Category Archives: Perfectionism

Being Honest With Myself

The Law of Attraction

I haven’t been entirely honest with myself.

Sometimes I feel lost in trying to “be good”. I guess this stems from being brought up in religious family and in a Catholic school.

I try to be so positive. The law of attraction makes me scared to think negatively or feel negative feelings.

The law of attraction basically theorizes that we attract into our lives what we focus on. If we’re feeling happy and positive, we attract experiences which will make us feel more happiness and positivity. Obviously the reverse is true for negative thoughts and feelings- we’ll attract experiences which create more of the same.

I feel a lot of fear around this, which I know is going to attract more! But I’ve really been denying it and lying to myself- trying to make myself feel positive with sheer will-power. The trouble with this is I’m not really dealing with what’s truthfully going on for me and I am perhaps missing important messages in my feelings.

Negative Emotions as a Positive Experience

Emotions are ways in which we can guide ourselves in life. Just because we think something “negative” maybe it doesn’t have to be a “negative” thing.

Maybe it’s really a gift.

Maybe it’s a message to change something in life- like a thought pattern. Maybe I’m treating myself more harshly than I’ve realised by trying to be “good”.

I’ll never be able to change my thought patterns and beliefs if I suppress what I really feel.

I’m such a perfectionist sometimes and don’t like to admit my human-ness. Will God abandon me for feeling negative? I know He/She wont, but sometimes I return to my old, fearful view of God that I was brought up with.

Ultimately it is us ourselves who judge thoughts and emotions as negative experiences.

Screwed-up and Terrified

Anyway- the reality is: I feel scared of everything at the moment. I feel insecure, I feel devastatingly screwed up and inadequate, and generally terrified of life and other people’s judgements. Criticism and disapproval literally kill part of my soul- I just want to run away from them. Too much bullying in the past.

Now that I’ve admitted the truth maybe I can go about gently questioning my fears and building my confidence up again.

Fantasy World & Escapism

Does anyone else just zone out and live in a fantasy world? I escape reality in my mind, to a place I feel safe. It’s kind of a childlike fantasy world where everyone loves each other. I just want to feel safe and secure, not so bloody scared of everything.

Life really terrifies me.

And today, that’s my truth.

Angel Messages

Having just written this, the message I’m intuitively being given is to lighten up and stop taking myself so seriously.

I need to have fun and see the humour in situations, which will lighten the feeling.

Fun and laughter are my medicine and prescription from the angels!!

It is natural to slip back into old ways and old programming, even after we’ve begun to change our thinking habits and beliefs. I need to stop being so tough on myself!! I will get back on track again. They’re telling me to ride the wave and just go with- not to fight it!!

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Bach Flower Remedy Consultation: Anger and Low Motivation

On Friday I had another session with Dawn, my Bach Flower Remedy consultant. I’ve been feeling lacking in motivation recently and fairly “stuck” with regards to moving forward in my life. I’ve not been able to get started with things I’ve wanted to do and have been getting bogged down in anger issues surfacing from every corner of my past!

More Anger Issues!

I had been taking the flower remedy Mustard, this following a weekend of anger! The anger was triggered in my relationship. I thought my partner and I were just going through a rough patch, but after my session with Dawn, I realise he was just the catalyst that triggered lots of old, suppressed angers. This made a lot of sense as I do over-react a lot to little things in life: if these trigger much larger “grievances” then my reactions don’t seem so strange! I chose to take Mustard as I was pretty sure my feeling depressed was a direct result of suppressing the anger that was triggered at the weekend. Mustard is for “deep feelings of gloom” that seemingly appear out of nowhere and are usually related to suppressed anger.

The Consultation.

When I saw Dawn on Friday, she performed the usual kinesiology test which results in a list of appropriate remedies. I was surprised Mustard didn’t come up, but Dawn reassured me that I hadn’t made a “wrong” choice in taking it; it was more likely that the Mustard had already taken effect and healed that emotional aspect.

The prescribed list was as follows:

It’s funny, because the issues I thought I was going to Dawn for, were not the issues which seemed to come up in terms of remedies. We’re often totally unaware of what’s really going on inside us and I think this iterates the real benefit of seeing a practitioner who can accurately prescribe the remedies for you.

Sweet Chestnut and Wild Rose

Sweet Chestnut is a remedy for those that feel there is nothing left for them in life but emptiness and annihilation. I think I’ve really been denying that I feel like this most of the time.  It seems to combine with the Wild Rose state I’m in- of apathy and being resigned to my lot in life. I feel there’s nothing more I can do to help myself, so have given up. Certainly explains my lack of motivation!! The Rock Water makes a lot of sense too in that I tend to expect way too much of myself and am a total perfectionist.

All the other remedies I’d been prescribed before. I think I’m generally a pretty anxious person, so Aspen, Cherry Plum and Mimulus all made a lot of sense. Pine too as I tend to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders from past regrets.

A Few Days Later

I’m already feeling lighter and more positive about life. I’ve been surprised at how quickly some of the remedies seem to be working. I certainly feel less apathetic, so I think the Wild Rose has kicked in. I’ll let you know about the others in the next few days.

Resources

Bach Flower Remedies- My Bipolar Life

The Bach Centre

Photo Credit: dan via freedigitalphotos.net.

Procrastination, Perfectionism & Anxiety

I’ve recently been chatting to Bethany Jo Lee from Project Whitespace (congratulations on your first blog-birthday!) about returning to drawing, a past love of mine. She’s been encouraging me to just do it!

But I feel completely frozen. I would actually say I have procrastinated for YEARS over drawing again. Every morning I wake up and think I really want to do some drawing today. But I simply never do it! I have the time and the tools, so why can’t I just get on with it?

Anxiety, Perfectionism & Procrastination.

I came across an article about Anxiety & Procrastination which identifies procrastination as a feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but which is rooted in Perfectionism.

Perfectionism has been my constant companion through life. I have this deep-rooted need in me to be the best at everything I do. If I begin drawing and I judge it as not good enough, I immediately feel disappointed and rejected by myself, so give up. Then I get angry with myself for even trying to draw because I know I’ll only do rubbish. I blame myself for the disappointment.

But now I realise I just want to draw, have  fun with it, and express myself. I judge anything I come up with so much more harshly than anybody else’s efforts. Drawing has turned into an anxiety-filled experience now. My inner critic is really mean and cutting in her remarks. It hurts…..a lot.

Plan of Action

Yesterday I wrote about mastering my mind because at the moment I’m letting it runaway with me and am getting completely lost in self-criticism, which verges on self-abuse. I think I’ve always believed that that’s how I am and I can’t do anything about it. I’ve changed my mind; I think I can stop the self-criticism, I just have to put in the effort. So here is my plan of action:

– Structure my day with short drawing sessions- maybe even fifteen minute slots to start with. That way I can easily achieve it and feel I have completed a goal. I’ve taken away the fear of a mammoth task ahead of me.

– Prepare some reference photos to draw from in advance, so I don’t spend ages working out what to draw.

– Keep a notebook by me to jot down any negativity that pops into my head. That way I’m aware of the thought processes so I’ll be in a good space to challenge them.

– Aim for quantity not quality to start with, as the actual act of drawing is what I’m aiming for at the moment- that is where I’m currently stuck. Doing some good quality work will have to come later. I could give myself the target of completing 3 sketches in a day?

– Maybe write out a little card with an affirmation or quote on, to keep me going when I start to flag (any suggestions would be most welcome :)).

 Shouty, Mean Teachers!

I constantly worry about screwing up. My brain has been so programmed to care about what others think, and to be the best, that it completely overwhelms me. I wonder if there’s a little bit of teacher-fear still left in me from my school days. We had a dragon of a deputy head-teacher at my Catholic primary school. She put the fear of God into us. If something was rubbish she’d say so: what’s this rubbish girl? What would your mother say? she’d shout and slam the book down infront of you. All the class would be watching. The silence was electric. It was humiliating and scary. Kids would get smacked infront of the class if they were naughty. Being a super-sensitive type, school made me super-anxious. So, yeah, maybe that deputy-head’s voice is still programmed into my mind. Stupid, miserable, shouty woman. At least I’ll be able to identify it now and shout back!

Links

This is a fab article: How to Let Go of Fear to LIve Passionately and Authentically.

Anxiety & Procrastination on Psych Central.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Procrastination on about.com.

Procrastination, Anxiety and the Ugly Truth About “Just Starting”. on Mindful Time Management.

Why Do You Procrastinate? on Psychology Today.

Break A Perfectionism and Procrastination Connection Now by Psychology Today

Avoiding the Challenges of Gifted Perfectionism on Suite 101.

Photo Credit: luigi diamanti

Free To Be Average

I’m currently reading the psychology classic The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller- which takes a comprehensive look at the psyche of those afflicted by Grandiosity (present in Narcissism and Mania) and Depression. She is able to delve deeply into the psychological past of those who have developed these symptoms (Bipolar/Narcissistic Personality/Borderline Personality amongst other disorders) and- as a very basic summary of her theories- attributes it to the following:


1. Not being able to freely feel our authentic emotions, feelings, needs.

We have repressed our feelings, needs and emotions as children due to insecure parenting. Theses authentic emotions and needs in the negative, such as despair, anger, loneliness, jealousy, helplessness,etc were threatening to our mother’s sense of security, inconvenient and anxiety-provoking. (This is due to our mother’s insecure parenting during her childhood. Secure mothers are able to deal more effectively and skillfully with these needs in their children).

Children need the love of their parents to survive, so shut off these anxiety-provoking emotions.

2. Furthermore the child develops an assigned family role to boost the insecure family.

To boost the family’s social standing/insecurities, the child is “assigned” a role, using their talents, achievements, special abilities, beauty or behaviour (good, mature, pure, virtuous, helpful, perfect- strong link with Christian families I think!).

So not only are we forbidden from “bad” behaviour, some of us also become “achievers”. Self-respect is therefore now dependent on qualities, functions, achievements and performance, all variables that can ultimately fail us.

Because of theses expectations that have been ingrained in us, and the lack of being able to experience our authentic self (therefore love), we seek ADMIRATION as a substitute for LOVE. However, as admiration is aimed at the achievements, beauty or behaviour, this is NOT our TRUE SELF.  Our true self is whole and encompasses all those needs and emotions and inconveniences. It needs love not admiration.

My Own Issues.

Looking at my life so far from the viewpoint of Alice Miller it is so easy to see where I have developed my highly vigilant people-pleasing. I’m still living like this- terrified to feel rage and grief and jealousy for the fear of “God” (the old, childish view of God I used to have), my parents and even now, my boyfriend. I am terrified of being abandoned and deep down do not believe I am capable of taking care of myself.

Due to Bipolar I have “lost” my gifts of achievement and am now living as an underachiever. I guess I am now on the journey to loving and accepting myself as I am and allowing myself to be average.

Even though I’m trying to tell myself it’s safe and OK to be average, inside I’m screaming no it bloody well isn’t! I have to be the best at everything otherwise what’s the damn point!!! The only point in drawing something or performing or behaving “well” is to secure approval from other people. If what I do is crap, there’s no point in doing it!! I HAVE to be the BEST!!!!!! I can’t be average – Mum & Dad will just trample all over me. They see no point in the arts except for enjoyment, so maybe if I can be the best at them, they’ll let me have a career in them?! I’ll show them!

Woah! I didn’t know I felt like that! Rationally I know the point is enjoyment, fun, creativity and fulfilling my artistic needs, or in the case of emotions- expressing my anger etc to keep me emotionally healthy. I can logically see the point, it just hasn’t internalised yet, I guess it takes time.  How weird that things your parents have said to you as kids still linger so deep in the memory.

Resources

For some great perfectionism therapy try listening to Perfect by Alanis Morisette

Related posts on this site: Bipolar Disorder: Repressed Anger; Bipolar and Perfectionism: Part One; Bipolar and Perfectionism: Part Two

Related posts from others: A Different Take on Perfectionism; The Poison of Perfectionism; The Ten Commandments of Perfectionism; The Perfect Sinner.

(Photo Credits: Perfect Student- Stuart Miles, Stressed Girl- kenfoto)

Perfectionism Part 2: Excuse me- where has my life gone?

Song of the Day: Bloodstream by Stateless

(Photo Credit: TONY-M available under a Creative Commons Licence).

If school and sixth form were my years of achievement despite the perfectionism (covered in Perfectionism Part 1: The School Years), then everything since then has been completely the opposite. Although obviously Bipolar has played a major part in this with the destruction of my confidence. But ego seems particularly good at sucking up your soul when you’re a perfectionist.

Perfectionism destroys the sense of pleasure and fun I used to get from drawing and music lessons, as well as trying new things. Needless to say my bipolar symptoms would probably improve if I allowed myself to experiment in these areas again, as they are part of my identity. Thought a bit of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might help. If I sit down to draw this is what happens in my head:

“Nothing I draw will be a masterpiece, so I may as well not bother”

“Drawing is only worth doing if it’s for money- nobody would buy my art”

“I should be better at drawing by now- I’m still GCSE standard at 31”

“Nothing I draw will look the way I want it to”

….and on and on. You get the picture?

Believe it or not I have let these thoughts control me for near-on 10 years, during which time any drawing I have done has been a real struggle and not particularly pleasurable due to the above negative judgements. I have to battle with that inner critic to get anywhere, squeezing every ounce of joy out of the artistic process!

I want to learn to have fun with art again, to experiment and play about on paper- go back to the finger-painting years! I never used to judge myself so harshly. Maybe if I go back to my 12-year-old self and see what she would think about her drawing:

“Wow, I didn’t think that would turn out so well!”

“I love the feeling of drawing”

“I love drawing horses and dancers- they’re so beautiful”

“I can create my own world on paper- that’s so exciting”

“I can put this on the wall, give to Mum & Dad. etc”

Obviously my 12-year-old self was much wiser and I’ve regressed since then!

I guess I can make some mini-goals to get over my pencil & paper phobia:

– 15 minute sessions only- little and often. Sit with the feelings of discomfort, jot a few down.

– do some felt-tip squiggling, like when a kid, to get in touch with creativity and get over phobia of making a “mess” on paper.

– Try not to be ashamed of “childish” subjects that I love- fairies, angels, unicorns, fantasy in general- I have this inside me and need to express it.

There is also a fear of success (as well as failure) lurking in the background. If I achieve my potential my peers may no longer accept me. What if I really could be as good an artist/musician/writer as my potential allows- would it alienate people? Would they dislike me for my fantasy world? (I was teased at school about my drawings of unicorns). Think it was stupid? Laugh at me? Right now I just have to risk it and trust that people wont care! But there’s also the even scarier thought that “what if my best isn’t good enough”- This could lead to real, painful disappointment. Why should I get my hopes up?

My ego has robbed me of fun, play and joy with art and music for too long. It doesn’t want me to express who I am and blinds me with perfectionistic thoughts of fear of rejection, and criticism. I want to be braver than that now.

Baby steps…..

Bipolar & Perfectionism Part 1: The School Years.

Song of the Day: Perfect by Alanis Morisette

Photo Credit: SouthernAnts available under a Creative Commons Licence.

Perfectionism is something I’ve developed from a very young age. Both my parents are very critical (of me and the world in general!) and were depressed much of the time I was growing up, so I guess I learned that making as few “mistakes” as possible and being “good” led me to the quiet life I craved where everyone was happy. It was certainly easier than being criticized and judged negatively at every turn and contributing to my parents’ depression.

Perfectionism spilled over into primary school life. I went to a very strict Catholic school with a couple of real dragons for teachers who put the fear of God into us (rather than foster a healthy relationship with God and Christianity) . It was not uncommon for the misbehaving amongst us to be flung over the teacher’s knee and smacked on the backside infront of the whole class. So combined with critical parents at home I think I felt my behaviour was being constantly monitored and judged- particularly by God, he could see everything. I never felt safe, I never felt free from eyes watching me, even when I was alone. Thankfully my relationship with God has much altered now.

During school years I was meticulous with presentation of work, correct spelling and grammar and making as few mistakes as I could manage without giving myself an aneurysm. My main aim seemed to be to have as little negative attention thrown my way from teachers, parents or other peers as possible. Luckily for me I wasn’t lacking in the academic department and was pretty much a straight-A student. Any B grades that happened to grace my beautifully constructed essays were enough to put me in a bad mood for a few days. I would often feel despairing over them and seemed to see them as a judgement on me as a person- not quite good enough: I was just a B grade.

From the age of 12 I also became obsessed with losing weight and exercising. I was a chubby kid and attracted a fair few “fat” taunts. To my perfectionist child this was devastating- so I lost two stone, which at that age was pretty drastic, managing to keep it off until I was about 21. I think this was my way of getting control over my emotions- so easily distorted by what others thought of me and the powerlessness I felt to help Mum and Dad overcome depression and past traumas. If I could feel so good about being skinny- and it felt really good, I felt more powerful and in control- then it didn’t matter so much if I was criticized. As long as I was skinny and in control of my weight then everything was OK, I would actually go so far as to say I felt clean and pure. Of course this didn’t always work, but it certainly seemed to help me feel in control. The scales ruled my life then really though, they were in control, not me. If I was a pound over 7 stone 11 pounds then all I could think about was eating as little as possible and exercising at every opportunity. Perfectionism was stealthily wending it’s way into every aspect of my life.

(Photo Credit: david.nikonvscanon available under a Creative Commons Licence).

I think Bipolar crept in from about the age of 15, when I have vivid memories of coming home from school with an essay marked in red pen with a B grade (which screamed inadequacy to me), shutting myself in my bedroom and collapsing on the floor, sobbing my little heart out and silently screaming into nothingness. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this- it was stupid to get so upset about a grade. Why was I in the depths of despair about it? I honestly started to feel my life wasn’t worth living. I thought I was stupid and babyish. I was so lonely too, I couldn’t tell my parents as it would make them even more depressed, couldn’t tell my friends because I was too ashamed. I don’t think I even knew how to put my intensely dark feelings into words back then. I was plagued by unrecognized anxiety- I just thought what I felt was normal and that everyone felt like this. Looking back it is so easy to see that there were deeper reasons behind the B-grade despair.

The symptoms of Bipolar worsened at sixth form along with the perfectionism. I couldn’t contain my emotions when I received my first ever C grade for a first draft piece of Biology coursework. I burst into tears on my teacher- I was mortified. I couldn’t stop crying and ran away for the afternoon, skiving Chemistry and walking aimlessly around the streets sobbing and sobbing for two hours. I felt totally lost, alone, finished in a way, almost like I had failed at life and was about to die. If this was what poor grades and imperfection brought me then I was gonna do everything within my power to be perfect.

Perfectionism Part 2: Excuse me- where has my life gone?