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How to Let Go of the Need to Be Perfect

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” – Anne Lamott

You find yourself asking, “When will what I do be enough?” You wonder, “How do I know if I’m truly happy or just settling to be comfortable?” You catch yourself constantly striving for more—more money, more stuff, more beauty, more brains, more awards. But no matter how much you get, you never know if what you desire will help you become your best self or just drive you further down the dissatisfying road of perfectionism. I know the journey of perfectionism far too well. Every once in a while, when I least expect it, my own perfectionistic motivations creep up on me. They come into play most when I’m making decisions, working, or interacting with others.

It’s that feeling you get when you expect things of yourself that you’d never expect from others. It’s working yourself to exhaustion in hopes that you’ll feel whole, complete, worthy. It’s basing your self-worth on external accomplishments, feeling like you have something to prove all the time. It’s piling on the emotions of guilt, burnout, and self-hate. It’s always coloring inside the lines and giving yourself the metaphorical whip if you screw up.

Perfectionism lives and breathes in your fear of making a mistake. When you’re afraid of what might happen, you don’t always make the best possible choices.

Instead, you limit your options because you believe you’ll be unable to handle the outcome of your choices if they happen to be negative. Allowing perfectionism to run the show is like being on a hamster wheel; you just keep going and going and going, even after you’ve reached your original goal. You increase the stakes every time so that when you do accomplish something, you wonder if you could have done it better.

Feeling and thinking this way makes perfect sense because our culture puts a ton of pressure on us to be perfect. We’re made to feel as if there’s something wrong with us if we’re still single by a certain age, don’t make a certain amount of money, don’t have a big social media following, or don’t look a certain way. In the midst of all that pressure, it’s easy to forget all the great, unique things about ourselves.

Many of the people I work with in therapy are frustrated because no matter how hard they try, they still feel like nothing they do is good enough. Even after all the external successes they’ve achieved, they still aren’t happy, and they aren’t sure why. What I find is that most of the time, their goals never came from them. When you never feel good enough in the eyes of others, it’s hard to build a strong sense of yourself. It’s difficult to know what you truly want, what ultimately fills your true purpose.

Perfectionism stays alive when you look for other people to give you worth, relying on their opinions to give you a sense of your value.

It’s deceptive because other people can’t make you feel like enough; that’s a decision you have to make for yourself. What’s enough and not enough, and how far you need to go, are more effective when they’re determined by your inner values. Needing and lacking approval and acceptance will inevitably lead you to feel that what you do is never enough; you’ll spend your life looking to do better and more.

That’s why I’m offering another way to be—an alternative to the endless cycle of looking for personal fulfillment through grand accomplishments. I want to help you put an end to the cycle of perfectionism. Knowing who you are and what you value is vital. Once you have that down, you can make the decision to be enough in every situation you face. And, in time, each situation will serve as a way to guide you toward your true self and free you from the need to be perfect.

So how do I let go of perfectionism and have a strong sense of self?

Change your mindset. Our mindset contains our ideas and views about life, which come from our previous experiences and perceptions of the world. How we look at the world influences our experience in it. Our perception becomes our reality. Creating a good-enough mindset that isn’t filled with unrealistic expectations will help you cultivate a sense of wellbeing. Therefore, the first step to feeling like you’re enough is changing your mindset and old beliefs about yourself derived from past experiences of what’s expected of you. The rest is a process of changing the idea that you need to work harder for approval and using that energy to just be enough for yourself.

Build self-reliance. You aren’t born with self-reliance, you gain it through trials and errors while you go through life making your own decisions. I started to develop confidence when I decided to think for myself and move forward with my decisions. People who act with self-reliance feel more in control of their environment, and feeling this way is an important ingredient of wellbeing. When what you do is in line with what you believe, your self-esteem and happiness grow. Being self-reliant means doing things for yourself. The more you do for yourself, the better you feel; the better you feel, the more confident you’ll become, and the less compelled you’ll feel to be perfect all the time.

Learn to let go. Try to let go of whatever it is that’s holding you back from accepting who you are. You’ll probably realize that you aren’t what other people say you are. You aren’t your pain, your past, or your emotions. It’s usually negative ideas about ourselves and hurtful self-talk that get in the way of who we really want to be and push us to never make any mistakes.

Make your own decisions. Start making your own decisions. It isn’t necessary to share every problem you encounter with everyone in your life. People do this to get advice, be told what they need to do, and pass their anxiety on to others. As you become more aware of what you want, you’ll start knowing the next step to take in your life, and you’ll recognize that nobody else has the answers. People who don’t feel good enough always look to others to make decisions for them. You know just as much as everyone else; in fact, you know more than others do about what’s right for you.

Remember, you can’t hate your way into accepting yourself. Convincing yourself of what a failure you are will never make any situation better, and repeating to yourself that you’ll never live up to your potential certainly won’t lead you to reach it. It’s important for you to remember that you are enough just as you are—and I promise, the more you practice it, the more you’ll believe it.

Make peace with the “now” before you feel satisfied with the “later.”We can’t feel totally satisfied with where we’re going until we can accept, acknowledge, and appreciate where we are. Make peace with where you are, and your journey toward something new will feel much more peaceful, rewarding, and satisfying.

Do you methodically look for evidence that you’re a nobody, that you don’t deserve acceptance, or that you aren’t living up to your potential? If so, I know how demoralizing and demeaning it can be. It will better serve you to focus on progress rather than perfection and on how far you’ve come instead of how far you have left to go.

One of the biggest pushes towards perfectionism is the need to always “get it right.” We strive for perfection and huge successes, and when we fall short, we feel worthless. What we don’t seem to realize is that working toward our goals and being willing to put ourselves out there are accomplishments within themselves. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for trying, making progress, and coming as far as you have.

By Ilene S. Cohen, Ph.D.

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Another Milestone

I realized something the other day while I was looking at my growing collection of succulents; I’m enjoying being on my own.

I know I told you already that I am a loner and prefer solitude than being in a crowd but there is some difference; before, I crave to be among people I have nothing to do with. I love to meet new acquaintances – preferably in far away places so I can run away if it becomes too much and strangers become too close – I love talking to random people, exchanging ideas and watching them doing their things as long as they don’t follow me home and insist to be my friends. Before, I resented being isolated. I was constantly homesick. I wanted to experience again the life I had before; the fun, the chase, the adventures, the thrill of discovering new people, new places and new things. I hated being settled, peaceful, grounded and (more or less) secure. To me it was boring, unimaginative, dead.

I still enjoy meeting people and going places and discovering new things but it is not a must anymore. At the end of the day, I am happy to be home. In fact, lately, while exploring new frontiers, at the back of my mind, I can’t wait to go home. I can’t wait till I am again inside my four walls where I can be alone and peaceful and safe. Safe from expectations, safe from demands, away from the prying eyes and prejudiced judgmental people. I can be whoever I want to be no one will force me.

Before, I charge my battery somewhere, the more peculiar, weird, bizarre, the better. These days home is where I recuperate and I get my fix from peace and quiet and safety my place offers. I don’t want complicated situations anymore. No more dramas, no more unnecessary commitments, no more pretending, no more catering to what society expects.

Today I realized another thing: I don’t have the urge anymore to control things. 

Before, I want everything the way it supposed to be, in my head. I got into a panic when things are not in their proper place and things don’t happen the way I expect and my weight is not 46 kilos. The moment the scale shows one or two gram more I will get so nervous I will go into crash diet and see to it that my weight is back on track within three weeks.

Now, I am 10 kilos heavier and have love handles all over the place but I can stand it. I don’t get agitated anymore when there is a glass on the kitchen counter or a cup somewhere in the living room and there are clothes that have to be ironed in bed. Mind you the glasses and cups and clothes will not be there for long, but they can stay there for a few hours till I find the time and urge to remove them. I can go out now without straightening everything till my house is picture perfect. In short, I’m learning to let go.

I’m learning to let go of my paranoia as well. I can stand open windows now, doors too. Dark days don’t make me think of everything evil and I can take a bath now when I’m home alone and even dare to go into my dressing without locking anything that could be locked. The knife I still keep but I forget it’s there sometimes. I take it as a positive sign and continuing improvement of my mental health.

I don’t know if I’m really getting better or would really get better or I just resigned to my situation. Could be also that I’m just getting old and tired and lost my appetite for anything that rock my already shaky constitution and learning the value of restful and quiet uncomplicated existence.

Who knows…

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A Garden Enigma

I have a landscaped beautiful garden in my suburban home. Though it is done by a professional, I can’t help adding my personal touch to it, making it the cottage garden I adore and love but on a minimalistic side. There are still lots of blooms, but they are contained in specific spaces. The landscaper planted few key elements in clumps like Hydrangea Macrophylia, Spiraea Japonica ‘golden princess’ Some Buxus clouds by the front door, Choysia Ternata on the side gate and pachysandra terminalis as a ground cover. Oh, there is a lone  Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ at the front. There are also few trees suited for small-ish gardens like Cornus Kousa, Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and a couple of Acers and three others I can’t recognize. I added a lot more since then.

There is a Hydrangea Petiolaris climbing on three poles by the right side of the house and a huge pergola at the very back of the garden covered with Wisteria. Directly by the kitchen door, there is a kitchen garden with three small pear trees and five different sizes of wooden vat planted with Mediterranean herbs. There are Lavander in some corner front and back, hardy Geraniums I can’t kill no matter what, a border of roses and one Hydrangea Quercifolia. Ah, I remember there is a large clump of Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’ also, and that was it.

The first thing I did when we moved to the place is to rip out the expensive real looking pseudo turf by the bay window at the front of the house and put a mixed border. You know… Delphinium, Asters; Monarda, Liatris, Phlox, Japanese anemone, ligularia dentata Desdemona and Othelo, Heucheras, Astrantia and such. I planted around the box clouds on the right side the same mix, they are under a small(?) grafted tree I don’t recognize. I think it is some Cherry Laurel on a stick, has white flowers with a subtle smell. The Buxus clouds suffered the heatwave this year so I dug them up and put them under the three towering Acers by the gate to recuperate and replaced them with a mixed border to mirror the left side under the bay window. This time I added Verbena, sedum (I doted them throughout the borders around the house too) Agapanthus, Rudbeckias, and Echinaceas. I added also some Valerian which seeded everywhere since then and bay leaves trees in the kitchen garden.

Did I mention there is an ornamental bubbling pond next to the circular terrace directly outside the bay french window in the living room? When we bought the place (which is a model/show house of excellent quality) there was only one kind of flower around it, Rudbeckia. I planted Echinacea, Verbena, some grasses, creeping sedum, and Crocosmia. D. Had his choice of water plants. No fish. I don’t do annuals unless they self-seed like Digitalis (by far my most favorite flower) forget-me-nots, Marigolds, Cosmos, and this year Hollyhocks because D. Not gardening not interested D. Decided he wants Hollyhocks. 

For all the beauty of the garden and all the hours I put beautifying and tending it we never use it.

I don’t know why.

We have a romantic bistro/Mediterranean inspired powder pink garden set directly next to the kitchen door by the kitchen garden in the view of the pond. There is a complete three-piece lounge set by the pond shaded by a huge umbrella, there is a big wooden bench under the pergola, and there are lounge beds around the garden but like my spare rooms in the house, they are museum pieces. Nobody uses them. I don’t go out in the garden unless to work, nothing else. Our front garden inside the first gate has a place for at least five cars but it is another lost space. Somewhere to traverse from the gate to the front door, that’s it.

I often wonder and ask myself why we don’t go out in the garden to relax. The only thing I could come with is the noise of the busy traffic outside the gate. Something we never anticipated when we bought the place. We heard the noise day and night and we don’t like it. Although there is a lot of space between our house and the actual road and there are double privacy hedges and trees still it’s not relaxing. If I can uproot the house and put it somewhere quiet I already did by now. I am willing to move one last time if I find a place that will make our current residence a second best but seven years of searching brings me nowhere and the longer it takes, the prospect of moving again doesn’t hold the same allure anymore for me. And my condition doesn’t make it easy either. 

I don’t know what we gonna do but in the meantime, I will enjoy (looking at) my garden from behind closed windows.

Next time I will tell you about a garden we do use. 

Nine Personalities, One Tortured Mind

I took everything too seriously. I analyzed things to death. I turned every word, and the intonation of every word over in my mind trying to decide exactly what it meant, whether there was a subtext or an implied criticism. I tried to recall the expressions on people’s faces, how those expressions changed, what they meant, whether what they said and the look on their faces matched and were therefore genuine or whether it was a sham, the kind word touched by irony or sarcasm, the smile that means pity. That is what I would often be thinking and such thoughts ate away at the façade of self-confidence I was constantly raising and repairing.

― Alice Jamieson

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There Will Always Be Dark Days

If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness, and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days. ~ Kris Carr

It is very hard to explain to people who have never known serious depression or anxiety the sheer continuous intensity of it. There is no off switch. ~ Matt Haig

Here is the tragedy: when you are the victim of depression, not only do you feel utterly helpless and abandoned by the world, you also know that very few people can understand, or even begin to believe, that life can be this painful. There is nothing I can think of that is quite as isolating as this. ~ Giles Andreae

We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression, and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct. ~Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey

I’ve always liked depressing music because a lot of times, listening to it when you’re down can actually make you feel less depressed. Also, even though a person may have problems with depression, sometimes you can actually be kind of comfortable in that space because you know how to operate within it. ~ Chris Cornell

It’s really easy to slide into a depression fueled by the pointlessness of existence. ~ Robert Smith

Never once, during any of my bouts of depression, had I been inclined or able to pick up a telephone and ask a friend for help. It wasn’t in me. ~ Kay Redfield Jamison

You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness and that now you’re seeing truly. ~ Andrew Solomon

I don’t want to wake up. I am having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It is almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I wake up each day into a nightmare. ~ Ned Vizzini

That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel

If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do. ~ Stephen Fry

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24/7

Some days, 24 hours is too much to stay put in, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-size pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness. I actually put my hands up to my face, one next to each eye, like blinders on a horse.

~Regina Brett

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What Is Your Addiction?

I don’t have one.

I do have a fixation problem once in a while but it doesn’t last very long. For the moment it is succulents and cacti. It used to be scarves, then handbags, then blazers then shoes or pizza. My son’s poison is coffee. For D. anything sweet, in particular chocolates, but cakes and ice creams will do. He’s onto it too much that he hallucinates if he can’t eat any of those within three days. My Ex’s weakness is more lethal: alcohol. It’s a habit, a dependency, an enslavement it cost him our marriage and I heard that history is about to repeat itself. I hope not. I hope that he learned already his lessons but does leopard really lost his spots?

How about you? What is your addiction? 

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Wishful Thinking

“One day you wake up and you’re in this place. You’re in this place where everything feels right. Your heart is calm. Your soul is lit. Your thoughts are positive. Your vision is clear. You’re at peace, at peace with where you’ve been, at peace with what you’ve been through and at peace with where you’re headed.”

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It’s That Time Of The Year Again

…to go on holiday away from everything and everyone, to have a longer me time and be in the sun.

By the time you are reading this, I’m already halfway to my destination. I left around 8:00 a.m. Two hours earlier than necessary but better safe than sorry you never know what could happen in between. Starting a vacation with stress is not a good thing so, better avoid it if possible. I have chosen to drive myself to the neighboring country’s airport because of an ongoing strike at our own. They say the situation where I’m departing is also far from ideal but I have to choose the lesser of two evils and I hope I have chosen wisely.

As usual, I will be gone three weeks and will not be able to post or read and answer comments because as always when I’m on vacation I don’t go online or take any gadgets aside from my camera, but I scheduled posts for my readers so when they visit they will not go away empty-handed.

This year will be different also because I will take three annual vacations instead of just one. One this Spring, another in Autumn and two weeks between Christmas and New Year. I don’t want to spend another jolly season in cold.

Well, bye for now and see you in three weeks. Be good! 

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Fret

I’m a worrier. I worry about everything and nothing. Once a month I experience a severe anxiety attack, recurrent unexpected moments of panic and feeling of impending doom. I usually have them before and after a full moon. Coupled with chronic insomnia and irrational fears, these comorbid conditions interfere a great deal with my daily existence I can hardly function during these periods I am literally paralyzed with fear. The funny thing is I don’t exactly know why and where it is coming from. Okay, I am suffering from PTSD, that’s no secret and I know trauma is one of the triggers of this disorder but even then… Anyway, I would not bore you with tedious details. It’s enough to say that I have serious bouts of GAD. 

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