Tag Archives: perfectionism

Love & Anxiety #20: Gratitude for our humanness?

This week I have been reading an awesome book called “Leaving Church: A memoir of faith”, http://www.barbarabrowntaylor.com and I have so enjoyed her prose, which somehow manages to be soaring, AND yet full of  down to earth wisdom. And, what I have really resonated with is her affirming the goodness of being a human! That our humanness is not the cause of our problems, so much as refusing to acknowledge we are human. Since we are human, we are fallible, messy, confused, prone to errors and tempers, stress and struggle. While at the same time, we are beautiful, loving, capable of great generosity and deeds of kindness, and containing great reservoirs of wisdom. This is one of her many books and is a worthwhile read, even if you don’t come from a faith tradition.

But since this blog is about love & anxiety, what I want to share today is how practicing gratitude for our humanness is a massive anxiety buster! Whenever we are able to accept what actually is (reality), rather than trying to live out what we wish we were (denial and pretense), our stress levels decrease. We are human and when we allow ourselves to love our humanness, “all our curves and our edges and our perfect imperfections”, to quote John Legend, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg anxiety diminishes and in its place, we make room for pleasure, joy and peace again. 

Being human means we learn, change, and grow as the years go by. What good parent would be angry at a child who takes at least 2 or more years to gain urinary continence (a child who pees their pants, for those who like simple words)? None, because good parents understand developmental tasks, and that the growth and maturation process of a human child goes on for years and years and years! Those of you who have grown children still living with you, really know what I mean.  So, growing fully into our humanness and living well is also a developmental process. One, I will submit, we are engaged in for our entire lives. Maybe there are a few of you that are fully done and have no more growing to do, but I am speaking to the rest of us that are continuing to learn and grow daily.

If taking the risk of loving our humanness becomes a desire, and we are willing to do the hard work of changing the internal lenses through which we view ourselves and our expectations, we can learn to live in the deep gratitude that comes from loving that we are human beings. Dr. Taylor seems to have learned this lesson, and I know it is one I have been working on for quite some time. The other benefit of gratefully embracing our humanness, is that gratitude in general decreases anxiety. If you recall, some of the earlier blogs were about how the brain is biased toward negative information and how we need to take in the “good” in our life in order to overcome the negativity. Practicing gratitude for anything is a great way to take in the good and shift our brain out of the anxiety/danger mode, back into openness and relaxation. 

I encourage you to work on “loving all your curves and all your edges and all your perfect imperfections” this week. Practice gratitude for your life and your human body, even if you screw up, yell at your kids, or fail to yet again to attain your own (too high) expectations. Please let me know how it goes!

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     Cameron and his mom, embracing his humanness!

Going deeper:

1. What does this blog bring up for you? Resonance and relief, or resistance and resentment? Journal about your answer and see what comes up for you.

2. Where did you get your first messages about your humanness? Were they positive messages or negative ones?

3. If this practice seems too hard or even impossible, I invite you to pick just one aspect of your humanness and just try to feel gratitude for it. It is a powerful practice and you will be surprised at how easy it becomes when you make this a new habit.

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Love & Anxiety # 12: Participation vs. Perfection

So many of my clients struggle with the dark misery of perfectionism. Studies show that Perfectionists are less happy and less healthy than non-perfectionists. Today I want to share a simple shift in focus that can help with this bi_ _ _ of a habit. The shift from trying to be perfect in your life to full participation in your life! This is an important shift for your body, Perfectionists struggle with anxiety which is a health squelcher!

Whether your quest for perfection is due to a type A personality, early childhood messages, or just a desire for excellence that got twisted and turbo charged, you set yourself up to fail when you decide perfection is your only option. The more we fail, the higher our anxiety levels climb and the more miserable we feel about ourselves. The more we set ourselves up to be perfect and then miss that mark, the more we fear loss; the loss of respect, loss of other’s love, loss of a job, etc. Fear of loss, activates our amygdala and our body responds with a flood of stress chemicals.

The shift I am suggesting is to move from a drive for perfection, to a striving for full participation in your life, relationships, job, hobbies, friendships, etc., unencumbered by the fear of not doing these perfectly. This shift can be eased along if you think about offering the best you have each day, not needing to be at your best each day. 

On my best day, after a good night sleep, my energy is high. I am pumped full of seretonin, and all is going right in my life. On that day I may perform better than on my worst day, where nothing goes right and my energy is low. But even on my worst day, if I strive to offer my best, some kind of multiplication magic seems to occur. Somehow, my best seems to be enough for each situation. My intention of fully participating and giving my all, somehow is perceived by the recipient and people feel my care, interest, and love, even on my worst day! Try it for yourself! See what happens.

If you shift your focus from being perfect to full participation in your life, you  and those you love will enjoy your life so much more. News flash, if you are a driven perfectionist, you are often a challenge to be around. Others are picking up on your misery at not meeting your own impossible expectations, which sort of defeats the purpose of trying to be perfect! Don’t take my word for it, ask your loved ones if they think you might be a perfectionist. My clients report very positive feedback from their families when they make the shift from perfection to participation. 

So I invite you, this next week practice being proud of yourself for giving your all! Shut down the negative voice, the non-paying tenant in your mind’s prime real estate, that demands the impossible. It needs a break as much as you do. Your body, and your family and friends will thank you! Let today be the day you shift from perfection into participation.

ImageShelley & I, far from perfect, but having fun!

 Going Deeper:

1) Ask yourself why is being perfect is of utmost importance for you? What do you gain from trying to be perfect? Whatever you come up with, ask yourself if this gain is more important than good health and really enjoying your life. This may take a while to wrestle with but I encourage you to try.

2) Think about the last situation you struggled to be perfect. Try replaying it in your head, but this time imagine you are fully participating in the situation, giving it your best effort. Notice the difference you feel in your body with the 2 scenarios.

 To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.