Tag Archives: Perfectionism

Loving the Inner Child

I have been aware of the need to love the inner child for many years , through my own reading and research on how to overcome my childhood issues. It is only in the last few months that I have really noticed a difference in the way I have related to this part of myself in a more loving, nurturing way.

About a month ago, I purchased some new piano music to try after streaming the album online. I picked a few pieces and found them to be extremely difficult. I usually pride myself on spending lots of time working through difficult pieces to improve my playing, but these were so difficult as to not really provide much pleasure in even small improvements. At first I found myself exceptionally angry and frustrated.

“I should be able to play it!”

“Why can’t I play it?!”

“I must be a lot worse at piano than I thought!”

“I’m so rubbish. I’ll never be good enough.” (Notice how this then became a generalisation to my whole self!)

By this point I was really grumpy and about to let the frustration spoil my evening, so I decided to take myself off into our bedroom to meditate, to see if I could work through this.

Well, very quickly after relaxing into meditation I became aware of the barking voice of my old deputy headmistress from my primary school-

“You stupid child, why can’t you do it? Everybody else can do it, why can’t you? Are you an idiot?”

These words were never directed at me, but there were a certain few classmates who bore the brunt of the abuse over the years. She was an absolute dragon! I’d honestly forgotten about her, but during this meditation I realised my inner child hadn’t! She was still absolutely terrified of her, and had taken on the belief that she must be absolutely flawless to avoid this type of verbal attack. She was devastated for her classmates, but also just terrified by the insane rage of this woman. My inner child thought that this was normal and what was deserved. She didn’t know that this kind of verbal attack was abusive, and cruel, and that the only one in the wrong was the headmistress.

I honestly felt true compassion for my inner child in that moment. I wanted to protect her and shout back at the headmistress. I knew I was capable of being just as fierce! I wanted to pick up little Rachel, and comfort her. So in my mind I did. I told her that she was in no way deserving of this kind of bullying, that she was loved and protected, she had done absolutely nothing wrong, and the headmistress was a cruel human being who would probably lose her job now. The primary school was a very strict Catholic school and was big on the shaming approach. You will go to hell if you’re disobedient- that kind of thing. That seriously screws you up when you’re so young, sensitive, and vulnerable. There were also incidents of teachers smacking misbehaving kids over their knee in front of the whole class. I remember this clearly. We were only 4 or 5.

This might sound trivial to some people, but being such a highly sensitive individual, and so desperate to please everybody, I was extremely affected. No wonder I always want to be so bloody perfect at art and music, and life in general. The headmistress’s bullying voice became my own bullying voice, in a bid to protect myself from public shaming. If I could bully myself into the desired behaviour/performance/achievement, then I would get there before the she would- hence avoiding a verbal assault in front of my peers.

Anyway, after soothing my inner child whilst in meditation, I did start to feel much more loved, calmer, and I cared much less about the difficult piano pieces. Insanely difficult. I was expecting too much, and reminded myself of the other hard pieces I had learned, and how much I loved playing them. Loving playing is the most important part.

I was proud of myself for noticing my anger that evening, and for having the presence of mind to stop myself, and say “hey, let’s sort this out before it ruins the whole evening. What is going on here that is making me feel so angry? How am I treating myself?”

I am grateful that some higher guidance hooked me up with a very good reason why I was feeling so much fear, and that I was able to soothe my inner child. To begin to feel this kind of protectiveness for her, this love and compassion, is quite a breakthrough for me, so I am very thankful! I’m sure there will be much more work with her to come!

Art Shop

You can now order greetings cards, postcards and prints of my artwork on Red Bubble:

Buy on Red Bubble

A month or two ago I was riding a hypomanic wave and created a few new pieces of art work which you can see in the gallery below or on Red Bubble. Needless to say I crashed straight after to a mixed episode and have been irritable and agitated and obsessing ever since. But starting to feel a bit calmer and more positive, so hopefully I’m on the up!

Hope you like my art work, I’m chuffed to bits with it, because last year I couldn’t get started on anything due to my perfectionism (which I’m still working on!). I feel I’m starting to take control of life again.

Related Posts

Perfectionism Part 2: Excuse Me- Where Has My Life Gone?

A Crafty Step Forward

More Illustration

You Are Amazing!

Thought Addiction: The Ego vs The True Self.

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!!

Related Posts

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…..