How Perfectionists Are Punished By the Pandemic

Posts Tagged ‘acceptance’

How Perfectionists Are Punished By the Pandemic

Posted on: May 6th, 2020 by Lindsey Rogers, LCPC

The coronavirus pandemic is terrible, causing us all to have to adjust to a completely unprecedented way of living. It is tremendously, dreadfully hard. It is hard on an older generation who might not be used to socializing via Zoom and does not want to spend their retirement limited to social distancing from their peers and the community in which they have invested. It is hard on the extroverts who get energy from engaging and being with others. It is hard for the folks who were already fearful of contamination, as this is now their nightmare realized. It is hard for those who are working full-time and have no work-life balance and those who are now struggling financially because they are not working. It is hard on the single folks who are alone and may feel listless trying to fill their time. It is hard on the people with a full household who are juggling work and fulltime childcare and education. In some way or another, this current state is causing everyone to lose a little. That is what sacrifice is about. However, the group that might feel exceptionally punished by this time is the perfectionists who are used to doing and being it all. Because right now, perfectionism is utterly impossible.

Why perfect is impossible right now
Perfectionism is all about finding control, achieving, and getting results. However, we are not in a result-driven time. We don’t know what life is going to look like in the next few weeks, let alone months or years. Having to settle for less than amazing when you have spent your life doing well is so hard and such a loss. There is a lot of thought likening this time to a grief period. Perfectionists are likely experiencing all the grief states such as denial and anger when they are faced with the loss of what they have been able to achieve in the past versus what can be done now. Now is a time of surviving and maintaining, and improving ourselves—which has been the lifeblood of perfectionists—is getting harder and harder.

To the perfect moms and dads
As a perfectionistic parent, there may have been a push to do all the virtual classes and all the activities in the early weeks. Work full time and be a full-time teacher for the kids? No problem! Bring on the impossible, right?! You basically eat Pinterest boards for breakfast so you can totally do this. But sustained overextension has likely burned you out. You may be fighting with your children or partner because they have their own resistance to your perfectionism, especially now. You may typically be able to move mountains, but now you have little people who may be resistant to rules/listening/bathing/learning/etc. and couldn’t care less about your color-coded schedule board.

To the perfect workers
As someone who is perfectionistic about your job, perhaps you are taking on all the roles and singlehandedly keeping your business going. Maybe you are starting to feel resentful and question why you are working so hard. Perhaps you are neglecting yourself and sleep. It is possible that you have also burned out and perhaps received negative feedback about your performance, which is a huge gut punch because you so deeply care about work and your legacy. Maybe you have previously plotted the best career steps for you and now your industry or line of work is negatively impacted. There is nothing like a global pandemic to make you shift from having a strong focus and identity tied to work to questioning your purpose.

To the perfect caretakers
As a perfectionistic friend or family member, maybe you have spent a lot of time being there for everyone. Maybe planning celebrations and other ways of being thoughtful are getting cancelled so you have shifted to sending and dropping off all the things you think might cheer others up. Maybe you are making all the Zoom calls despite your exhaustion and checking in with everyone else. Perhaps the pressure you have put on yourself to singlehandedly be attuned to everyone else’s mental health might be having the opposite effect on your own mental state. It is possible you are feeling detached or just empty inside.

To those with perfect aesthetics
As someone who has perfected your appearance or the appearance of your space, it is possible this is starting to get hard to maintain. Perhaps you have relied on others to maintain your appearance, such as hairstylists, and now left to your own devices you have not produced a perfect set of bangs. Maybe you are experiencing fluctuations in your weight right now despite usually having a tight grip on what the scale says. Maybe you are used to having an über-clean and organized home but you can’t keep up with the amount of laundry/dishes/floor cleaning now that everyone is home all the time. Perhaps you have leaned into organizing yet you have run out of things to de-clutter and now feel stuck with nothing more to do with that nervous energy.

How to settle for less
If you have a reaction to the above subtitle, take a breath and don’t stop reading just yet. In a lot of ways, this time is causing us to flex and make changes that will benefit us in the long run. It’s easier said than done to lean into positives right now. However, finding ways to loosen the grip that perfectionism might have on you is a good thing. Right now, perfection has to shift from results to process.

Notice little blips of perfect
If you are not completely ready to let go of perfectionism, there are ways to notice and attribute some of the control you want. Baby steps, right?! Find ways to complete tasks or find small moments of making things perfect. Maybe you can focus on a specific assignment, work conversation, or interaction with others. Perhaps the entire house can’t be perfected, but getting the dishes done each night is possible. Whether it is finishing a project, a puzzle, a book, or organizing a shelf, something—there are ways to have some of that sense of achievement that perfectionists crave. A caveat though: See small moments of completion and perfection as band-aids versus a gateway drug to taking on more and more and then getting burned out once again.

Notice perfect presence
The pull towards perfectionism is often about how it looks versus how hard it is to get there. Embodying the principals of mindfulness, if you can be present right now that is good enough. Instead of getting pulled into the past or future, staying mindful allows us to loosen some of the hold perfectionism can have. Meditation is a huge help with mindfulness. Breathing and taking in a sensory experience is what we can go all in on right now. Use that energy of being a hard worker to turn inward and strive for finding ways to breathe, moments of calm, and focus on acceptance.

You are perfectly human
Embrace failures. Lower expectations. Let go. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and break down. These statements spit in the face of perfectionism. Let others see your flaws? Accept your humanity and allow others to see you are not actually superhuman?! Absolutely not; no thanks. But that is the way through this. We need to ask for support and allow some of our friends, family, and colleagues to succeed and win. This goes against every fiber of our being. But we have to stop swinging from one extreme to another. Not being perfect does not mean failure. We literally cannot do everything now, but we also can’t do nothing. So find moments, even very small ones, where you just try on the idea of agreeing that you are struggling, too. Let yourself admit that you are imperfect during a global pandemic. In a time of restrictions and loss, what you can receive or gain is the freedom to be authentic with yourself and the world around you.

Breaking Up Doesn’t Have to Leave You Broken

Posted on: February 21st, 2020 by Lindsey Rogers, LCPC

With the new decade upon us, perhaps you have taken stock of what you want in the future. Maybe you have set some goals or set intentions to let go of a few things. One of the hardest things to do can be letting go of a relationship. Breaking up is hard to do (thus the song), whichever side of the break-up you are on. Keep in mind, relationships can mean romantic attachments, platonic friendships, professional relations, or even family dynamics. And we now live in a time where, although we have more awareness of toxic dynamics and more options for how to meet people, there can be more emotional distance between us. When Carrie got broken up with via Post-It Note on Sex and the City, it was painfully groundbreaking; now, ghosting happens all the time. Even though we know we have to do it, we can often avoid and evade the painful emotions attributed to the end of a relationship. By carving out some space and time to process our thoughts and feelings, we can fully let go and allow ourselves to move forward.

Uncertain about a break-up?
People avoid the tension and difficulty of break-ups because we are programed to numb, deny, or block ourselves from negative emotions. I mean, who likes being in pain? Avoidance often can keep us in a relationship too long when we know we don’t actually want to be in that relationship. Dating can be really soul-crushing, which can cause us to stick with the devil we know versus the unknown devil on the other side of our dating apps.

According to the Transtheoretical Model of Change, often referenced with addictions, making a change or even a decision such as what to do about our relationships can involve multiple steps. Why use an addiction framework to talk through relationships you ask? Because love—even the not-toxic, healthy kind—can be addictive and overwhelming, akin to using a substance. We often get stuck and do not move forward to make changes. We can be in the “Precontemplation” or “Contemplation” phases for a long time of either not being ready or starting to consider that we need to leave a relationship. These two phases can take awhile before we prepare to take or actually take action.

While considering the state of your relationship, it is good to evaluate what is really keeping you in the relationship. If you are investing in another person and your future, do you feel like you are getting a good return on your investment? Do you feel like you can trust and grow with your partner? Are you proud to be with this partner? Do you like who you are in your relationship? Certainly nothing and no one is perfect, but often we silence our intuition or feelings because fear takes over. So if you are unhappy in your current relationship, another important question is what is keeping you from leaving? When speaking about addiction, physician and researcher Dr. Vincent Felliti has said, “It is hard to get enough of something that almost works.” Equally, it is hard to let go of something that almost works. But if a relationship is toxic, beyond repair, and makes you feel profoundly unhappy, it is important to let go of the fantasy of it working one day and accept the reality that it does not work now. And has not for a while.

Take time to end things
If you have decided that it is time to end a relationship, make sure that you take the time to tell the person you are ending the relationship in person. You likely started a relationship in person and it makes sense to end it the same way. Think about what you need to say and do your best to communicate how you are feeling. Also, be mindful that who you are leaving may feel very differently than you do. And they have every right to have those feelings. Have empathy for them, which means allowing your former relationship partner to say how they feel and really listening to them. But then you hold up the boundary of needing things to end. The goal of a break-up is not necessarily to agree, but to communicate and make space for emotions to be expressed on both sides.

(One caveat: No need to break up in person if there is an issue of safety. If you are ending a relationship because you are in danger, then skip the processing part and get yourself out and to a healthier, safer place!)

Once that tough conversation has happened, it means you actually have to leave. So often we get caught in this stage, almost like a relapse. We know we need to quit something and we have done it but then we backslide. The easiest way to work through this is to make sure we have time and distance. It is way too hard to let go when you are still connected. There is really something to “out of sight, out of mind.” It may be tempting to reconnect or try to stay friends, but just as a relationship takes time to build and start, the end needs time and patience as well. Emotional whiplash happens if one minute you are saying things are over and the next, you are reaching out to the person you just hurt. Breaking up is painful—do not prolong the pain or heap on confusion by sending mixed messages. Maybe far down the road friendship is a possibility, but give yourself and the person you are breaking up with plenty of time to get to that place.

Let go and move on
Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of a break-up, it can be tempting to speed through the pain, confusion, relief, sadness, frustration, etc. Hence the societal norm of rebounding! But the end of a relationship is like grieving a loss. There is the literal loss of the relationship but often there is much more like the loss of friendships, of a shared space, of family, of a lifestyle, and most importantly of a future together. So instead of numbing, denying, and avoiding, do your best to give yourself an outlet for that very normal, but often tricky, grief. Write down your thoughts and feelings. Instead of texting or calling your now ex-partner, write them a letter. But don’t send it! Allow yourself to say the things you didn’t get to say. Get out those feelings in some way. Use healthy self-care. Lean on your support system. Go to therapy. Figure out what went wrong and how you feel about yourself now that the relationship is over.

And then, one day in the future, you will wake up with what feels like acceptance and you will be ready to move forward. You may be a little sore and weary, as painful things often make us feel. You may even be a little skeptical or fearful. But you will be ready to dip your toe into love and relationships again. Every one of our relationships end until we find ourselves in the current long-term one. And every relationship, the good, the bad, and the ugly, move us forward. Have hope; you are not broken.

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