressure. How is that possible? And what can we do about it? It is a strange puzzle that psychologist Thijs Launspach in his new book You are already enough: mentally healthy in a disturbed world trying to solve.
This is why we suffer massively from performance pressure and other psychological problems, plus how we can get rid of this feeling.
you are enough already
Many of the psychological problems we face today, according to Launspach, stem from a feeling of not being good enough. “We are not easily satisfied with ourselves,” he explains when he Subway drink a cup of coffee. “We have yet to achieve the perfect body, have yet to take that one step in our career, have the perfect family life. Only then can we be satisfied with ourselves. But the result is that you always feel like you’re not ‘finished’.”
Launspach himself also suffers from a considerable dose of pressure to perform. Even when writing this book. “It is probably no accident that I started writing this book,” he says. “The irony is that I wrote a book ‘You’re Enough’ and then wasn’t satisfied with what I wrote.”
It shows that everyone struggles with this kind of struggle. “Psychologists generally act like it’s an individual psychological problem if someone gets confused or gets sick,” says Launspach. “I personally think that our mental health and the society, culture and zeitgeist in which we live are quite related.”
Why staying mentally healthy is so difficult
The first part of his book is therefore about why it is so difficult to stay mentally healthy in this disturbed world. This is partly due to the enormous expectations we have of our lives. But that’s certainly not the only reason: we get less and less connection in an increasingly lonely world and social media, says Launspach, is really poison for your head.
“That’s a big statement, but something that psychological research has shown,” he says. “The more people are involved with the digital world, the more unhappy they are. That’s because they’re going to compare themselves to people who lead a better life.” It is not necessary to renounce social media completely, according to him. “But it’s different looking at your phone five hours a day,” he says.
And then we also have to deal with a kind of happiness industry. “This industry wants to sell us a happy life,” explains Launspach. “Of course that is not possible at all. In fact, it’s even better to accept that life isn’t always happy…”
According to the psychologist, you can create your own happiness to a very limited extent. “There are a number of things you can do to become less unhappy,” he says. “But the delusion that you have to optimize happiness and that there is something wrong with you if you are not constantly happy is harmful.”
He notices that more and more people are realizing that we need to work on our mental health, but that is not always done in a way that makes him enthusiastic. “People are becoming more aware of their mental health, but often think that if they write enough in their bullet journal, sit in ice baths, get up at 5 a.m. and be thankful enough, you’ll never have a problem again.”
No magic quick fix for performance pressure
The solution does not lie with a magic quick fix to become better, faster, more productive and happier, but has much more to do with accepting who you are. “That’s not something you can achieve with one online course or coaching session,” he says. “It is a life’s task to wrestle yourself from the expectations that others have of you, or even more: the expectations that you have of yourself.”
Reading his book is therefore not the solution, but rather a starting point. “I hope that people who read my book can see themselves a little differently,” he says. “That they find comfort and be a bit more tolerant towards themselves.”
It’s one of the things he himself learned while writing you are enough already† “I want to tell people that they don’t have to be a superhero,” he says. “You’re going to make mistakes, there will be times when you don’t know what you’re doing at all.”
you are enough already is now available via Bol.com or the bookstore near you.
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