Mental Health

The Not-So-Perfect Perfectionist

It’s the beginning of April, which means for some of you … you are actually enjoying all the things associated with spring such as baseball, warmer weather, flowers, cute clothes, purging your life of clutter (mentally, physically and spiritually).

Mother Nature must have forgotten how to spell spring — it’s S-P-R-I-N-G. Ya know, where flowers grow the ground and bloom pretties and we humans get plenty of vitamin D because this giant star beams light and makes us all happy clams?

Well, it’s pretty hard to get into the spring cleaning mood when there is cold, white stuff spouting from the sky — I meant snow, not cocaine, to clear up any confusion. This is usually where I see the comparison beast show up, reminding me how I don’t measure up because I don’t have the kids’ clothes organized or really even put away. In fact, hardly any of our clothes are put away, they are washed, yes, but everyone in my home has a designated basket and that’s where the clothes go until the basket is empty in which then I fill it back up with clean clothes. It’s a vicious cycle.

This why I am a not-so-perfect perfectionist. I know I am not perfect but as long as I am striving for perfection, it still counts right?

My last blog talked about one of the common mental distortions (all or nothing thinking) and just how often we use it and how, overtime, we can become aware of it and how we can retrain our brain to choose middle and more realistic options. Like motherhood, most of us aren’t terrible parents but no one is the perfect parent because there is no such thing. We want to be the best or know that we will do well before we take the leap to do something out of comfort zone, so we only try if we analyze the situation a million times (any overthinkers like me in the house?! whoop whoop) and decide it’s worth the risk. As I said before, all or nothing thinking goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. And so I thought I would elaborate on how the two go together.

Merriam-Webster describes perfection as:
1) the quality or state of being perfect: such as (a) freedom from fault or defect flawlessness; (b) maturity (c) the quality or state of being saintly.

2) (a) an exemplification of supreme excellence
     (b) an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence

3) the act or process of perfecting

Let’s look at that again — “freedom from fault of defect: flawlessness.” Um … yeah, that’s not me. That’s not anyone, right? “The quality of state of being saintly” … nope, I’m looking around me, I don’t see any saints marching around here. Maybe they just need to put a picture of Jesus in the dictionary. He’s the only perfect person I have ever heard of and he still died for us.

“An unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence” — that just sounds exhausting doesn’t it? No wiggle room for slight mishaps, no scribble outs and do-overs, no “whoops, my bad.”

Now I know what you are thinking — I’m not a perfectionist, I don’t need to worry. You might not be a perfectionist by dictionary standards but I bet you strive for perfection. You want things to be clean, neat and in order. You want things to be done your way and on your time. Ladies, I hate to break it to you but control is perfection’s mean big sister. Any why do want things our version of “perfect? Well, because whether we want to admit it or not we have no control. We can be the nicest person on the planet, give the shirt off our back to anyone and still end up with a brain tumor. We can have our house as pristine as a five-star hotel and still have it all burn to the ground from the toaster being plugged in.

We can do everything “right” and still end up with nothing by this world’s standards, which is where the “all or nothing” comes in. He’s that cousin that comes to stay for the summer and then just moves in without no one knowing how it happened. Wedged between control and perfectionism, he seems logical. Why would I try so hard unless I knew I would get something beneficial (preferably instant) from it? If I can’t have it PERFECT, I’m not trying. If I’m not in CONTROL of the situation, I don’t care. 

And so you see, why we may not at first think of ourselves as perfectionist, but in fact, we are all in some way because we all desire control. And hey, it’s perfectly okay to admit that — you are HUMAN, not a saint.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

We were created in his image and God is perfect … so is it crazy to think that we perfect just as we are? I’m not talking what the world thinks is perfect, I’m talking about what’s in your heart beneath the old college T-shirt now covered in mysterious stains that you hope is leftover food, beneath the hair that only smells good because you’ve covered it with floral fragrant dry shampoo, beneath the tattered sweat pants you refuse to throw out because they are just now “worn in,” beneath the dishes overflowing, the dust bunnies that have multiplied and are now  moving to places you had no idea could collect dust. Beneath all that — you are perfect right as you are right now with your mental distortions and all. You are perfect if you have to take a pill to stay calm, happy or even just neutral. You are perfect if you see a therapist or don’t see one but have a strong desire to but are too afraid because of the stigma attached. To that I say do it!

I read once that the mind is basically a blue sky and that clouds and storms come and go but there is always a blue sky. We can always get to a blue sky, a calm —  inner peace with our mind just as it is. We can’t have inner peace forever but we can always come back to it.

Healing and growing personally isn’t about just saying some positive affirmations to yourself every morning (though that can be beneficial), it’s about accepting yourself as you are, catching yourself when you’re not being kind to yourself and saying “hey, that’s not cool. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t mop the floor right this second. I can be mad at myself for not doing it OR I can go see what the kids are doing and come back to it later, maybe even tomorrow.”

That, my friend, is huge progress and deserves confetti … okay maybe not confetti because then you have to clean it up, but you know what I mean.

Even just noting “hey, that sounds a lot like black or white thinking” or “man, was that a perfectionist thought or what?” and then thinking of something else is incredible. If you can catch yourself once, you can catch yourself over and over again until one day, so I am told, you aren’t thinking that way not nearly as much and you feel good! If I can do this, so can you. So I encourage you to try.

Also …. you are not your thoughts. Repeat after me: You are not your thoughts.

If you have a mentally distorted thought, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s perfectly normal and human to have thoughts we aren’t proud of, they are just thoughts, they have no meaning unless WE GIVE them meaning. That part was incredibly and frustratingly hard for me to grasp, and still is some days. #workinprogress

If you’re curious, a lot of this information has come from the Headspace app, a meditation app that has been life changing for me. Also, please know that I am not licensed in anything mental health related but I have become very passionate about helping people in any way I can. And for some reason, God has led me to this through my own heartache and dark days. Mental health was never my topic of choice but He’s calling me  — so I read, listen, pray and write.

If you’re just starting out and have no idea where to start on changing our mental landscape or if your three-years deep in,  I invite to come over to my house and we can talk more one-on-one about all of this … and we can chase dust bunnies while we are at it.

 

God bless.

P.S.

In all seriousness, please reach out to me and I’ll help you find some good and cheap ways to get better.

I’m not a life coach, I won’t sell you anything. I’ll recommend books from the library and some free tools I have picked up over the years.

Remember, there is always a blue sky above the clouds … just waiting, always waiting for you.

 

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