Returning to wholeness

Women Returning to Wholeness

life transition counselling

Are you a perfectionist? You might be nodding your head vigorously and saying “Yes, that me. It’s what has gotten me to where I am today.” Or you might think that you’re so laid back and relaxed, perfectionism plays no role in your life whatsoever.

No matter what your stance, perfectionism can be a double-edged sword because it can lead to counter-productive behaviors.

Marketing and advertising strategies tend to exploit the image of “the perfect woman.” What’s wrong with doing and looking your best, you may ask? After all, many would concur that being a high achiever is what makes you successful.

As a perfectionist you may be familiar with  certain behaviours that are actually counter-productive to your desired outcome.

We all know the quote “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” One might think that perfectionists would be the first ones to put this into action.

Yet a common behavior for perfectionists to engage in, is procrastination. You see, what we haven’t really talked about yet, is that perfectionism is connected to anxiety. The anxiety or the fear of not being good enough, of being rejected, of being a failure or displeasing someone.

Let’s take the example of Susan. Susan is a successfully self-employed interior decorator. Recently her business coach suggested that she should start blogging to establish herself as an expert and connect more frequently with her clients. On Friday, when Susan had planned to blog, she found herself very busy. She caught up on all her filing, she did her invoicing and she cleared her desk. Because her office is located in her home, Susan then decided she should bake some muffins as an afternoon snack for the children. Susan got a lot accomplished on that Friday, except the one thing that was on her schedule: write the blog post.

When Susan and I talked about what happened, she realized that her procrastination was connected to anxiety. She was worried that her writing wouldn’t be good enough. She agonized that people reading her blog post would think she was stupid or was passing on irrelevant information. She was a hostage of perfectionism, which in turn made her feel vulnerable and afraid to fail.

 Do you ever find yourself putting off a task because you’re not good at it or you’re worried about the outcome?

While procrastination is actually a way to self soothe your feelings of anxiety, in the long run it makes things worse. Anxiety lives in the body, so one way for you to move forward is to literally move your body forward. Grounding breathing techniques such as belly breathing, visualizing a positive outcome, and repeating positive affirmations can help.

You can also break down the task at hand into small steps so it feels less overwhelming. Progress comes with awareness. Once you have identified that you’re procrastinating and why, you can do something about it. Journaling and exploring worst-case scenarios can be useful to dispel the story in your head.

Because it is a story, a story that you’ve been telling yourself or that you have bought into. And just like you can change your thoughts, you can choose and learn to change the story. Are you ready to let go of your need to do it perfectly?

 

You don’t expect your counsellor to talk about your closet. However, how you do anything in life is how you do everything. In this series, we’re taking a look at how loving your closet can be a springboard towards the transformational journey of self-love and acceptance.

In part one we looked at how keeping clothes that don’t fit can contribute to that feeling of standing in front of your closet and saying “I’ve got nothing to wear!”

In part two, let’s take a look at

You’ve got nothing to wear because your closet and clothes need some TLC

Are you chaotically messy or does your closet house a random collection of things that don’t belong; such as gum wrappers, old tissues, broken shoes, books, ecc.? Are all your accessories thrown in a drawer or are they nicely organized?

Do you have a mix and match of hangers and piles of clothes that need serious mending, torn off buttons and stains that didn’t come out in the wash?

While a busy schedule may create a temporary backlog of things to attend to, a permanent lack of TLC for your clothes and accessories points to a general attitude about your self-care.

Remember we said that how you do anything is how you do everything? Do you have unfinished situations in your life which need “cleaning up” or “mending”? Do details bore you or simply cost too much energy? Do you tend to “fly by the seat of your pants” and generally don’t like to spend too much time planning ahead?

When you store little value in taking care of your clothes, there’s often an underlying theme of less than stellar self-care or self-esteem. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to feel like a million bucks in the clothes you wear. You do have to cultivate an attitude of deserving positive attention and good feelings about yourself.

To help you shift to a stance of valuing and loving yourself, evaluate what you would like to repair and mend in your life and in your closet….and what would you finally like to throw out.

Perhaps the time has come to trash the shirt with the stain and the tear just like it’s time to say good bye to that friend who keeps letting you down and whose toxic energy has left a stain in your heart.

 

Stay tuned for part 3, the closet full of “mistakes.”

 

 

Becoming a caregiver can activate a lot of emotions. Particularly when women become responsible for the care of a parent, I have noticed how easy it is to get caught in the perfectionism trap.   It becomes important to do a perfect job, to be a perfect caregiver…adding an extra layer of stress.

I have yet to meet a woman who isn’t familiar, at least to some extent, with the notion of not feeling good enough.

Today I’d like to share a story of how the need to do it right  can contribute to overstepping boundaries.

In the last little while I’ve been counselling and supporting women who are navigating that life transition piece of becoming a caregiver.

The story of Joan (name has been changed) illustrates how perfectionism, or  “extremely high standards” can be driven by the need for approval of others.

Joan’s mother is a widow in her late 70s. In the months, she’s been struggling with vision loss and recently she broke her ankle.  Because mother hasn’t felt very safe to go out on the streets alone or to do her shopping, Joan has stepped in and has been taking care of providing her with groceries.  Now that mother is fairly immobilized with a broken ankle, Joan has taken over the cleaning of her apartment as well.

When Joan came to see me she was feeling very frustrated.  Her mother was complaining to everybody that all she was doing was cleaning.  Here I am trying so hard and all my mother does is complain, Joan shared with a mixture of sadness, anger and confusion.

Then the other day Joan and mother had a big fight about mother’s housecoat. In her efforts to keep everything clean and tidy, Joan had also decided to wash mother’s robe. It was then that she noticed that the robe was starting to look a little worn and ratty.

She told mother that she thought she needed a new housecoat.  But mother didn’t agree. Not only did she love that housecoat – it had been a gift from Joan’s father. She  thought it was still good enough. Joan spent about 30 min. arguing but couldn’t sway mother.

So she decided to take matters into her own hands. The next time she visited, she replaced the housecoat with a new robe and took the old one with her for disposal. Instead of being grateful and pleased about the gift, Joan’s mother was furious and Joan felt very unappreciated.

As we worked together, Joan was able to identify what had happened. She’d been afraid that someone would come and visit her mother and see her old worn-out robe and decide that Joan was neglecting her parent.

Her cleaning frenzies had been motivated by the same fear. So rather than enjoying time with mother and keeping her company, she’d been driving herself crazy cleaning the apartment from top to bottom… even though her mother had asked her to stop.

Have you ever experienced anything similar?

Have you felt embarrassed by the behavior or circumstances of someone close to you because you felt it was a direct reflection on you?

Perhaps you worried about being judged a poor parent, an incompetent pet owner or a “not good enough” daughter or son. While this is a good example of how the desire for approval can activate perfectionism, it also illustrates the loss of boundaries.

The next time you feel an urge to step in and fix something or somebody, or take care of something for somebody that isn’t really your responsibility, stop and take a deep breath.

In fact take several deep breaths. Then connect with this mantra or truth:

“I don’t have the power over, control of, or responsibility for other people’s lives. I was taught that I had these powers. This is a lie I now tell myself.”

Of course you are responsible if you’re caring for an infant or child. But as the child grows and becomes more independent or when you deal with adults who have full mental capacity you are no longer responsible for their well-being, appearance or feelings.

While you may mean well when you step in and fix something, as the story of Joan illustrates, you’re not really doing the person a favour. Furthermore while it may look like it’s all about them, upon closer examination, you will most likely discover that you’re meeting a need of your own.

 If you’d like to ease the stress that perfectionism can create, I invite you to check out my new tele-seminar series about “Embracing the gifts of imperfection and letting go of perfectionism” in the Events section.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback to this blog post.

How do you feel about ageing? If you are reading this and you haven’t hit your 40s yet, you might not spend any time thinking about ageing at this point in your life.

But if you have passed the 40 or 50 mark then you might have spent some time reviewing your life:

  • Where has it led you so far?
  • Are you being the woman or man you want to be?
  • Are you living the life you have always wanted to live?

For many of us, change or transition is part of the “mid-life” period. Children grow up and leave the nest, parents age and caregiving roles become reversed, marriages fall apart due to “mid-life crisis.

It is natural to re-evaluate goals, dreams and challenges when you are faced with transitions in your life. Life-transition counselling can help you navigate this exciting period which is often overshadowed with “heavier” feelings such as loss or grief.

We live in an era that cultivates and approaches life with a very different mindset compared to the beliefs our grandparents grew up with. Many of us, particularly if we have the privilege of living in a civilized, peaceful and affluent part of the globe have started to embrace the notion that we create our own reality.

In our consumer and industry driven part of the world, what that reality looks like is heavily influenced by the media and ultimately by politics.

Ageing or better said “preserving youthfulness” is a multi-billion industry that encompasses everything from cosmetics to supplements. While different messages about the benefits or drawbacks of ageing compete for our attention, our cultural heritage and family values continue to have a large impact on our attitudes and beliefs.

Hence, your mindset and your internalized beliefs will influence the ease with which you might navigate life transition periods or why you might seek life transition counselling.

This is good news! Why? Because you can choose the thoughts you think.

Fascinating studies from people like Ellen Langer at Harvard, show that the belief system someone has by the age of nine determines what they believe about aging. Those who believe that as you age you become wise and that there are positive things associated with aging, add seven years to their life.

If you didn’t grow up with a positive belief system about aging, it’s not too late to shift your way of  thinking. Dr. Christian Northrup’s response to the question of how women can overcome guilt and other self-perpetuating abuse, is to switch focus.

Switch your focus from everything that can go wrong to everything that can go right.

Therefore, when you are navigating a transition period in your life connected to mid-life change and the prospects of aging, think positive thoughts, think about the things you love and focus on living the life of your dreams… it might just extend your life span and will certainly help you make positive life changes.