What is perfectionism costing you?

“We have more access to information, more books, and more good science – why are we struggling like never before? Because we do not talk about the things that get in the way of doing what we know is best for us, our children, our families, our organizations, and our communities.”  

— Excerpt from “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

Like many of you, when I read Brené’s The Gifts of Imperfection, I was captivated by her research and her languaging of what I have struggled with much of my life.

I remember reading through this book underlining paragraphs and writing personal thoughts in the margins all the while talking about with everyone I knew.

Parts of me led life through the lens of perfection believing this was the best way to live and do life. As destructive as all or nothing thinking is – it also provides a container of control and purpose to protect – giving the illusion this approach to life is sustainable. Until it isn’t.

I now know perfection is a fierce protector. Hustle. Numb out. Focus on the results. Or do not try at all. Perfection thinks it is the ultimate safety armor. And yet it also ends up wreaking havoc on faith, health, confidence, courage and creativity because the anxiety of perfection fuels both overfunctioning  and underfunctioning.

Perfectionism is often behind:

  • Missed social events + work
  • Loss of sleep
  • Physical symptoms (GI distress, panic attacks, appetite confusion)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Exhaustion
  • People pleasing and worries of letting people down
  • Dread of being misunderstood
  • Procrastination and missed deadlines
  • Constant feelings of failure and unworthiness
  • Panic and perseveration
  • Overwhelm + Obsession
  • Competition and comparison
  • Fears of being found out as a fraud

There is great cost to living a life led by perfectionism.

It is related to loss of revenue and professional opportunities scarcity mindset, relationship difficulties, physical and emotional health problems all the while crushing confidence, faith, calm, and clarity.

A life led by perfectionism costs us our sense of what it truly means to feel worthy – regardless of what we do or what others think. And it sure fights to keep status quo as it fears moving away from this lens will cause more pain and struggle. 

Reading Gifts of Imperfection shifted so much for so many. And years later, we are having brave and honest conversations about perfectionism. It has been powerful for me and many I know to have “Me, too.” conversations around this topic.

At the same time, all of the insight and awareness around perfectionism has created perfectionism around not being a perfectionist.

In essence, perfectionism can hijack the process of trying to move away from the perfectionism. It is an interesting beast, for sure.

Behind perfection is shame, anxiety and fear. There is nothing pretty about these emotions and the impact they have on our lives and the world around us. But the pain needs to be unburdened – not stuffed, minimized or camouflaged or they will keep hijacked what you desire most: connection, confidence and safe community. Which is why I am offering a workshop focused on the fierce protector so we can get curious about its intent and discover ways to shift away from a perfectionistic mindset without triggering feelings of overwhelm. 

If you say to yourself one or more of the following:

  • Why am I still struggling with____? You should have had things figured out by now…
  • No one can ever see me struggle.
  • Why try? It will not be good enough no matter what.
  • Everyone else has it all together but me…
  • I am obsessed with eating healthy – food is good or bad and my body is the enemy.
  • I can’t stop counting calories. If I do, I will lose control and not be desired.
  • You are the one who has to keep it all together. You can’t struggle.

…. then perfectionism is still trying to protect you the best way it knows how. 

And at the heart of these emotions lies trauma, betrayal, attachment injuries, rejection, loneliness, confusion.

If you try and fix perfectionism without digging deeper and doing the work to heal the root of the pain, you will only get temporary relief. And this work is not easy. But it can be so fruitful. It never ceases to amaze me what we learn about ourselves because we have the help of trusted support.

We can’t think ourselves through the pain – we have to feel our way through it. Perfection says fix it now and be done. Wisdom says this is a lifelong process.

My excitement about doing the work to (re) define perfection is in part selfish as I am doing this work continually myself. Safe community is a powerful space to continue to rumble with perfection and (re) define its role in your life.

If the pain of perfectionism resonates with you, I encourage you to consider joining us in San Diego on May 18-20 for (re) Define Perfection: Choosing Flexibility Over Rigidity – which is part of our summer mental health series for adults.  You’ll learn how to implement daily life practices to help build the resilience and courage needed to show up in life with both boundaries and an open heart. Learn More.

What do you rumble with this most? How is perfection costing you? I want to hear about your experiences with perfection and rigidity and how you are tackling this common issue.

With gratitude – Rebecca

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Respect over Accept: 2016 #ichooserespect starts on Monday!

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Hello and happy weekend!

The following is a video clip I filmed yesterday about Potentia’s #ichooserespect effort before I picked up my kids from school. I made the commitment to shoot this in one shot and go with it no matter what – so here you go!

Towards the end, I was a little confused by what you see verses what I see on my monitor when I had some written visuals to share – so enjoy the entertainment as I navigate sharing information with you.

In summary, the main points in the video are:

  • The history of #ichooserespect
  • Why I added #storyshame in year two
  • My thoughts on why addressing these issues are so important and not superficial “phases”
  • How you can participate in #ichooserespect no matter where you are in the world!

 

ICR vlog 2016 from Rebecca Bass-Ching on Vimeo.

I look forward to seeing many of you on Facebook or Instagram next month and learning how you choose respect over body + story shame. Thanks in advance for joining the conversation.

With gratitude  –

Rebecca

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Scarcity and the Cracks in the Road

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On our walk to my daughter’s school this morning, we ran into a couple of power-walkers from the neighborhood.

One of the power-walkers stopped and asked us to weigh in on a bet between the of them.

“These newly paved roads – how long do you think it will take until they start showing cracks? One month or two months?”

The roads still had a pretty strong smell of tar emanating from them and they also seemed a bit delicate as the tar was still soft and settling. I shrugged, “I do not know… maybe even sooner?”

The woman did not like my reply and huffed off. The suggestion the perfectly paved roads were not going to last was simply. not. ok.

I hollered after my power-walking neighbor in all of my nerdy therapist glory:

“Hey! There is nothing wrong with a few cracks in the road.”

The woman stopped, turned around and took off her rather large sun hat, setting her stern eyes on me while placing her hands on her hips as she said,

“I once had a contractor tell me if you have a crack and you can fit a dime in it, you are in some deep trouble.”

Turning on her heels, off she went to finish her morning power walk.

Ugh.

I started getting all defensive for the poor cracks in the road. And the pressure the newly paved road had on it to stay…perfect.

And so began a conversation in my head with the power-walking neighbor telling her the cracks are just a reflection of:

  • how hard the road works
  • how much pressure the road tolerates day in and day out
  • how the road has been neglected and not cared for well. The road is just doing what it is made to do and cracks are inevitable.

Conversations in my head and feeling defensive for an inanimate object were good clues a nerve had been touched.

I took a deep breathe and checked the source of my vulnerability.

Walking home, I found myself looking at the cracks in the road that had not been repaved yet. Some were small and others could hold a roll of dimes.

And I could not shake the heaviness I was feeling about the neighborhood walking buddies already betting on when the newly paved road was going to “fail” to be “perfect”.

Wow.

The pressure to be perfect and meet all of the various standards of those who see us when we show up in life is truly intense at times.

We devote a lot of time, effort and resources to covering up or trying to get rid of our own imperfections.

Scarcity fuels critics like my two power walking neighbors.

Scarcity shows up ever where.

Bathing suit season, finals, tax time, finding a job or changing careers, relationships, parenting, creativity – you name it – there are a whole host of triggers these days that make chasing the perfection carrot a daily grind.

Seeing the messy, the cracked as beautiful is hard when your lens on life is in defend/perfect mode.

Cover Up. Protect. Do Not Be Seen. 

The critics are here to stay. As long as there are products to be sold and love to be desired, the critics will be present.

I do my best to push back on the power and influence of critics in the world and in my head.

But one of the most effective, sustaining and rewarding resources to managing the relentless critics has been developing my own life-long shame resilience practice.

Doing this work involved me getting clear on:

  • my personal shame triggers. Shame work is trauma work and trauma work is shame work.
  • how I respond when my shame is triggered.
  • what vulnerability is,  is not and how vulnerability is the pathway to living the life I am called to live.
  • who my go-to support team is in my life. And how sometimes my support team shifts depending on the season and the issue.
  • who I thought I was striving to be and who God is calling me to be
  • how best to care for, rest and feed my body and my soul
  • what values guide my decisions personally and professionally
  • the importance of maintaining good boundaries so I do not overextend, live in regret or resentment
  • how to move away from unhealthy perfection and towards healthy striving.

My shame resilience practice has helped me understand – in action, not just intellectually – the concept of wholehearted living:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left is undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” – The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown Ph.D. LMSW

Cracks and all, we need to dare to show up and be seen.

If you are ready to develop your own shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) Define Courage workshops. This work is life-giving soul work that helps you take insight to sustained change so you can (re) define the cracks in your life.

How do you feel about the cracks in your story? Do they allow shame to drive your choices or do they inspire you?

Cheering you on and respecting the cracks in the road –

Rebecca

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Weekend Wonderment: Inspiration from the Interwebs 9/15/13

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“Being courageous requires faith.” Heartfelt words from a mother of a Sandy Hook victim to teachers and school employees as they start their school year.  Wow.

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“Failing forward means using mistakes or failures in the service of moving ahead.” via Karen R. Koenig.  And if you have not checked out Karen’s workbook, Food and Feelings: A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health, it is a worthy resource on your bookshelf.

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“It’s hard: to keep your eyes on your own paper; to not want what others have; to detach from outcomes.” Parenthood, unhealthy perfection, and faith all collide in this lovely, sweet, tender post by Andrea Mauer.

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Never underestimate the power you have on those who cross your path in life.  Moving ad captures this sentiment beautifully.  Have some tissues nearby.  You have been warned.

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Are we passing down to the next generation the relentless pursuit of perfection? On parenthood, the pressures of high school students today, work and juggling it all – this provocative interview with Debora Spar, president of Barnard College and the mother of three children, touches on a lot of tender/lighting rod issues around parenting, working and being a woman.

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1. Settling + Starting

Sometimes we hesitate to start deep soul work because we are uncertain of the out come or how long it will take to reach our desired outcome. Trauma and distressing life events – and if you have been through middle school, you have had a distressing life event – can keep us stuck in fear, uncertainty, depression, loneliness, unhealthy perfection and enslaved to the opinions of others. EMDR is a wonderful to support for many who are stuck and the quick fixes are not working. Find a specialized therapist you trust and feel understood and start. This may be one of the most important seasons in your life.

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In Awe and Wonder –

Rebecca

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