Note: I am happy to welcome Linda Wolf of Insanely Serene as the first guest author here at A Flourishing Life. Linda and I have been blogging friends for a while, and we are exchanging posts. (You can read my post on her blog here.) Linda is a beautiful being who writes with heartfelt honesty about her passion for peace of mind and serenity. I hope you enjoy her article.
I used to suffer the affliction of perfectionism. It did not manifest in my work or school products; there, I was able to say, “That’s good enough.” Instead, it showed up in the way I treated myself in my head. One “wrong” action or statement was followed by self-recriminations for days and possibly weeks to come. If I said or did something I was not happy about, I would:
- Obsess over the past
- Wish I could go back and change it
- Tell myself how horrible I was
- Worry what the other person thought of me
- Imagine disastrous outcomes
- Wake up with dread on my heart
- Walk around in anxiety
Need I go on?
Turning it around
Through a series of particularly difficult relationships and situations, I learned some techniques for changing this pattern of behavior. It took time and a lot of practice, but these were some of the things that helped.
- First of all, be kind to yourself. Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and mistakes are good learning mechanisms
- Recognize that the past is over and done with – you cannot go back and change it, therefore, if you want peace, you must let it go
- Examine your behavior – what feeling motivated what you said or did
- Understand why you feel bad about the interaction
- Determine if there is something you need to do to apologize or make amends for what you did or said
- Consider whether the remedial action has to be with the person in question or can be achieved another way – perhaps by changing your behavior in future similar situations
- Take the steps needed, making sure beforehand that it will not harm the other person
- Know that you take the action for yourself and your integrity only
- Let go of the other person’s response; whether they accept the apology or not does not have to impact how you feel
Putting it into action
Here’s an example:
I walked into the kitchen and saw a mess; my stepchildren had been making bread and left the house with the table and floor covered in flour and dough and the sink full of pots. When they came in later, I spoke sharply and critically to them for leaving such a mess. One responded in kind, saying they had gone to get additional ingredients, and they had a right to use the kitchen, too.
The exchange left me with a bad feeling. Partly I worried that they now had negative thoughts about me. Partly I felt my words had been hasty and spoken out of anger. In the past, I would have obsessed over the exchange for days, avoided talking to the person in question, and walked around assuming we both had war on our minds.
This time, knowing I had tools, I thought things over.
I looked at why I reacted angrily, how I could be calmer in expressing my concern, and whether I could ask for what I would like from them. After some thought, and a little time (but much less than formerly), I apologized for overreacting and explained where I was coming from.
Though I did not expect any particular response, I was pleasantly surprised by a return apology and mutual agreement to attempt different behavior in the future. By offering my honest self-assessment I allowed a safe environment for a reciprocal response.
Are you ready to stop beating yourself up?
Are you tired of holding yourself to impossibly high standards and beating yourself up for your mistakes? Think about these ideas:
- Remember that mistakes are simply opportunities to learn.
A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.
- Be kind to yourself. If your friend made a mistake, what would you tell them what an idiot they were? Extend the kindness you give your friends to yourself.
If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.
- Work on self-acceptance. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt – you are doing the best you can. If you don’t like your own behavior, you can change it in the future.
The fruit of self-understanding is self-acceptance. The fruit of self-acceptance is self-love. The fruit of self-love is love for the world. The fruit of love for the world is service to the world. The fruit of service to the world is peace.
How have you dealt with perfectionism and beating yourself up? We’d love to hear your ideas.
Linda writes Insanely Serene, a blog devoted to her passion for peace of mind and serenity. She shares her experiences and offers practical suggestions for moving from low self-esteem to powerful self-confidence. You can subscribe to her RSS feed and also find her on Twitter at @insanelyserene.