Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breaking the Habit of Perfection Thinking

The other day on my facebook page I said that I was going to work on holding myself to such a high standard of perfection.I tend to hold myself to such a high standard that it's like a constant pressure.  You know that feeling when you have a really important project approaching due,date? One that is challenging, and is crucial that it's done well and on time?   That's how I live my life, everyday with everything that I do.  

I think that I've made a few other posts on here about being more mindful about time, and how my thoughts get carried away, but I seem to forget.  It's like a good habit that you want to pick up, that you fully intend to incorporate into your day, but somehow it slips away bit by bit, until you don't even realize that you're not keeping up with it at all anymore. I think that I need to work on little chunks at a time to be more successful.  Like, instead of just telling myself that I'll be more compassionate with myself, I need to list specific examples.  I think that if I continue to involve the daily habit of slowing down my thinking and being easier on myself my world would be infinitely happier.  There would be less depression, less anger, less frustration, less anxiety and less meltdowns.

I'm thinking that I might write them down.  Maybe put them here, or on my facebook page?  Maybe just leave them in a notebook for me to see?  The biggest thing is for me to write down the thoughts that come into my head that may be contributing to my feelings of depression and anxiety. Once that I get them on paper, I can see them as their own, without they being apart of me.  That moment of separation is key, because when we think something that triggers an emotional reaction, often we are already in the reacting phase without even thinking about whether our thought is true and where it fits in the direction we want our day to go in.

For example, yesterday I had a doctor's appointment. I was terribly restless about being weighed. I was terrified that the doctor would think that I was fat, or say something bad about my appearance.  So, I guess I could write it down like this:
Thought: I'm fat.  The doctor is going to tell me to diet or the nurse is going to think badly of me for my weight.
What would happen if that actually were true?: I'd feel ashamed of myself for being sub par.
How would this thought and subsequent feeling shape your mood and actions?  I'd begin to feel sad, depressed and paranoid that everyone else thought this, too.  I might begin to resentfully eat less and exercise more. I might even avoid some social situations due to feeling inadequate.
Is this how you want to live?  Is this living the life you value and does these thoughts and subsequent actions push you in the direction of your goals and values?: No.  I don't value being depressed and sad.  I don't want to avoid people, because of my anxieties.  I value being a happy mother and wife and to be the best person I can be.
What thought can you replace it with that might be better in tuned to your personal goals?:  I'm not fat. I don't know what the doctor thinks.  I'll have to wait and see what happens and what she says to do. There's no use in making up the scenario in my head now and getting upset over something that may never be.  I am going to move my energy into something that matters more to me than this.

Also, in some cases I may be able to add something about past experiences to help me move through unwanted thoughts.  In this case, my doctor told me to stop losing weight and not to over-exercise.  The nurse even said that I was super small, so this time it was an irrational thought to begin with.  The next time a weight related anxiety comes up I can try to use this experience as a reference to what thoughts might be better due to the unanimous opinion that this one (while very real and powerful to me) is irrational.

Of course this was just a small taste of the OCD fueled irrational, and anxious thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis making me nervous and feeling so deflated by the end of the day.  This would probably not be this way if I'd been raised more compassionately, but nothing I can do about that now.  I can't change the past, even if what it left me with is unfair.  I can only change how I am and how I deal with things. So, I'm hoping that with some effort things will improve and if you're struggling with a similar problem that things will improve for you, too.


  1. I have trouble with procrastination - fear of failure, fear of getting it wrong, needing to work over things endlessly. It is such a trap.

    It often leads to inaction rather than doing something and waiting to be wrong, if you know what I mean.

    I also become overwhelmed by the enormity of tasks in front of me. It causes problems at work and I have to break it down into manageable chunks or I would just become paralysed. I have fallen behind in the past for this reason. I worry that they think I'm incompetent.

    Lists ... lots of lists and the more you cross off, the better you feel.

    1. I can do that, too, but I'm much more apt to go overboard in trying to do everything just right. I do do the paralyzing thing, though. I have to do like you said and get out paper and make a list, or I feel just too overwhelmed to even begin. My perfectionism thinking pretty much causes me to not even entertain the idea of skipping steps, or half-assing something. It's not just my weight, but also parenting, housekeeping, just every little thing I do I feel is never good enough, even though I almost always push myself way beyond where others stop. It's hard to explain, but maybe I'll have some examples in the next few days/weeks to share here that might help explain it.

  2. When I read about your anxiety over your doctor's appointment, I felt a deep pang of sympathy. I dance that same waltz every time I go.

    I start to worry weeks before an appointment. Dental appointments, with out the weigh in stress me over the flossing. It seems any social activity is a reason for days of worry.

    Thank you for sharing your reality check helpers. I feel better not being alone in my anxiety and I like having a tool to reference for the future.


    1. I wonder how many people have these fears and anxieties, but since we think we're weird, we never share them? If others only knew the amount of effort we put into every little appointment and minor routine change they'd understand why we get so worked up and exhausted. I just need to get my body to learn some calming strategies so that I'm not constantly this big ball of stress and worry all the time.

  3. I have them and have always shared them ... with my mom, for instance. Craving her understanding, getting her to tell me: don't make yourself that small, you don't need those lists ... and so on.
    My mom is the perfectionist. She's always been the one to call me weird.
    I am the one to always fight her on both things, claimimg my right to just be ME.
    So I now AM me. My house is a mess, but who cares? My family does NOT!
    And, believe me, although I never go to doctors or dentists anymore and live a life of pure avoidance of literally ANY dispendable thing .... I still need lists to write down EVERYTHING from brushing my hair to taking the laundry out of the washer ... otherwise I'd get paralyzed and "feel just too overwhelmed to even begin"!
    Leaving the house for the playground with only one kid for one afternoon is already an overwhelming anticipation for me .... although I LOVE to be there. But the preparations are still horrible, partly because my daughter refuses so many things (which makes my duties uncontrollable for me, which I HATE), and partly because it always feels like I forget an important item to carry with us. I even hesitate to make a list, because even THAT bears the challenge to forget something on that list itself. It's fractal. ;-)
    Plus my kid interrupting me while I am acting out something .... which puts me off at once and makes me run from basement to attic three times instead of only once ....
    Yeah, I'm unproductive and only do 10% of what do you and others.
    Still I'm overwhelmed at the sight of any little challenge.

  4. "dispendable" and more ... sorry for the typos ... am on my phone in bed at 2:35 am .... sleep is another thing that I can't seem to get these days ...

    1. Do you have lists that you can use over and over? I would think having things scripted out already would be helpful, so you're not bogged down making lists for everything all day.

    2. Yes, my evening list is the one I that I do use over and over. Other orders of events seemed to change just too much to me so far ... so I discarded them ... or I just didn't find the proper place to store them/fix them to etc. I need to see things in order to be able to use them and not forget them or forger where I put them.
      But it's a GREAT idea to work out that one more carefully and diligently! You just made me aware of the fact that I'm already succeeding with my evening list and thus there's more potential in this technique. THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH!

    3. You're welcome! It's nice to see the successes!

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