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Archive for the ‘Perfectionism’ Category

Three reasons why panic attacks happen

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

There is more to look at and work on than just “waiting for the panic attacks to go away.” Usually, in panic disorder, there are significant issues that need to be faced.

First, there can be underlying isolation. If someone is significantly isolated inside, panic comes when this isolation and aloneness are close to being felt.

Secondly, there can be issues around boundaries and freedom. These are the most common in my experience.

Panic attacks usually have some dynamic involved when a person feels powerless in some significant area of life, especially significant relationships. He/She feels like their choices are controlled by someone else or by guilt, and freedom is limited. So, at various times he/she feels the panic that comes from being powerless. Good boundary and assertiveness work can help this dynamic dramatically.

Thirdly, there are often patterns of perfectionistic or “all or nothing thinking.”

Someone interprets his performance or experience in extreme forms, and severe anxiety accompanies that process. He has to learn to look at his thinking patterns and change them. And then there are often autonomy fears and fears associated with independence and adulthood. Sometimes family-of-origin issues need to be examined to get past those dynamics.

With the combination of good medical advice and good counseling, I have all the hope in the world that panic attacks can be helped. I have seen it happen successfully over and over again.

BEING PERFECT OR — FULLY FUNCTIONAL

by Jan Johnson

Have you been bothered by that verse: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)? 

Many people are.

Some think it means we can or should drive ourselves with perfectionism. But perfectionism doesn’t lead to perfection—only to shame, as some of you have heard me say.  Others just give up and decide transformation is for someone else. Still others think that Jesus said things that just don’t make sense.

What if “perfect” means “fully functional”? 

The word for “perfect” there and elsewhere is telios, which means complete or mature.  It’s the word Jesus used on the cross in “It is FINISHED”  (looser translation:  we did it!).  Lately, Dallas Willard has taken to substituting “perfect” in these verses with “fully functional.”  Be fully functional, as your heavenly Father is fully functional.

So what does fully functional look like? 

The above verse is the summary statement from the “love your enemies” section of the Sermon on the Mount.  So to be fully functional is to be kind instead of crabby, to help other people out instead of wondering what’s wrong with them. To love difficult people means I’m fully functional, not taking the time and emotional energy to be offended by them or to judge them in my mind.

What a relief!

For days I’ve been connecting dots among the “perfect” verses and it turns out others relate to loving others as well. For example, several of the “perfect” verses occur in James, one of which describes the fully functional law (1:25), which a few verses later he calls the royal law and quotes Jesus’ great commandment (and OT law) and to love others the way we love ourselves.  (Don’t tell me you don’t love yourself;  if you’ve managed to feed and dress yourself in the last few days you’ve loved—or done what’s best for—yourself.)  To be fully functional is to love others as well as I treat myself.

Another dot:  When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler who obeyed all the laws, Jesus advises him that if he would be fully functional (perfect), he would sell all he had and give it to the poor:  radical love for others  (Matt 19:21).

Full functionality (maturity and completion) then seems to relate to moving away from self-absorption and thinking more about what others are going through. When I resent what you say to me or I choose to ignore you (not loving you), I’m not functioning with all of myself.  In fact, I begin to behave rather dysfunctionally:  self-pity, know-it-all, apathetic.  The heavenly Father is perfect in how God loves us fully. God invites me into that love and also invites me to ponder how I might love others a little more today than yesterday. Then I become a whole new me, one that is fully functional, able to stop making everything about me and willing to think about you with more generosity, mercy, and kindness.

With that in mind, Jesus’ invitation to be fully functional sounds like a really good idea.

The Secret to a Lasting Marriage: Embrace Imperfection

SOURCE:  Deb Graham

When I was a little girl, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.

On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage, and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his toast, smile at my mom, and ask me how my day was at school.

I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that toast and eat every bite! When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said: “Baby, I love burned toast.”

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his toast burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, “Debbie, your momma put in a hard day at work today and she’s real tired. And besides-a little burnt toast never hurt anyone!”

In bed that night, I thought about that scene at dinner and the kindness my daddy showed my mom. To this day, it’s a cherished memory from my childhood that I’ll never forget. And it’s one that came to mind just recently when Jack and I sat down to eat dinner.

I had arrived home, late as usual, and decided we would have breakfast food for dinner. Some things never change, I suppose!

To my amazement, I found the ingredients I needed, and quickly began to cook eggs, turkey sausage, and buttered toast. Thinking I had things under control, I glanced through the mail for the day. It was only a few minutes later that I remembered that I had forgotten to take the toast out of the oven!

Now, had it been any other day — and had we had more than two pieces of bread in the entire house — I would have started all over. But it had been one of those days and I had just used up the last two pieces of bread. So burnt toast it was!

As I set the plate down in front of Jack, I waited for a comment about the toast. But all I got was a “Thank you!” I watched as he ate bite by bite, all the time waiting for some comment about the toast. But instead, all Jack said was, “Babe, this is great. Thanks for cooking tonight. I know you had a hard day.”

As I took a bite of my charred toast that night, I thought about my mom and dad, how burnt toast hadn’t been a deal-breaker for them. And I quietly thanked God for giving me a marriage where burnt toast wasn’t a deal-breaker either!

You know, life is full of imperfect things-and imperfect people. I’m not the best housekeeper or cook. And you might be surprised to find out that Jack isn’t the perfect husband! He likes to play his music too loud, he will always find a way to avoid yard work, and he watches far too many sports. Believe it or not, watching “Golf Academy” is not my idea of a great night at home!

But somehow in the past 37 years Jack and I have learned to accept the imperfections in each other. Over time, we have stopped trying to make each other in our own mold and have learned to celebrate our differences. You might say that we’ve learned to love each other for who we really are!

For example, I like to take my time, I’m a perfectionist, and I’m even-tempered. I tend to work too much and sleep too little. Jack, on the other hand, is disciplined, studious, an early riser, and is a marketer’s dream consumer. I count pennies and Jack could care less! Where he is strong, I am weak, and vice versa.

And while you might say that Jack and I are opposites, we’re also very much alike. I can look at him and tell you what he’s thinking. I can predict his actions before he finalizes his plans. On the other hand, he knows whether I’m troubled or not the moment I enter a room.

We share the same goals. We love the same things. And we are still best friends. We’ve traveled through many valleys and enjoyed many mountaintops. And yet, at the same time, Jack and I must work every minute of every day to make this thing called “marriage” work!

What I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences – is the one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting marriage relationship.

And that’s my prayer for you today. That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your married life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Because in the end, He’s the only One who will be able to give you a marriage where burnt toast isn’t a deal-breaker!

15 Signs That You May Be A Perfectionist (and 20 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism)

SOURCE:  Rachel Fintzy Woods, M.A., LMFT

When your colleagues at work compliment you on a talk you just gave, do you dismiss their remarks and berate yourself for the one slide you forgot to include in your Powerpoint presentation?

If your husband tells you how pretty you look, do you counter with a comment like, “I really should lose five pounds”?

Do you have a critical voice in your head that constantly takes you or other people down a notch?

Signs that you may be a perfectionist:

  1. You are painfully aware and extremely critical of mistakes and perceived inadequacies. You have trouble beginning projects. You procrastinate a lot.
  2. You strive to be the best in all your endeavors, even in areas that don’t really interest you.
  3. You spend an excessive amount of time on projects, double-checking and revising your work. You obsess over minor details.
  4. You have trouble completing projects. You quit projects prematurely, often out of frustration at the process not being easy or your not being an instant natural at the task.
  5. You have difficulty making decisions. Sometimes even ordering from a menu or deciding what outfit to wear can be challenging for you.
  6. You think in all-or-nothing or black-and-white terms. For you, there is no middle ground. You use the words “should,” “have to,” and “must” a lot.
  7. You make unrealistic demands of yourself or other people, and your interpersonal relationships are often tense (or end) as a result.
  8. You suffer from social anxiety or social phobia.
  9. You avoid trying new things, for fear that you won’t excel at them or will make a mistake.
  10. You rarely feel “good enough.” You struggle with low self-esteem.
  11. You are prone to feelings of shame, depression, or anxiety.
  12. You often experience a feeling of emptiness.
  13. You suffer from stress-related physical conditions.
  14. You struggle with compulsive overeating, restrictive eating, other eating disorders, or body dysmorphic disorder.
  15. You struggle with alcohol or other substance use.

Saying ‘yes’ to any of these items is not necessarily an indication that you are a perfectionist – however, endorsing more than a few of the items may indicate that perfectionism is an issue for you.

Perfectionism can be defined as placing undue pressure on oneself and others to meet impeccable standards and being hyper-critical of mistakes. Where it is healthy to strive for excellence, perfectionism often leads to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, problems at work, and procrastination.

As author Brene Brown puts it, “When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver.”

When we succumb to perfectionism, we fight a losing battle, because we can never be good enough, simply because we are human and thus imperfect. This internal war causes tremendous stress. In fact, many of the issues that motivate us to seek psychotherapy involve some variety of perfectionism. We perceive ourselves as not sufficiently nice, thin, smart, attractive, interesting, intelligent, capable – the list goes on and on. So, we develop the belief that “if only” we had this, that, or the other thing, we’d be happy – and all the while we are chasing a mirage.

Being a perfectionist is an exhausting way to live, in which we are focused on the unreachable goal rather than paying attention to and appreciating the journey.

There are many reasons for perfectionism, some rooted in a traumatic childhood in which we felt unsafe, helpless, or unable to cope with life – and, wait, wouldn’t that be all of us to some extent, given our extremely vulnerable state as small children?

We could also have had a perfectionistic parent, who we could never please. If we received a score of 98% on a school exam, our parent questioned us about the 2% we got wrong. We might have adopted this perfectionistic approach to life ourselves.

Whatever the case, perfectionism is dangerous.

The sooner we accept that being called a perfectionist is not a compliment but a warning, the sooner we can take steps to free ourselves from perfectionism:

  1. Count the cost. Make a list of the pros and cons of your perfectionism. How has it helped or hurt you, in the short and long run? How have your career, relationships, physical, emotional, and mental health, spiritual life, finances been affected?
  2. Relinquish the all-or-nothing mindset. You cannot do everything with 100% accuracy. This is simply impossible. Be okay with being human and the inevitable learning curve involved in any project. Allow yourself to do thing imperfectly and incompletely.
  3. In fact, try being imperfect on purpose. Consider the concept that humility attracts.
  4. Focus on the big picture. Stop obsessing over unimportant details. Do not get lost in the minutiae.
  5. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments, large and small, rather than focusing on what you did not achieve.
  6. When it comes to feelings of “not having enough” (such as with consumerism), ask yourself if you really need something and what value it would add to your life. Chances are that you do not need another toy just because the ubiquitous ads tell you that you need it or because your friend or colleague has it.
  7. Set your priorities. It’s not realistic to have 20 items at the top of your daily to-do list. Pick one to three things on which to focus your energy, and devote a reasonable amount of time to each item.
  8. Give yourself a reality check. Ask yourself, “How important is this, really? How much will this matter to me in a week? A month? A year?”
  9. Consider the worst-case scenario and how you would deal with this. Would the world really end if you wore two mismatched socks? If you forgot a friend’s name? If you gained five pounds?
  10. Focus on the process, not the result. Adopt a curious, courageous, and kind attitude, appreciating every step of your journey, even the unpleasant ones, as opportunities to learn and grow.
  11. Practice radical self-acceptance. Appreciate yourself, warts and all, and accept life on life’s terms. You cannot control everyone and everything.
  12. Replace your self-doubt with self-respect, self-love, and self-compassion. Getting to know your real self, as opposed to an idealized image you wish to portray to the world and yourself, is the antidote to perfectionism.
  13. Allow yourself to experience all of your feelings. Perfectionism demands that we feel certain emotions and not other emotions. What often happens in this scenario is that we end up being estranged from all of our emotions, as it’s almost impossible to pick and choose what we’re going to feel. The healthier choice is to bear compassionate witness to the full gamut of your emotions, without judgment.
  14. Make healthy relationships a priority. Let other people know your true, magnificently imperfect self. This is the only way to develop authentic relationships.
  15. Take good care of your body, mind, and spirit. The basics: good nutrition, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, relaxation, fun, intellectually challenging projects, an active social life, meditation, and connection with a higher (i.e., bigger than you) purpose.
  16. Don’t overthink things. Just dive in there. You can revise later, or try another one of the options on your list.
  17. Remove the words “should,” “should have,” “must,” “have to,” and “if only” from your vocabulary, and replace them with “want to,” “choose to,” “prefer,” and “now I’ll…” Let go of the past, which you cannot control. Focus on now and your next step.
  18. Understand that while your perfectionism and associated wish to control your feelings and environment may have developed from childhood attempts to deal with anxiety (it’s scary being a helpless child), you are older now and can employ other more-effective methods of coping.
  19. Don’t let fear dictate your behavior. You can feel uncomfortable and take action all the same. Your inevitable mistakes don’t define you. Done is better than perfect.
  20. Determine your most important values and life purpose, and let these guide how you allocate your time, energy, and resources. Use these ideals as guidelines, not absolutes, to avoid perfectionism in this area. Although you may continue to keep to-do lists, refrain from letting your lists (and thus your achievements) determine your self-worth and direction.

We are all human.

None of us is all good or all bad. And this is okay. As you shed the perfectionism habit and embrace being the glorious person who you really are, you’re likely to be a lot more relaxed, happier, easier to be around, healthier, and, yes, more productive.

You Need to Accept the Reality of Failure

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

”There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 GNT).

In America, failure is almost the unpardonable sin. We idolize success.

But that kind of pressure creates major stress on people. The fear of failure has many different faces. It can cause you to be indecisive, a workaholic, and a perfectionist who clings to safety. Because we’re afraid to fail, we shun all kinds of risks.

For many of us, that fear of failure has an iron grip on our hearts. Even some of the best and the brightest people in the world are the most impacted by a fear of failure.

That’s why I urge you to internalize this one simple message: We’ve all made mistakes. It’s not just a “you problem”; it’s a human problem. The Bible says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 GNT).

Not only have you made mistakes in the past, but you’ll also make more in the future. I guarantee it. Even playing it safe and refusing to take risks is a mistake. As a pastor, I hear people ask all the time, “What if I fail?” I want to ask them, “What do you mean ‘if?'”

You’ve already failed many, many times in life. So have I. You’re a failure in some area of your life right now. And you’ll fail a lot more in the future.

Even superstars stumble. The greatest professional basketball players only sink half their shots. The best professional baseball players will get out two out of every three at-bats. Failure is normal.

You’ll never overcome your fear of failure until you fully accept the reality that you’re not perfect.

The Bible says there is only one failure you need to fear: “Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV).

You need grace. We all do!

Only when we let go of the fear of failure will it let go of its maddening grip on our lives. Once that happens, we can fully accept the grace of God

Perfectionism is Ruining Your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to become preoccupied with perfection. That’s different from envisioning perfection as a goal.

It’s about whether perfection is a goal, or something that you demand. Believing that you can realistically attain perfection is no different than wandering through the desert, ever-thirsty, toward a mirage that only recedes toward the horizon. A lot of people obsess over perfection. This obsession is a massive waste of time and energy.

Perfectionism is a distraction, a justification for procrastination, an excuse for never getting anything done. When perfectionism is about one’s own striving, it is hostility aimed inward. When it is aimed at others, it is a cold and compassionless hostility toward the world. Perfectionism is a refusal to accept reality, and it is rooted in fear. To the perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough.

For many people, perfectionism originates in childhood, with parental pressure to achieve. This can be motivated by a lot of things, from parents measuring their own status by the achievements of their children, to an egotistical desire to imprint their child with capabilities they wish they had themselves. Whatever the cause, perfectionism often has an opposite effect from what these parents would hope for their children to develop if they want them to become high achievers. Perfectionists are much less likely to take risks because they are afraid of failing, and the willingness to take risks, along with the adaptability to learn from one’s mistakes, are two essential characteristics of high achievers.

Perfectionists fail to accept that the world, and all of the people in it, are flawed. Understanding that concept is something that can fuel compassion, foster empathy, and help you develop healthy structures for continuously improving your own performance.

It’s fair to say that doing something the wrong way, whether at work or in a relationship, feels bad. By contrast, doing something the right way feels good. This is a core concept underlying the self-regulating systems of internal rewards that drive motivation. With a healthy, growth-oriented mindset, navigating these pathways will help us to increase our capacities in the most important areas of our lives.

In order to put that idea to use, we must be willing to make mistakes along the way. Sometimes we will not do things the right way. Someone who accepts that reality would understand that the mistakes we make are learning opportunities, glean what lessons they can from their experiences, and work on improving. The perfectionist fights reality. They do not want the bad feelings that come along with making mistakes. They drastically overestimate the pain that will be caused by those bad feelings. They become paralyzed. They do not grow.

Perfectionism is an incapacitating force. It stops us from connecting with the real, but it also stops us from connecting with others. The inward perfectionist will never feel good enough to be loved or appreciated, the outward perfectionist will always find the flaws in the details, unable to find redeeming virtues that are plainly visible to the rest of us.

Habits are hard to break, but the mechanics of overcoming perfectionism are easy to put into practice. All you have to do is be willing to make a lot of mistakes. Understand that that’s what we’re all doing all the time, continuously messing up, learning, and doing better.

There is a relevant passage from a book called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. The scene takes place at a tennis academy. It’s a conversation between two players, one of whom is suffering from debilitating perfectionism:

“Suppose I were to give you a key ring with a hundred keys, and I were to tell you that one of those keys will unlock it, and this door we’re imagining opening in onto all you want to be, as a player. How many of the keys would you be willing to try?”

“Well, I’d try every darn one,” Rader tells Lyle.

“Then you are willing to make mistakes, you see. You are saying you will accept 99% error. The paralyzed perfectionist you say you are would stand there before that door. Jingling the keys. Afraid to try the first key.”

Profile of a workaholic

SOURCE:  Ray Pritchard/CareLeader

Workaholics.

You’ve got them in your church, and at times, you can relate to them yourself.

A workaholic is a compulsive worker: he chooses to work a lot, think about work, and then work even more.

What does the Bible say to workaholics?

Ecclesiastes 6:7–8 says, “All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living?” (NASB). His “appetite is not satisfied.” The Hebrew word translated “appetite” may also be translated as “soul.” This is yet another reminder by Solomon that we were made for more than food. A man may get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and then do the same thing for the next fifty years. After that he retires to Arizona, plays golf, and then he dies. So what? His soul has not been satisfied by anything he has done. He dies unfulfilled even though his friends said nice things about him at his funeral.

What are the signs of workaholism?

The modern term workaholic refers to those people who are addicted to their work. For them, work is life, and the more they work, the better they feel. Here are three telltale signs of workaholism:

  1. Their total energy is given to their work so that they have nothing left to give at home.
  2. They constantly think about their work even when they are not at work.
  3. They find it difficult to relax when they are away from their work.

What are common characteristics of a workaholic?

Workaholics generally are Type A personalities: committed, aggressive, demanding, perfectionistic, goal-oriented, high achievers, impatient with weakness, easily frustrated, having enough stamina to work twelve hours a day six (or seven) days a week. They love the long hours and the high pressure job. One man said, “I don’t know how I got rich. I only worked half-days: the first half or the second half.”

What wrong beliefs do workaholics hold?

From God’s point of view workaholics make three fundamental mistakes. To be more specific, they believe three heretical ideas:

  1. “It all depends upon me.”
  2. “If I don’t do it, nobody else will.”
  3. “My worth depends upon my work.”

Like all heresies, there is a grain of truth in each statement. Work is good. It was created by God for the benefit of the human race (Gen. 2:15). But for a person to believe his worth depends upon his work is to deny the truth of the grace of God. Workaholics are simply repeating the Galatian heresy—that we are saved by grace but kept by works (Eph. 2:8–9; Gal. 3:3).

The truth is, it all depends upon God. Everyone comes to that conclusion sooner or later. Unfortunately, some people have to die to find it out. Happy are those who understand the difference between living to work and working to live.

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