Archives for Perfectionism
In my last post, I introduced you to what Dr. Pauline Rose Clance calls the "impostor phenomenon" -- that nagging feeling that, despite being perfectly qualified to do something, you just don't belong. That you're just not good enough (even though you are). That you're just not smart enough (even though, again, you are). Have you ever felt like this before?
Do you ever feel like you're "faking it" -- at work, at school, or at home? Like you're not qualified to be there, but by the grace of chance or luck, you are? And do you feel like one day someone's going to "out" you? Reveal you as a fraud? Point a finger at you and identify you as an impostor?
[Warning: this video might (obviously) be triggering for those of you with panic disorder. It definitely put me a bit on edge. It does end on a happy note, if that's of any consolation.] Have you ever had a panic attack in front of a large audience? I've had my (unfairly large) share of panic attacks -- but most of them were only in front of small audiences, like the gaggle of shoppers who were behind me in line at CVS when I doubled over in dizziness at checkout. (The moments between that first scanned item and that final step of swiping my payment card is akin to being stuck on an elevator between floors. After the first "beep" of the UPC scanner, I am trapped. I no longer have an easy excuse to run out of the store, if needed. I have to have to have to keep it cool and stay non-panicky, dammit, until that receipt is in my hand, right? I mean, otherwise...I'd look like a complete ass running out of there.) And, oh, the marketing meeting at my former job in a stuffy, sardine-can-of-a conference room! I'll never forget that panic attack.
There's a lot of guilt involved in having an anxiety disorder. (If you, reader, have an anxiety disorder, you know exactly what I mean, right?) For the rest of you, I'll spell it out clearly: we feel guilty for not being able to keep up with household chores, everyday errands, or taking care of the kids. We feel guilty for giving our spouses or significant others more "blah" time than happy fun time. More shaking, less adventure. More nausea, fewer vacations. More fear, less novelty. And that guilt? It sucks. We feel guilty for so many things: for not being able to grab a couple things at the big bright grocery store. For not being able to work a "normal" job with a "normal" schedule. For RSVPing for a friend's wedding and then chickening out at the last minute because it's a 3 hour drive and you feel too lightheaded to even drive down the street (and I'm still sorry about that, Melissa). We feel guilty for not being able to do all the things we believe we "should" be able to do.
Take a stroll -- well, a scroll -- through your Facebook news feed. Seriously -- go. Go do it. If it looks anything like mine, it's full of wedding engagements, photos of squeaky little babies, and old classmates who hold job titles like "Director of Planning and Strategic Somethingoranother at Awesome Company, LLC". Facebook makes me feel...well, behind. Behind in some way. Socially and professionally. Let me qualify that statement before my husband get angry -- I'm most definitely married (to a really amazing guy, in fact -- one who "gets" the panic thing), but...
Once, when I was in elementary school, I got a 97% on a test. Pretty good, right? I took it home to show my mom. This was fridge material. "Wow," she said, "not bad..." Pause. "...but you probably could've gotten 100%." Ugh. As an adult, now, looking back, I know she was kidding. She had to be kidding. Right? I wish I could go back in time and watch this interaction with adult eyes, detecting the subtle nuances in her brow movement, to prove to myself that it was a harmless joke from a mother who knew her kiddo was on the straight and narrow. But that pint-sized brain of mine, tucked inside my skinny little body that wore a hefty neon pink and yellow backpack, heard only one thing: you could have done better.
(Note: the following is a guest post written by Kayley Eshenaur, a 21-year-old senior at Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA. I haven't done much yet in this blog to address the anxiety that many young women feel when it comes to body image. I thought Kayley's well-written piece -- originally published in The Lycourier, the student newspaper that I advise -- would help to fill that gap.) Growing up in today’s society can be strenuous on a woman considering the ideology of unrealistic female body types. Everywhere she looks there are magazines with bold headlines shouting the same reoccurring words, “loose twenty pounds in two weeks,” or “achieve radiant and perfect hair by using this product!” The television does not offer an escape from this call to “perfection” either; specials like the E-Entertainment “30 best and worst beach bodies” pinpoint all the rights and wrongs of the female body. The messages that the media is sending out to girls today is that they need to have the perfect hair, clothing, and body; overall they should be gorgeous. The media coverage on the female body puts a lot of stress on a woman’s appearance which deflates her self-confidence and leads some to self-destruction.
Back in February, I resolved to write a blog post every single day for the entire month. I got the idea from BlogHer.com and I was excited about the idea for the first week. Thrilled, in fact. I wrote about how writing every day would help to quash my perfectionistic tendencies. And, for that first week, it did. But then, I got sick. (I can't even remember what I had -- stomach virus? A nasty cold? Thank goodness bad memories tend to fade. I'm grateful that I can't recall the specifics!) Whatever the illness was, it killed my enthusiasm to write daily. And, technically, I failed. My goal was to write a blog post every single day, and I didn't meet that goal. But life happens. We get sick. Our priorities change. "FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION" The other day, I was taking a walk outside by myself -- something that agoraphobia wouldn't allow me to do only a few short months ago -- and I saw a woman standing on the porch of a house in my suburban neighborhood. She was clutching a purse and knocking on the door with her first. She seemed angry.
It's only February 8th, and I've already failed at my NaBloPoMo goal: one blog post, every single day, for the entire month of February. Why did I set such a goal? Well, because. Because I like to write. Because it's fun to have goals sometimes. Because I think that the more I write, the less I'll feel the heavy hand of perfectionism weighing down on each post. But, on February 7th, I did not write a blog post. What's my excuse? Well, I was too busy sleeping on the bathroom floor with some bastardization of the stomach flu. At 5:30 this morning, I found myself curled up with a bathrobe and a rug. The scene: peppermint oil near the radiator. A pack of ginger gum under my left thigh. Anti-nausea bands on my wrists. A cup of home-made Gatorade (water, OJ, salt, sugar) on the sink. The past 24 hours have been difficult and long. Nausea is one of my panic triggers, and I'm a self-diagnosed emetophobe -- so of course, every minute felt like an hour. I shook not only because of the chills and the fever, but because my nervous system still -- even after how much CBT? -- likes to overreact to uncomfortable bodily sensations.
For reasons I still don't understand, I decided earlier today that I would participate in "NaBloPoMo" for the whole month of February. Yeah, let me spell that one out for you: National Blog Posting Month. You might already be familiar with NaNoWriMo, or "National Novel Writing Month," which takes place in November. Nablopomo (oh, forget the capital letters) is a bit different in that it takes place every month, and the good folks over at BlogHer pick a monthly theme. (This month's theme? "Relative.") And you participate whichever month you'd like. And, for some reason, I committed to February. I committed to write one blog post EVERY SINGLE DAY for an entire month. At least it's February -- only 28 days, right? Oh, wait. Outstanding. This is a leap year. Make that 29. Anyway, the whole point of the project is to stretch your brain and your writing and your fingers in brand new ways. Melissa Ford describes it eloquently: It's that time again; time to commit to posting every day for a full month by joining in with NaBloPoMo. The point? Well, beyond the endurance factor -- of becoming a writing athlete -- there's the benefit from daily writing. I use it as a way to warm up before getting into book writing. And then there's the community aspect: joining NaBloPoMo is like joining a gym. You're writing in a group and feeding off that for motivation rather than writing alone. Becoming a writing athlete. Boy, I like that. I sure as heck can't get myself to the gym -- yeah, that whole agoraphobia thing, um -- but I can easily open up my laptop & say something fruitful each day. Right? Right!?!