Perfectionism. Michelle requested a post about this and while it’s much easier to talk about things I’ve overcome in the past, let’s talk about something I still struggle with. I do know I have made a lot of progress.
I grew up around two incredible parents (an inventor/electrical engineer and the world’s best mom that was also a University math major) and four very successful older siblings. Valedictorian (my brother) the doctor, a physics major/patent attorney, mechanical engineer/pilot, my sister was a straight A student with a Bachelor’s in psychology and a competition winning pianist, super kind/hilarious/amazing siblings. <— I am so mad at them all for doing so many great things with their lives (I kid). I think I was born with some perfectionism but then I also put a lot of pressure on myself to measure up to be like them. I’ve always joked that all of my parents’ amazing brain DNA was taken up by the time they got to the fifth child!
I think a lot of my eating problems came from my perfectionism. Food and exercise were something I could actually completely control during a time in my life that felt completely out of control (aka my 1st marriage). I could ensure I was eating/exercising perfectly (in my brain at the time eating perfectly meant not enough and only “healthy foods”… which is the opposite of healthy in my opinion now) so I went for it and paid for it with my health. I could make sure that I ate perfectly and it was something that I could chase after each day. Fast forward a few years of therapy/hard work to getting healthier/getting older/getting pregnant and the perfectionism transferred over into other areas of life and let’s be honest, it probably is still a part of my running. I find it so satisfying to hit exactly the paces that a coach gives to me or execute a race just the way I dreamed but it also has transferred over to my work, my kitchen, being a mom, my relationships etc. That’s the problem sometimes with addictions, to get rid of one you sometimes transfer it over to another but at least these are healthier for me and not something that takes over my thoughts like it used to. PS too bad my perfectionism has never transferred over to my grammar mistakes and other things like that ha:)
I’m constantly trying to find new ways to cope with perfectionism. It helps a lot to find different ways (and I would love to learn from any of you).
*I have a nephew that has cognitive disabilities but goodness he is so incredibly quick to understand people. He will come up to me when he can tell I am acting anxious and rushing around trying to do things and he will put his hand on my face and say, ‘Calm, calm, calm.’ Andrew laughs because I’m sure he is thinking the same thing. When I am by myself and feeling like I’m not measuring up to the standards I have set for myself I actually close my eyes sometimes and picture my nephew telling me to ‘calm, calm, calm.’ For some reason this visualization helps me to stop and readjust.
*I unfollow anyone that sets me off. Is it their fault they set me off? Absolutely not. It’s me. I’ve learned that certain accounts make me be harder on myself and feel like I’m not doing enough. When I unfollow then I forget and it feels a lot better.
*Age truly is helping me. I care a lot less with each year of life what other people think of me and the need to do things perfectly. Adding more kids to the mix forces me to let go of my perfectionism also because I don’t have the time or energy anymore and I really don’t want to pass this to them.
*I find myself struggling with perfectionism most in my parenting. I mess up every single day, hundreds of times. I remember texting my mom about this one day and she told me to think about all of the times that she messed up as a mom. I couldn’t remember any of them. I could remember that she played cards with me at the table after school every day, that she always ate dinner with me, that she was at my tennis matches and that she was always there to listen to me. I told her this and she told me that she made a million mistakes too but kids don’t tend to remember the little things we obsess over… they remember you being there for them and spending time with them which I know that I do even though I make many mistakes. So even though I forget the dress-up days at school EVERY SINGLE TIME or have no idea how to be crafty for their projects or cry too often… I remind myself that they are going to remember me loving them completely most.
*When I’m not hitting the expectations that I have set for myself I really am trying to train my brain muscle to be kinder to myself. To let it go and to remember what I say to the kids all of the time, ‘nobody is perfect.’
*I give myself some tough love and when I’m getting frustrated for not doing something right or the way I envisioned it… I remind myself that I’m being selfish. I need to stop thinking about myself so much. Like usual, thinking about OTHERS and focusing on helping them helps us with so many different problems.
*I think about how I would talk to my best friend/mom/sister and if I’m not talking to myself in that same way, it needs to stop immediately.
*Andrew has really helped me. It took me a while to truly believe that he loved me regardless of what I could do and for exactly who I am in each moment. Once I realized that the things I did/did not do perfectly had nothing to do with how he felt about me it felt like a weight was lifted off of my chest. The same goes for my kids. I’ve realized that they just adore me for me and that has nothing to do with the things I achieve. People will not love us more for being perfect, if anything people love you more when you are vulnerable and real about your life.
*Saying no/simplifying, playing with the kids, going outside and being still are all things that help me.
*I loved what Lauren Freshman wrote on her post the other day (I cannot wait for her book). There are so many negative side-effects from living in perfectionism but all I can do now is be kinder to myself and take what I’ve learned in the past to help me today!
Do you ever struggle with perfectionism? What helps you? Or what helps the people in your life that you know that deal with this?