Personally and professionally I meet a lot people who long to be perfect. It sounds great in theory. To drive for something that by definition, is “complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” Of course, the problem with that is that there is really no such thing as “beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” Because there is always a way to imagine (or theorize) something could be bigger/better/faster.
Most of us logically know there is no such thing as perfection. So why do we get hung up on needing things to be perfect?
First, we are taught in school both in overt and covert ways from the time we are children that perfection exist. At school we have the opportunity to get perfect test scores/grades, awards for perfect attendance, praise for perfect behavior.
Ads, tell us about, “the perfect night’s sleep” or the “perfect way to express your love” or the “perfect solution for something.” Perfection is a moving target, especially when it comes to sleep. How many people like to sleep the same way?! So how can a company guarantee that everyone will have a perfect night’s sleep with their product?
Our families have stories about the perfect job/career, vacation, person to date, friends to play with, places to live. Not to mention, perfect behavior and for most of us it was made perfectly clear when our behavior was out of line from that.
Social media – DUH! I don’t think I need to expand that much. Just by being on social media, we open ourselves up to the comparison game where we compare ourselves to others and tell ourselves we aren’t doing well in some area as a result.
Friends do it too! While, they typically don’t mean to do it, our friends will take out their insecurities on us by projecting perfection onto us.
The single biggest reason we seek perfection from ourselves is a desire for control. Hear me out! We’ve all had our heart broken, been embarrassed, was bullied or kicked out of a friend group and we all have insecurities. Our brains are built to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. So when something really painful (both physical pain as well as emotional/mental pain) happens, our brain creates a systems report that names the injury and gives a reason why the injury was caused.
This pain story is often written around our insecurities. If the person I like doesn’t like me back and I love myself well, the system report looks like;
“Ouch! I wish that person liked me back. Oh well, I’ll find someone who does.”
If the same thing happens and I don’t love myself well, the system report will probably be more like;
“Of course they don’t like me. Why would they? I’m not good enough.”
When your story looks more like the second one. You brain goes into over drive to find what part of you was not good enough and try to route it out. Unfortunately, this is rarely accurate and often leads to more heartbreak.
We seek perfection as an attempt to avoid heartbreak/heartache. There is nothing wrong with self improvement and wanting to do well. The problem comes when there is no end and no self compassion for the outcomes that are less than “beyond practical or theoretical improvement.”
As always, I’m here. If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!
I don’t know about you, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve held myself to a standard that has felt totally unattainable. Growing up in my family, I got a lot of messages about perfection. Though I was often told I didn’t need to be perfect, I was typically chided when I wasn’t. “You just need to try you’re best.” But when my best wasn’t a perfect score on a test/project or I didn’t win the race, it was made clear that my “best” simply wasn’t good enough.
In April, I was able to take a little time off and just sit. A lot of that time, I spent sitting on the beach, thinking, reading and staring off into the distance where the water and the sky met. While I sat there I thought a lot about perfection and the pressure we put on ourselves in its pursuit.
While I thought about perfection, it occurred to me that one of the many reasons it is unattainable is because in so many instances, perfection in one space contradicts perfection in another space.
For example, if I perform “perfectly” at work, I have to sacrifice things outside of work. Family, friends, health, pets, etc. all have to come second to work in order for me to ‘do it all’ at work.
Not to mention all of the contradictions in our culture!! Appear to be super put together, but don’t work hard at it. Achieve work-life balance (by the way, I’m still not sure I fully get what that even means) and achieve lofty goals. Travel all the time but be good with money and get ahead in your career. Be open and vulnerable but don’t take too much space. “You can have it all!” (Ugh! Just typing that made something in my chest tighten.) You can be beautiful in any shape but be sure to use this filter so that people don’t leave comments about how ugly you are.
Not to mention the fact that perfect feels like a moving target. When I was young the physical ideal was pale and unhealthy skinny. Now I feel like the ideal is a six-pack AND curves.
While sitting on the beach it occurred to me that we are each working with our personal definitions of perfection based what was valued (or lacking) in our homes growing up, what was valued by our mentors and the people we look up to even now as well as the people we want to be or become.
Wouldn’t it be great to examine our personal story of perfection and challenge it? How many of my definitions of perfections are in conflict with each other? Do those stories even align with my values?
What if you took control of YOUR definition of perfection and made it yours? As a thinking, feeling, breathing adult you can understand that each situation you face is going to require different things from you and the “best” outcome will be relative.
As always, I’m here. If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!
I have been surprised and impressed with how many people decided, seemingly all that the same time, that Britney Spears should be released from her conservatorship. Years ago, when Britney was having public meltdowns people seemed to believe she needed help. What I don’t understand is what changed everyone’s mind? Was it as simple as hearing from her what she wanted?
The recent Netflix documentary, “Britney vs Spears” gives some interesting insight into what had, until recently been a very private matter. I don’t typically pay much attention to celebrity gossip, for the most part I feel like it simply isn’t any of my business. I watched the documentary after a therapist friend mentioned it to me. I thought it was interesting and well researched and I felt as though it missed some points.
Conservatorship essentially means that a person or business takes over the decision-making ability for an individual.
In our culture we have agreed that the more vulnerable among us (children, elderly, disabled) should be afforded additional protections. But there are two problems with this; first, where there is prey there are predators, second when does an individual lose free will?
As a culture we have agreed that people get to choose how they live. For example, we only institutionalize people against their will after being convicted of a crime or the (sometimes) subjective option that someone is a danger to themselves or others. When we remove someone’s ability to make autonomous choices, it is NOT supposed to be because we don’t like them or their choices.
Most of us have had or know someone who has had an elderly relative who at some point was no longer able to care for and advocate themselves. It’s this vulnerable population that conservatorship was designed for.
Being wealthy and or famous does not mean that someone is qualified or capable of making good financial decisions. Nicolas Cage, Lindsay Lohan, Wesley Snipes, Ja Rule, etc. have all joined the ranks of people who have made substantial financial mistakes and it doesn’t seem as though anyone is looking to take their decision-making power from them. People are allowed to make poor financial decisions. How many people legitimately thought they would get rich by “investing” in Beanie Babies?!
The documentary hints that Britney may have been addicted to or misusing Adderall at one point. Adderall is an amphetamine and is addictive. Again, addiction alone is NOT a good enough reason to take someone’s decision-making power from them. It can be enough that you lose custody of children and are no longer able to hold certain jobs/positions of power. But we don’t have millions of people who are addicts put into conservatorship.
How many people do you know (male or female) that just can’t seem to get it right in dating? People are allowed to have bad taste in partners. That seemed to be part of the justification for placing Britney into a conservatorship which is insane to me. There are countless books, seminars, support groups and research studies about how to find better partners!
It is not lost on me that I’m only thinking about all of this because I consumed media about it. And I strongly believe that media was part of the problem. She was chased by paparazzi in part because we all seem to think we have some sort of right to private information about celebrities that most of us have never and will never even meet. It’s really none of our business what she does in her free time, who she dates, etc.
I will admit that I’m a fairly private person. My personal nightmare would be to appear on a reality TV show. I can only imagine what it would be like for people to be following me around ALL the time and making judgments about me from the limited things they see. Imagine that in the most stressful time of your life (like a divorce and custody battle), you were also being stalked. It seems pretty obvious that at least part of her problem is a huge lack of privacy.
A friend of mine made a really good point the other day. He said something like, “You understand that the government has done bad things, right? When do you think that stopped?” I cannot conceive of how and why this was even allowed to begin with except for money. People knew how much she was worth and they found a way to steal (yeah, I said steal) money from her.
There is a great dark comedy, also on Netflix, “I Care A Lot” that came out in 2020 and demonstrates how predatory these kinds of conservatorships can be. Just like anything else we force on people, we get it WRONG sometimes. My hope is that the courts will take a much harder look at these kinds of cases in the future and/or that I’m never rich so that no one tries this on me.
As always, I’m here. If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!
In the last year, most of us experienced loneliness in a way that we perhaps never had before. For some, living alone was terrible and frightening, for others being quarantined with their children and partners brought to the surface cracks, strains and disconnections in those relationships.
So what is loneliness? The UCLA Loneliness Scale looks at factors like feeling a lack of companionship, feeling left out, a feeling of being out of step or not in tune with the people around you, feeling shy and if there are people that you can turn to. The scale acknowledges that there is a quality to connection(s) that contributes to a feeling of loneliness, not necessarily a quantity.
Having to lean heavily on online sources for connection caused depression and anxiety to increase exponentially during COVID and introverts and extroverts alike where cut off or restricted from their typical sources of connection.
We have faced loneliness at work, at home with friends and families. FOMO (fear of missing out) seemed to take on a new quality as people were worried about gathering but equally feared the possibility of being left behind in their relationships.
What seemed most noticeable was the inability to ignore things that had long been avoided like addictions, trauma and real fissures in relationships. It seemed as our distractions and rush to be as busy as humanly possible was stripped away, our ability to outrun our shadows got a lot harder.
With an understanding that you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge…. Admitting that you’re lonely seems like the first logical step. After that, things seem to get a bit more complicated. It isn’t possible for one relationship to meet all of our needs, that can’t be our expectation. And we don’t want to give up on relationships prematurely.
Here are some questions worth asking:
Most people associate goal setting with deciding to do something, then doing it. In an over simplistic way… yes. But the truth is most goals require the cooperation of others some times in small ways and others in big ways. There are essentially two types of goals, individual goals/goals of self and relational goals and both require the participation of others.
Individual goals or goals of the self are things like physical fitness, finishing school, reading X number of books in a year, etc. Most of the time we need all sorts of help with all of these!!
First, resources are needed. Sure, tons of stuff can be found from google but asking people who have figured it out or who have at least gotten further in the process is MUCH better. One size will never fit all but if you know someone who has done it or is doing it, then asking them how they do it is at least a place to start! Their strategy may or may not work but you will learn if it doesn’t work and you will benefit if it does. Asking for help is huge. There is a solution to every problem and often it begins with asking for help.
Second, research has proven that when an individual is held accountable for their goals, they are far more likely to continue to work at them and ultimately achieve them. “No man is an island.” This was true in 1642, when John Donne said it and it is no less true today. If COVID taught us nothing it’s that we actually do need human interaction and connections.
Third, be impeccable with your word. When you take on something new and big you will have to adjust your limits. That means potentially saying no to things you may have said yes to in the past. You may have to re-draw some boundaries with other people and set new limits. That does not mean that those things are less important but if you’re seeking change… Then things need to change. Being impeccable with your word (“The Four Agreements” by Ruiz) in part means that you are honest with yourself and others about your limits.
How often have you longed for a shift in one or more of your relationships? Introspection here is important. What stories are you telling yourself? When is the last time you watered your own grass instead of comparing your lawn to someone else’s or thinking that someone else is better or easier to be with? When is the last time you thought about the impact you have on the other person and how you have contributed to the situation you find yourself in?
There are times everyone needs a reminder that the people around them can’t read their minds. If you are mad/hurt/irritated by something and you don’t bother sharing that, the other person is under no obligation to solve a problem they don’t know exists! This is true for family members, friends, kids, partners, coworkers, bosses, medical professionals, etc. If you can’t be bothered to talk about what you need, why should they be bothered to do anything differently?
“It works IF you work it.” Note, that the expression doesn’t say it works if you silently hope it works and take no actions at all to get your needs met.
For lots of people, it easier to focus on other people’s needs or what other people are/are not doing instead of themselves. Other people are rarely what is keeping a person from reaching their goals… it’s the person in the mirror. Focusing on someone else’s needs/goals is a great way to avoid yourself.
How often have you skipped lunch or been too busy to work out or go to the dentist because you just can’t get away from work? Like it or not, your company would replace you if you were not performing the necessary tasks for the job. The irony is, you would be healthier and more productive if you took breaks, worked out regularly, addressed your care needs in a timely fashion. All those nagging care needs like, “I need to go to the dentist,” “I have no idea what camp to send the kids to this summer,” I need to get a card for Aunt Jane’s birthday,” all swirl around and distract you from the job at hand. In order to be a better employee, setting limits and boundaries on your time there is critical.
At the end of the work day feeling as though you didn’t get enough done at work and you neglected your personal needs and your family’s needs doesn’t make work better. Setting limits at work, taking time off will make you a better employee and get you the ability to start setting and meeting goals both at work and outside of work.
How often do you say yes to things you do not want to do? Yes, in every relationship there is some give an take and we show up for people when they need us. AND… If you are not getting your needs met, you won’t be able to show up for them. AND... if you say yes to everyone else, you will start to plan seeds of resentments and when they say no to you, you will not be able to understand why you are as upset as you are at the person you care about. Saying no, is not just being kind to yourself, it is being a good steward of the relationship.
When is the last time you had the opportunity to miss your family? Even if it is only for a day, being away from our family can help us appreciate them. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with the noise of life; carting kids to and fro, making dinners, paying bills, doing laundry, etc. So easy, in fact, that we can forget that our family isn't a chore but a person or persons that we wouldn't want to live with out. The family we create is part of our identity and bring meaning to our lives. When we don't take space from them to care for ourselves we are in danger of putting them in the category of burden. Loving them well, means taking a step back and getting some air for yourself.
No. See?! It’s a complete sentence. It is not possible for one person to take everything on. A Sad truth is that when we say yes to more than we can actually do, we let people down. Letting people down impacts our trustworthiness, self-esteem and the way that others feel they can count on us.
What does a modern, egalitarian relationship look like? Is it that each person contributes to the household expenses equally? Is it that both partners take an equal share of household chores? I think that is a wonderful ideal… But then, what if one partner makes significantly more? What if one partner is laid off or wants to go back to school? How does maternity leave impact that 50/50 equation?
Egalitarianism in relationships is really easy in theory; each person in the relationship is equal. Their feelings are equally important, decisions are made jointly, etc. That’s fantastic until problems arise. For example, if one partner makes considerably more and wants more home than the other person can afford, how is that navigated? If one partner is laid off and is unable to half of the living expenses, how does that shift the power?
I’m in no way pining for the days when it was acceptable for men to have the last say in home but…. I’m watching some of my friends and clients really struggle with the need to keep up with their partners.
Scenario 1: person gets laid off at the beginning of the pandemic and must deplete their savings to continue to pay half of the expenses. It’s not that I think that’s wrong but the truth is, when those partners want to retire together, it will be more difficult. Is there another way to navigate that as a unit?
Scenario 2: person goes back to school in order to ultimately make more money and be a better contributor and happier person. Person has two options, work like mad to continue to make the same amount while in school, live off their savings and deplete resources while in school. What is the purpose of living as a unit if we aren’t able to ask for support from each other?
Scenario 3: a person stays home with small children because of medical support needs. Person can look to their partner for financial support or again deplete resources.
There is no one size fits all approach to modern relationships and it is still a relatively new concept to have two incomes as the standard in most households. My question is more around, what is the purpose of partnership? If the purpose is to pool resources so that I don’t have to work as hard… Well, I guess just get a roommate. If the purpose is to pool resources to ensure that we both grow to new heights, then why the need to not share those resources?
Recently, I went on a vacation with a friend. We were thoughtful about our safety, we took reasonable precautions, stuck together but also gave ourselves the opportunity to have a good time. We spent the day on a catamaran, tried some local restaurants and enjoyed the beach.
Our final evening there, we were enjoying a dinner at the outdoor restaurant and a stranger insisted on buying our dinner and inserted himself into our conversation for roughly 45 minutes. It was clear to me that the man was lonely and unwell and I remarked to my friend that he needed a shower, a hug and a stay in rehab. I assumed that would likely be the end of it.
The next morning, my friend and I packed, had a leisurely breakfast and headed to the airport. As my friend and I had chosen different airlines and had different destinations, we had to separate upon arriving at the airport. As I was getting my bearings in the airport, I spotted the unwell man wearing the same outfit as the evening before and pacing the airport. When he saw me, he told me he had been looking form me in the hope of seeing me off. I was immediately uncomfortable but felt the need to stay calm. Just as the evening before when I observed his quickly shifting mood, I did not want to upset him or escalate the situation.
He informed that he had had a difficult night and had decided to change his travel plans and head to Baltimore that day. I wished him well and insisted I needed to get through security in order to ensure I didn’t miss my flight. (What I did not mention is I was there roughly an hour before it was going to board. I wanted to be in a more controlled environment where it would be more difficult for him to attempt to do me harm.) He seemed sad but calm as I left him and I again assumed that would be the last time I would lay eyes on him.
Just as I got through airport security, he tells me that he has put himself on standby for my flight and wants to come to Austin with me. Right away, I flash to my car parked at the airport and wonder how I would be able to get to my car without being followed (and possibly worse) should he make it on to both of my flights and panic began to creep in.
As gently but directly as possible, I let him know that I wasn’t comfortable with that and ask for help from the airline. While the men that worked for the airline were very kind, they could offer little in the way of protection and comfort. I was basically told I could board the plane first in order to get myself out of the terminal then I could ask for help if I was still concerned when I reached my final destination.
While I was seeking help and looking over my shoulder, the unwell man sent me a series of passive aggressive text messages and ultimately took himself off of the standby list for my flight. Oddly, that did little to quell my fear.
I stood nervously near the ticket counter while I waited and continued to scan the crowd as I had no idea if he had been allowed through security with his standby boarding pass.
Standing there and as I traveled home, I moved through several different emotions. Anxiety of course then to guilt. His tone and messages made it seem as though I had led him on and then deeply wounded him; two things I would never intentionally do. The guilt made me feel defensive as though I should have to defend myself for:
Then, I got angry. He continued to call that day and that night, not leaving messages but letting me know it was not over for him.
So, glad you asked! Several reasons. First, I had to defend myself to well meaning family members. I had to somehow prove that this unwanted, unencouraged attention was in no way accidently brought on by my obliviousness and/or that I could not have prevented this behavior earlier on in the first encounter with this man. I’m angry at the notion that I could have or should have done anything differently.
Second, that he thinks that because it is something that HE wants, that he is entitled to it! I cannot tell you how many sessions I have had with articulate, kind and well-educated women who fret about what they “owe” someone when that person buys them dinner and/or drinks. Just so you know, and I can’t over state this: NOTHING. It is polite and respectful to give a sincere, “thank you.” THAT’S ALL!!! This unwell man bought my friend and I dinner which was entirely unnecessary but generous. I assumed that since he was INTERUPTING US he felt the need to offer an amends by way of buying us dinner. Fine, I did thank him sincerely and assumed we would be done with the whole thing.
Third, I resent being made to be afraid or intimated. When I think back on my encounters with this man, I consented to only giving him my phone number. To be honest, I only did that because I felt pressured to after he bought our dinner against my consent. At no other time, did what I want factor into this man’s decision making. And when I brought up what I wanted, he treated me as though I had committed a sin against him. But what really makes me angry about this is he is neither the first or last man to attempt to force me or any woman into a situation she does not want to be in because they “don’t want to be mean.” Because being nice, even at my own expense, seems to be an expectation of my gender, I am angry.
Recently, there has been a hashtag going around, “#NotAllMen.” That’s true. I am fortunate enough to know and to have known men that would never behave the way that the unwell man did or worse. But that hashtag has been getting used when women are found raped and murdered. While it’s true that most men don’t rape and murder, there should be no pat on the back for that!!
I wholeheartedly believe that I am owed nothing from the world and that my well-being is my responsibility. And… When do men start to look at themselves and each other differently? It’s not enough to say, I don’t/won’t rape and murder women. Shouldn’t the goal look a bit more like… I will actively listen. I will be respectful. I will not stand by while a woman is assaulted verbally/sexually/physically. I will be nice!! #DoBetterFellas
As kids, individuals take in information implicitly and explicitly. Implicit information is implied or things we see and interpret. Explicit learning comes from things read, taught in school or by adults or peers. Messages are taken in all day; every day and these messages start inform each person about what the world is like. Is the world a safe place? Are people good? Is love easy? Am I loveable?
Experiences as children are echoed in adulthood. If an adult is struggling in friendships and romantic relationships, it is often because of incomplete or even harmful messages received as a child.
For rare individuals that grew up in homes where love was easily shown, they likely learned that love was easily given and received. For most people, the messages are a bit more muttled and confusing.
Lots of people grow up fearing disagreements and anger. Many people are taught that anger is bad and destructive, even dangerous. While people can behave in destructive ways when angry, anger isn’t really the problem. Anger is a healthy human emotion, there is a lot of energy in anger and it can motivate people to make important and necessary changes. For those who grew up being taught that anger is dangerous, they struggle to allow conflict in relationships which inhibits growth and breeds resentments.
When important topics are avoided and resentment is allowed to grow, the relationship slowly takes hit after hit and can decay to the point where it cannot be repaired. “It’s not what you say it’s HOW YOU SAY IT.” It is important to express needs and discuss conflict in every relationship and it is equally important to be mindful of how you express feelings and needs.
In Brene Brown’s first TED Talk, she talks about a mask each person wears. That mask is necessary in everyday life but each person needs people in their life they are able to remove the mask for in order to get the love and acceptance required to feel valued and accepted as their true self.
For those that grew up learning (implicitly or explicitly) that the only way to be loved is to give and give until it hurts then give more and not to expect anything in return, taking this mask off doesn’t feel possible. If someone wants to love and accept the people pleaser as they are, the people pleaser will often be confused and put off and may even terminate the relationship (platonic or romantic) because they don’t understand how to exist in that kind of relationship.
The single biggest challenge for a people pleaser, is to make their needs at least as important as everyone else’s. Difficult but not impossible. That means making anger acceptable (that’s not the same as screaming and violence), permission to ask for what you want and need and the belief that they are at least as important as everyone else.
When ready, we can all chose to stop living with the unhealthy messages we were given as children.