Tag Archives: stress

If You Are Aiming For Perfect, You Are Doing It Wrong

I’ve lost count of how many things I’ve put off because I knew, I just knew, that they would not be done right.  My attitude was, “If I can’t do it right, then I won’t do it at all.” Or “I’ll wait until I can get it perfect, then I’ll do it.”  There is value in those words, don’t get me wrong.  Those words imply dedication and determination which are the fuel that propels us to achieve the seemingly impossible. But there is also an implied expectation; the expectation that it must be perfect in every sense before it can be acceptable, even to me. Especially to me.

Perfectionism is a form of control. The wounded, critical part of us believes that if we are perfect (whatever that means to each of us) then people will like us, love us, admire us, approve of us, pay attention to us, or validate us.  We dislike rejection or indifference, so we attempt to control how people feel about us by being perfect.

This need to control how people feel about us comes from making others responsible for defining our worth. It is based on the false premise that if someone likes us, then we are worthy, and then we can be happy. But it doesn’t end there. We tend to do this even to ourselves.  We try to control our own view of ourselves by being perfect, because – we think – “Only when I’m perfect will I feel worthy of accepting myself.” We hold ourselves to impossible standards, often higher than the standards we use for other people, and when we fail to meet those standards, we belittle ourselves, telling ourselves how unworthy we are.

But let us say that we managed to be perfect for that moment; how much mental and emotional work went into that? Tons of it, isn’t it? We used up so much of our precious energy in our quest for reaching perfection, that when we finally got there we ended up exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally, and the good feelings (if any) are but short lived.  Often, our self-criticism propels us to achieve some amazing things, but at the end of it all we can’t even appreciate them because we’re completely drained.

And that’s not all.  In addition to causing low self-esteem and exhaustion, the quest for perfection in order to gain approval often leads to procrastination. The fear of failure and disapproval – whether from others or from ourselves – if we are not perfect can be so great that it stops us from taking the action that we need to take. Self-criticism or self-judgement as a way to pushing ourselves to do things “perfectly” often backfires, leading to paralysis-by-analysis instead of creativity and productivity. Often we don’t even try things because we know that if they are not done perfectly we won’t value them anyway.

How do we change?

We must begin by acknowledging our own self-worth.  We must stop handing over the authority to define us to every person we come in contact with.  We must begin by accepting that there is nothing that we need to do, be or have in order to be worthy; we are worthy just as we are.  When we decide to define our own worth instead of handing that responsibility to others, we will stop worrying about what others think and feel about us.

We must also shift from defining our worth based on external qualities such as performance, to defining it based on our internal, intrinsic soul qualities. Why?  Because as long as our worth is based on performance, we will worry about results and we will feel insecure losing our self-worth. But when our worth is based on our intrinsic qualities of caring, compassion, goodness, empathy, and joyfulness, then it is separated from our performance and never at risk of being stomped by it.

This will free us to create and produce with freedom and joy, knowing that we can make all the mistakes in the world and still be worthy. Then we will know that we are already “perfect” in our essence, and that there is nothing to prove.  Perfection never comes into the picture when our performance is a joyful expression of your intrinsic worth, rather than a form of controlling what others think and feel about us.

When our worth is no longer based on our performance, life becomes so much easier and joyful and less tiring. Instead of feeling immobilized by our addiction to perfection, we are free to express ourselves and let our gifts and talents shine.  Expressing ourselves creatively becomes a fun endeavor, and even though fear may still creep up from time to time, it will no longer paralyze us.

Do you have any questions or comments that you would like to share?  Please drop me a line in the comment box below, or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.  I’d love to hear from you!

To your success!

JC

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Shattering the Illusion of Control

Holding a Crystal Ball

Before I began my self-improvement journey I used to think that I was in charge.  I used to believe that it was my job to be in control of making sure that my family was safe, that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table, and that the money I made was enough to take care of all our needs.  Boy was I mistaken!

I was the head of the household and the only person in my family getting paid for my work, so that did sort of place some responsibility on my shoulders.  Notice I did not say that I was the only person working; that would not have been true, because my wife did work and more so than me, she just didn’t get paid for it.  My job at least ended when I left the office, and I usually had nights and weekends free.  Her job as a mother and homemaker, however, didn’t allow for such privileges. She literally worked around the clock.

Back in those days I was confusing responsibility with outcome, and in my mind there seemed to be no distinction between the two, especially when it came to providing for my family.  You see, I believed that if I was not able to provide for my family, if I wasn’t able to take care of our needs, that would mean that I was a failure.

Back in those days I had a job that paid okay; not good but okay. Back then not only did I believe that this was probably the best I could do with my knowledge and experience, I also believed that there was no other job out there that would provide the flexibility I needed to be able to take care of my family.  The job provided a certain level of safety for me and my family, so even though I knew I wasn’t getting paid very well, I felt it necessary for me to stay in that job in order to remain in control of my family situation.

I also believed that I had to watch our expenses like a hawk in order to make sure we had enough money for rent, food, and other necessities, so I would often worry and stress greatly about our finances. Even when there was enough money to cover our need, I used to worry that we would overspend or that something would happen that would put us in the negative; after all, we were barely making it every month.  So I had to be vigilant and watchful of our expenses in order to remain in control of our finances.

These were just two of the many ways I worried and stressed for many years (and caused those around me to worry and stress) because I believed that I had control, and that it was my job to have control.  Once I began my self-improvement journey, however, I soon discovered that much of my worry and stress and my excessive need to have control was founded in fear.  Fear of becoming a failure; fear of not having enough; fear of not being enough.

My mentality was, “It is my job to ensure that my family is safe.”  But I could never be with them 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.  I was at work or otherwise occupied in some task for many hours, and not with them, not watching over them, not protecting them, so who was in control during that time? Not me.

My mentality was, “It is my job to ensure that our needs are provided for, because if I don’t do it, who will?” But my health and my life were not guaranteed; I could have easily dropped dead or fallen ill at any point in time; who would have provided for our needs then? Who would have been in control then? Not me.

With a little analysis, my illusion of control was equally shattered in all other areas of my life in which I believed I had control.  I realized then that I wasn’t in control, and that the control I seemed to have was no more than an illusion created by me and the expectations I imposed on myself.  The reality was that my only job was to ensure that I did my best, and then the outcome would be taken care of just as it always was. My responsibility is not, and has never been, the outcome. My responsibility has always and only been my effort.  And this effort was not limited to me working hard at my job, but it included making sure that I changed and improved my thought patterns to allow me to see the resources and opportunities readily available to me.

When I realized this I felt tremendous relief.  It was like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. The effects were almost instant. I began to see and explore other possibilities that I didn’t even know existed.  I began to see life in a new light and to believe that better things were possible. My attitude and demeanor improved greatly and so did my health because I no longer carried the burden of results on my shoulders. I realized then that I no longer had to fear being enough, because my being enough was never measured by any external circumstance. In fact, being enough was a state that nothing or no one could take away.

Yes, I did get a better job, and not just one that paid better, but one that actually provided greater flexibility and better benefits for me and my family.  I now make it a point to share this with whoever will listen.  Whenever I hear someone speak of their worries it reminds me of the way I used to think back then. So I try to help them realize that they are enough just as they are, and that their only job is to focus on themselves putting their best effort forward. I encourage them to let go of the illusion and see and embrace the reality and the truth, because in the end, the truth will set them free.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line in the comment box.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How Negative Thinking Can Twist Your Reality And Ruin Your Life – Part 2

In my last post I talked about automatic negative thoughts being the reason behind our negative emotions, and explained that it is the meaning that we have attached to people, circumstances and events that trigger the automatic negative thinking cycle rather than the people, circumstances and events themselves.

Today we’ll be looking at ways to identify those negative thinking patterns as the first step towards stopping them and ultimately changing them.

Here are some characteristics of automatic negative thoughts to help you identify them.  As you read, try to see if you can relate to any of them:

  • Automatic negative thoughts often express themselves as one or two words which we already associate with some negative meaning, for instance, fear or loneliness. Sometimes they don’t express themselves as words at all, but rather as flashes or brief images, or even as memories of scents, sensations, taste, etc. I my case I experienced this in an intensified manner. The memory of a person who had broken my trust in the past was enough to put me in a bad mood, and that memory could be triggered by the mere mention of the person’s name.  All of a sudden my demeanor would change to the point that it was clearly discernible to those around me that something was bothering me.  This happened because the utterance of single word (the person’s name) triggered a series of automatic negative thoughts associated with that person breaking my trust.
  • Automatic negative thoughts are usually very believable to us; when they occur, we tend to grant them the same validity as the validity we ascribe to things we perceive with our senses such as the color or texture of an object. Basically, we think it therefore it must be true.
  • Automatic negative thoughts often involve words such as should or ought to, which imply a certain level of expectation whether from ourselves or from others. A person may think, “I should clean the house because it’s a mess.” This is a self-imposed expectation which, if not fulfilled, may result in negative emotions such as self-blame or feelings of failure or low self-esteem.  And while it’s true that some “shoulds” are valid, they happen so automatically that we tend to take them at face value without analyzing them or modifying them to fit the situation.
  • Automatic negative thoughts tend to exaggerate (or as the book “Thoughts and Feelings” calls it, “awfulize”) the situation. They tend to predict and expect the worst in everything. And while this may have its function in helping us prepare for worst-case scenarios, we must learn to keep these thoughts in the proper perspective as tools rather than as reality.
  • Automatic negative thoughts vary tremendously from the way we describe our circumstances or events to others. When speaking to others we tent to describe our situations in a cause and effect context; however, our self-talk about the same situation may include words of blame or guilt or detrimental predictions. For instance I could say to someone, “I’m feeling sad because I hurt your feelings.” But internally, my self-talk would be more like, “I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I did it again.   What kind of a monster am I?”
  • Automatic negative thoughts are generally theme-based, especially in the case of chronic emotions. For instance, chronic anger may be caused by thoughts about deliberate hurtful words or behavior from others, and chronic anxiety may be caused by thoughts of danger or impending doom. I could see now that my chronic anger stemmed from my thoughts about other people looking to intentionally hurt me or take advantage of me in some way.

These are just a few of characteristics to help you identify automatic negative thoughts.  On my next post I will provide some tips on how to go about stopping the cycle before it spins out of control, and we’ll explore some techniques we can implement to change the direction of our thoughts.

Do you have any additional input on this subject that you’d like to share? If so, please do so in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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