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perfectionism and goal-setting

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by blake, Jun 23, 2014.

  1. blake

    blake Well known member

    I'm realizing lately that my perfectionism has been stopping me from moving forward in my career. The pressure I place on myself has made me give up trying to step out of my comfort zone and take on new and exciting challenges. Part of me desperately wants to grow and learn new things, since I really love my job, but I'm really stuck in the no-growth zone, and have been for many years.

    For example, I've recently decided to start studying for a certification exam in my field. I was super excited buying the books and learning about the process. The problem is that every time I start to study, I get that exhausted, sleepy feeling, which is a precursor to my neck pain. I end up stopping what I am doing. I hear the negative messages in my head (why bother, you'll fail, who do you think you are...) and I have identified the feeling of panic in my body, but what should I do with all of this?

    Is it too much too fast or is this a situation where I should push through until I get to the other side?
  2. jlm

    jlm Peer Supporter

    Perfectionism is one trait I'd sooner have been born without. Pushing through will only make your neck hurt more. Stop to have a talk with your inner child. Tell him you know what he's doing and you will no longer allow it. Have you done any work to see if you can identify your past or current stressors ? If so, have you written about it? I find free writing then destroying the paper a good way of releasing tension. I've also written letters to deceased people. One I shredded, but one needed to be burned.

    As far the exam goes 1) Look around to see others who have successfully passed it. You know you are smarter than they are. 2) Set a study time with a reward afterward - a walk in our lovely summer weather or a dish of ice cream, if that's a hook for you. 3) Do some deep breathing before you start studying. Shallow breathing will exasperate your symptoms. 4) Bolster your belief in your abilities by thinking back to a time when things went better than you expected - the last test, maybe. You have the power to turn any outcome into a positive experience. Don't forget to visualize yourself passing the exam.
    Ellen likes this.
  3. Waterbear

    Waterbear Peer Supporter

    Maybe try setting tiny goals? I'll read 20 pages a night. I'll read 30 pages a night.

    Then, reward yourself once you do it. Also, if you get to 30 pages a night day and only make it to 15 pages, that's okay. Take a break and try again later.
    Ellen likes this.
  4. blake

    blake Well known member

    I see what you mean, jlm, the idea is to keep at it, but at the same time pay attention to what's going on inside (with the inner child or whatever part is resisting the change). It might also help to talk to people who have done the exam before. Maybe I'm making it out to be more scary than it actually is.

    I don't do much visualization, but this is the second time it's been recommended to me recently. I'll be giving it a try.

    I guess my goal is to achieve my end, but enjoy the process along the way. I don't want to be beating myself up the entire time. I've had just about enough of that way of doing things!

    As for my current stressors, well I'm working on those as well. Relationships with my family members are my main source of stress, and people-pleasing in general. I'm also trying to release anger at my grandmother whom I worshipped, but who did not treat me very well. I figured it out only after she passed away. The journaling is obviously my only option here.
  5. blake

    blake Well known member

    Thanks Waterbear!
    So hard for me to resist the urge to just give up, but I will keep trying. Maybe little by little like you suggest is the only way to go.
    The other thing both you and jam mentioned is the idea of a reward. I definitely don't do that. Whenever I achieve anything I say to myself that it just wasn't enough. Guess that would explain my lack of motivation. I'll be working on that for sure, but just being aware if it is already helpful.
    Thanks again!
  6. jlm

    jlm Peer Supporter

    Blake, it's time to write a letter to your grandmother telling her exactly how much you loved her and how she made you feel. You don't need to sugarcoat anything as no one will see it except you and your inner child. Mine has a name - Little Judy, but you don't have to do that. Free write anything that comes to mind while you are in the moment and then destroy it (Dr Hanscom). I like to follow my free writing with a mediation. Right now I'm using Dr Schubiner's CD that came with his book. I prefer this to journaling as I will keep my journal entries for a while and I need the release of getting rid of these writings.

    I don't want to make excuses for your grandmother, though as a grandmother myself I'd wonder if she was trying to help you become the adult she knew you could be and didn't have the right tools. It doesn't matter why she did what she did, just the effect it had on you.

    Visualizations; If you'd ever had a teenager excited because the basketball went the net EXACTLY like he visualized the night before, you'd know the value. Visualize you supervisor telling you how well you did on the exam, then do the work to make it happen.

    Blake, I wish you enough!
  7. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Blake, I like Waterbearer's suggestion of reading your study books for 15 minutes to a half hour one a day,
    and hopefully build up to an hour over time.

    It's often impossible to please our family. They can expect more of us than they do of themselves.
    No one could please my mother. We all tried but she kept wanting more of our time and energy.
    Many older people tend to think they're the most important and needy ones.

    We just do what we can and let up on ourselves. There has to be enough left of us to go around to help and
    be there for others.
  8. Waterbear

    Waterbear Peer Supporter

    I was bad at rewarding myself too. It's important and it makes the pain go away.

    The "tiny tasks" thing I started a few months ago and it has been helping me a lot. I'm a perfectionist too and if I couldn't get a project done in one sitting I was a "failure", and I felt worthless and painful. However, my project would be something like, "rearrange my entire living room in one 14 hour Saturday mega clean fest."

    Who can just jump back in and do a 14 hour physical labor day? Or, for that matter, a 14 hour study-a-thon?

    I wanted to fix up my living room, but every time I thought about it, I would think about failing and then not do it. One day, I decided that I needed to start doing something. (Mostly because of the support I got on these forums). I made a list of every task I wanted done in the living room. Then I broke that list down into different sections: 1 hour tasks, 2 hour tasks, 3 hour tasks, etc.

    I'm still working on my list but I have all most all the littlest tasks done and I have the bigger ones planned out (I need help from friends and family with power tools). I makes me feel good. I don't feel worthless. I feel like I'm getting somewhere. It's very satisfying to cross off entires on my list.

    I reward myself with nice meals mostly or a glass of red wine. Sometimes, I play with my geckos afterwards too.
    Ellen likes this.
  9. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hello all,
    Lots of great suggestions. It feels really good to get feedback on this forum. Plus, knowing I can keep people posted on my progress gives me motivation, but not in that mean, nasty way I usually try to get myself to do stuff. I'll be putting together a very modest study plan and will be working rewards into it. And I'll keep doing awareness work on my inner dialogue.

    I think it is definitely time I start working on my issues with my grandmother. Jlm, I really appreciate what you said about what may have motivated my grandmother to act the way she did. I know she had many issues of her own. I'll try the letter-writing this week.

    Thank you all so much!
  10. blake

    blake Well known member


    Here's an update on what's been going on. First of all, my pain is back. Oh well, I'll keep working the problem and I'm sure it will resolve in good time. Second, I've tried to put together a study plan, but there's been so much internal resistance that it's been impossible for me to follow through. There is way too much criticism in my head to get up the courage to go do something new.

    I am feeling so frustrated right now. I feel like I have a parrot on my shoulder criticizing every thing I do, from the time I get up in the morning until I go to bed. I've also been doing unsent letter-writing to people that have hurt me and I realize that I probably could have let go of hurtful comments if my inner critic hadn't been in on it! For example, my grandmother once told me that if I wasn't able to be patient with my mother (my mother has schizophrenia), I probably shouldn't have kids. This was at a time when my husband and I were desperately trying to have a baby after a miscarriage, which she knew. Although that was a really mean thing to say - I wrote an unsent letter to her about it - if part of me hadn't agreed with her, I would have been able to see the comment for what it actually is: an overwhelmed woman who was just venting at the nearest bystander (me). Instead, I took it personally and have felt angry and victimized for 10 years about it. (By the way, I did eventually get pregnant; I have an awesome 12-year old and I am extremely patient and compassionate with him:). So there, grandma!

    Living with that inner critic is like trying to run a marathon with lead shoes. You still get to where you're going, but it is long, frustrating and exhausting. I need to change!
    Ellen and Marian like this.
  11. Marian

    Marian Peer Supporter

    blake, I agree with you about the inner critic. It's exhausting and sometimes terrifying. I'm working on a new belief that I am now immune to my inner critic... that I've inoculated myself against those voices and even though they still exist, I don't experience the effects.
    Ellen likes this.
  12. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hello Marian,

    So you've learned to ignore it, in a way? I like what you said about not experiencing its effects. That gives me a lot of hope. The key is the awareness, I guess. Once I learn to recognize that voice for what it is, I can work on not listening to what it says.
    Marian likes this.
  13. Marian

    Marian Peer Supporter

    Blake, it's more like this: since I can't resist it or fight it without making it stronger, and since it's bloody impossible to totally ignore it, I've decided that it can be there, but that I am immune to its effects.

    That way, I'm not struggling with it all the time. It's the struggle that seems to strengthen it. It's a work in progress... I'm trying different things. Awareness is totally the key... so you don't get sucked into the thought before you know what's happened!
    Ellen likes this.
  14. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    That's the secret, Waterbearer. Do the housework little by little. Each project done is an achievement and confidence builder.
    I promise not to come over with my white gloves.
  15. blake

    blake Well known member

    Thanks Marian, I see the difference between ignoring it and being immune to its effects. It's like trying to control it is like trying to control other people's opinions of me. It just can't be done (I've tried) and it's exhausting. I just have to let it be and not believe what is says.

    Thanks for your help!
    Marian likes this.

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