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perfectionismI’ve really been struggling lately with feelings of anxiety and stress, which I believe are stemming from perfectionism.

I used to think that the term perfectionism was related to someone who works hard and is constantly improving in a quest to reach perfection.

Then a friend called me a perfectionist in front of some strangers, and it forced me to really think about it.

I know that I’m not perfect, and not even close. I thought “I’m so far from perfect, what is she talking about?”

Well I suppose I need to put that statement into context.  We were working on scrap booking, and I couldn’t commit to where I wanted to glue my little cutout, and once I put it down I was upset and wanted to move it.

Perfectionism is NOT a healthy striving for improvement… It is a damaging fear of making any mistake at all in the off-chance that someone will find out and realize that we are not perfect.

Perfectionism makes learning new things difficult, because failure can be a big part of learning something new. If I’m afraid of failure, how will I ever be able to do something new?

Today perfectionism looks like this.

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Pictures and other decor all over the place, because I don’t know where they will look best.  You see I just moved to a new house, and it’s not quite the same as the other homes I have lived in, so I don’t know what to do. So… I did almost nothing.  Just made a big mess until I magically discover the “perfect” place to put everything.  Or I just get over it and hang things up so I can enjoy the memories in the artwork.

I know that because I just moved in, I should cut myself some slack and let it take the time that it takes, but I struggle with the mess… because of the perfectionism. I’m still working full time, still raising kids, and trying to be on top of all their activities, and in the back of my mind, I still want to be working on this blog!!!

When it all gets to be too much, I get overwhelmed… I feel paralyzed…and I feel guilty….

Guilt that I “should” be able to do better than this.  Guilt that I am not further along by now.  Guilt that I am so busy I don’t have time to get out and meet my new neighbors, or be there for my friends, or that I don’t have a vacation planned for my kids this summer yet.

The greater the guilt the greater the paralysis.  As my brain becomes overwhelmed with the thought of all the things that still need to be done, my body responds by feeling tired…

There is too much to do, if I expect it to all be done by tomorrow, and the perfectionist in me can only see what hasn’t been done, not the small victories that I accomplish every day.

I recognize that it is unrealistic expectations that I PUT ON MYSELF that cause me to break down.

The good news is that after several weeks of “breaking down” off and on, I came to a realization that I no longer want to live this way.  I needed to do something about it, and with a little divine intervention, I think I am on the road to finding some real peace amidst the chaos of my life.

Here are some of the things that I learned as I have attempted to climb back out of the hole that I have dug myself into.

  1. “We get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.” – Elder Jeffrey Holland.   I’ve heard this quote several times this month. Every time it was mentioned in a talk at church or online or anywhere, my brain was picking it up and putting it right in front where I couldn’t miss it.  This is so significant to me, because often, I can’t figure out the “right” thing to do next, but sometimes it is more important to do something… anything in fact, to work towards what ever it is that is holding me up. Trying will lead to something good, even if it’s not a perfect outcome, it will be some type of progress. Even a little step in the right direction is progress.
  2. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou.  Mistakes from my past can make me feel like a complete failure, but the truth is that at the time I was most likely doing the best that I could with what I had at the time. It is okay to put those short comings in the past and decide that now that I know better, it is time to step up and do better.
  3.  “Put first things first.”   A young man in church this weekend reminded us of the story of Enos.  Enos had a wonderful spiritual experience that was probably the highlight of his life, in which the Lord told him he was forgiven and that he would be blessed.  The young man who was sharing this story with us pointed out that Enos was hunting at the time of this experience, and that hunting was very important.  In his time, successful hunting meant whether or not the family would be able to eat. What he was doing was very important to his families physical welfare, but at that moment he felt the need to pray for his eternal welfare. He took the time away from his very important earthly tasks to pray, and as a result had an amazing spiritual experience.  What I took away from this story is that in order to feel peace in life amongst all the millions of things that seem to be needing to be done, I need to stop the busyness once in a while and concentrate on the things that are of the most eternal significance. For me that means making time to build my relationship with my God through prayer and scripture study, making time for my family to further develop those crucial relationships, and to take time for myself and do the things that I find bring meaning to my soul, such as reading and writing.

Although I still have guilt over this being the only blog post I have gotten to this month, I am so grateful for the lessons I was forced to re-learn as I trudge through this transition in my life.

 

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