The suprising ways perfectionism sabotages you.
When I was growing up, I experienced my home life as a rigidly controlled and orderly setting. At any given time, one could open a door, closet, drawer, cupboard or shoebox and find pristine neatness. There was a right way to do everything, and a right time for everything. Consequently, there were more wrong ways than right. In summary, we didn’t “going with the flow” or allow for flexible outcomes. The standard was really high, and to me felt unreachable. For a long time, I used my home life as the definition of perfectionism. Reasonably, I concluded that I must not struggle with perfectionism because this demanding level of order choked the life out of me. It still does. For a naturally spontaneous, free-spirited, people-oriented type, this way of living is torture. There is no way I struggle with perfectionism, I thought. I was wrong.
Often perfectionists are misunderstood as just ultra-high achievers. However, those who struggle with perfectionist thinking and behavior experience high stress, low life satisfaction, and are extremely critical (of themselves, but also often of others). They hone in on the flaws, set unrealistic standards, and struggle to bounce back from disappointments or setbacks. Because of their strong resistance to failure, perfectionists procrastinate, avoid taking risks, and react defensively to outside criticism. Not exactly the kind of behaviors one finds in high performers and accomplished people. It’s easy to see how perfectionism sets one up for unhappiness, low-success, and a trail of relationship problems.
A true, all-around perfectionist is pretty easy to spot. But sometimes perfectionism touches just a particular area in someone, rearing up in specific situations, in certain areas, and with predictable behaviors. Most likely, your perfectionism doesn’t completely define you. Perhaps your perfectionism gets in your way in some very precise places. What is your “Perfectionist Type”? While these descriptions are somewhat generalistic, they provide a starting point for understanding how perfectionism presents in you.
The Commander: This perfectionist type jumps to action when the atmosphere feels urgent or important. She focuses on controlling the situation, including the uncontrollable elements like what other people think, feel or do. These types take charge of others, delegate tasks, and set expectations and deadlines in a reactive way rather than a cooperative style. Rapidly changing their approach or plans, they can appear irrational or inconsistent. When identifying problems, they blame others quickly and feel an urgency to implement solutions. As they push their perfect, solutions, they create stress for everyone. The good news is, once the problem is solved Commanders quickly return to normal.
The Performer: This perfectionist type rarely believes he measures up when doing things for others. Their standards for self in their natural setting are usually reasonable; they can prioritize, adjust, and manage setbacks. However, when anticipating that others will be evaluating their efforts or performance, all reasonability is thrown out the window. This perfectionist over-works, over-spends, and over-does it, even when those around him comment that his effort or product is more than good enough. Even with reassurance or praise, he doubts that others are being completely honest and creates excessive anxiety with self-doubts. When he uses his talents and abilities “out of the limelight”, he experiences great satisfaction, but when people are present, perfectionism ruins his joy. No amount of admiration or appreciation satisfies, and he misses out on enjoying his success.
The Deliberator: This perfectionism type believes there is always a way for everyone to win. She will wait, ask questions, research, confer with others, ask more questions, and resist offering her opinion as she works to find the perfect way. Her unrealistic expectation is that everyone should equally win and be happy. She procrastinates, avoids taking action, and loses opportunities. She can seem wishy-washy as she changes her position based on her perception of how others feel. She may cautiously proceed and even achieve success, but to her it is a loss because of her impossible expectations of finding a way to make everyone win. The world misses out on many of her ingenious ideas and remarkable skills because she wanted to avoid conflicts and disappointing people.
The Inspector: This perfectionist type emerges whenever there are details, especially details that tap into his expertise. The forest gets lost in the trees, as he meticulously scrutinizes details, data, and the “way it’s done”. This type will double and triple check, noticing even the slightest problem. The bigger picture fades in the background, and those around him do, too. They sweat the small stuff, because the small stuff needs to be perfectly accurate. Demanding and critical, he becomes increasingly persistent in his high standards. He has a hard time letting go, accepting less than the best, and becomes very independent. In exasperation, these types will give up and quit rather than accept something most people would be quite pleased with.
Don’t be discouraged if you see yourself in one or two of these descriptions, because if you look very closely, you'll find some absolutely wonderful traits mixed into those types! The Commanders are brave and willing to go against the status quo and popular opinion to make great things happen. The Performers have a talent for seeing what will excite, impress, and influence others, and passionately pours heart into their work. The Deliberators are an advocate for other people’s ideas, needs, and feelings and have little concern for accolades or getting the credit. The Inspectors have the ability to go deep into a problem and do the analytical work that most people would find exhausting; they are smart, creative, and aren’t afraid to slow things down.
We can overcome the perfectionism that holds us back from being our most successful, productive, and joyous self. Whether you see yourself in one trait, a blend of two, or perhaps in all FOUR, it’s worth the effort to make the mindset and behavior changes. You’ll sleep better, enjoy your accomplishments, overcome your failures, relate better with others, increase emotional wellbeing, reduce your blood pressure, and have more time for what you love. The first step is always awareness. Pay attention to when your perfectionism type rises up in you and what that looks and sounds like. Be kind and patient with yourself and acknowledge your successes as you work to overcome perfectionism, no matter what type you are. You aren’t the only Commander, Performer, Deliberator or Inspector in the room!
Would you like to understand your perfectionist type more? If you’d like to uncover more about your personality, motivators, and communication strengths and learn how to appreciate yourself and others better, DISC personality consulting and coaching is a great tool for transformational growth!
Were you in the Clean Plate Club? Did you power through that horrendous college course instead of dropping? How inspiring are these phrases: never give up; finish what you start; go the distance. We learned the importance of finishing as kids and we teach it to our own kids. Yes, I believe that when one commits to something, it is important to stay in it and at it until the end. But sometimes we can’t see when it’s time to be finished. So, how do we know the difference? Over the past few years, God had been trying to tell me to let this one rather BIG thing go. I was fighting to stay invested, but God was directing the river’s current to take me somewhere new. I was enthusiastic and ready for this new venture. I was taking risks, wading deeper and investing myself whole heartedly. I was all in! Yet, I was also chained to this one thing – this good, helpful, worthwhile thing. Obligation and commitment and good intentions were weighing me down, and I was choking in the water. I was slow to “get” the message that it was time to quit.
One reason we miss the signal it's time to let it go is that intrinsically it seems wrong, especially if the decision will affect people. Inconvenience, discomfort, and disruption aren't usually fun, and people often interpret this as "personal hurt” inflicted by your choice. We keep working well past quitting time. We remain in the wrong place because if we don’t, something will change for someone. We make their comfort our responsibility. Sometimes people will tell us it’s our job to keep their lives constant and orderly. I have heard this from others and believed it myself. This was one of the reasons I couldn’t see that God was encouraging me to let it go.
It’s hard to quit because God calls us to endure. Christians are patient, long suffering, and live sacrificial lives. Here is my second reason I couldn’t quit: I was afraid to trust myself. I questioned if I could accurately know my own motives. What if I was being selfish? What if my exhaustion was from “working from my own strength” and I needed to rely more on God? Perhaps I was being double-minded. Later, I recognized that my exhaustion was from working from my own strength and reaching my own end. God wanted me to come to the end. He wanted me to recognize the crossed finish line.
How do we know if we are quitting too soon? What if it's more like, "ending earlier than expected"? Perhaps it’s a role you agreed to perform in, but there isn’t an end in sight. It may be a ministry you started or a career you’ve pursued. It could be a relationship, too. You may have poured your time, money, and heart into a God-sized vision and wonder if stopping now makes you a quitter or a finisher. I wondered too. I hung on another year. I adapted. I asked a close friend for insight. It was my topic of conversation with my professional coach. I waffled, questioned, felt guilty, and more and more like a failure. I didn’t know how I could know for sure if God was saying, “Let this go.”
I didn’t find my answer easily. Before I remembered that God’s will for me isn’t complicated, rigid or shrouded in mystery, I made a mess of mistakes. I was afraid that I was abandoning my own party. But in reality, I was overstaying my welcome. And I felt like the person enduring that overstaying house guest. I also felt like the house guest who is so very ready to go home. I was impatient. I was irritable. I was growing resentful. I felt stuck. I was checking my watch. I didn’t recognize myself. Five years ago, I had super-human patience, an easy-going and positive spirit, and contentment in serving. I once was invigorated by the work. Why was I so stressed, anxious and exhausted?
Back in the early 2,000’s I ran the Chicago Marathon. The last two miles were tough, but I knew I would reach the finish line. When I did, I slowed down to a walk and exploded with relief and joy and celebrated completing 26.2 miles! I didn’t keep running past the finish line another 46 miles. That would be dangerous as well as crazy.
One way we can determine if we have continued running past the finish line is by paying attention to the health of souls. What does that look like for you? I started asking myself if my impatience, irritation, resentment, and growing sadness came from my own choosing or from somewhere else. I started listening to God’s voice and listened expectantly. He spoke to me through my circumstances and through some deep hurts. He used an encouraging email from someone who affirmed my now current direction. He showed me His truth through a client. He spoke through my loss. I kept seeking him, and he kept speaking to me. I realized that when I was working with God, I had grace to handle much. When I kept working after my quitting time, I was pushing from my own strength, and that strength had run out. I was well past running on fumes. I couldn’t even run on Dunkin. Have you been there?
There were two reasons (that I mentioned) that prevented me from believing I could finish early. I had accepted a job for myself that was impossible to do. I couldn’t shield anyone from challenges, discomfort, or change. And if someone translates discomfort as hurt, that doesn’t mean I harmed them. The same goes for you. You and I can move on, finish early, or even quit. I also had doubted myself and God’s gracious, non-complicated, never-ending love for me. I could never be loved less by God, even when I quit. I could never be loved more by God, even when I run myself ragged. His yoke is easy and He wants to talk with me and show me His ways.
This was a hard-learned lesson over many years, and it would be wonderful to have a quizlet or “five easy steps” to show you how to know when it’s ok to quit. If I had discovered the formula, I could have written a book with an accompanying journal. If our Christian life could be worked through with formulas, we would have little need to spend time talking and listening with God. Sometimes it’s time to keep going, to lean on God’s strength and go the next step one day at a time. I am there now. Maybe you are there, too. Sometimes it’s time to recognize the finish line, lay down the burden, and rest in God’s peace and timing. I am right there now, too. What is God saying to you?
There are some things we know in our head, but they don’t seem to really take root, like these three:
The battle rages inside of us because we also believe that:
Am I right, or am I right? I am right. Let’s go further. There are some truths to my second list. Neither you nor I have arrived, and we do struggle with an imperfect nature that tends to sin. We also have traits that annoy people. We have habits or make choices that hurt ourselves or others. Sometimes… with a careful approach, looking at what others are doing can potentially help us have a more accurate picture of ourselves. Sometimes. Also, there may be some areas you are experiencing failure, and you need to make some changes and improve.
This is the problem with self-improvement, reflection, growth, etc. The process itself can go incredibly wrong. We can veer off into any number of ditches or travel down rabbit trails and wind up anxious, depressed, arrogant, bitter, discontent, narcissistic, or manically restless.
When I was in junior high, I concluded that my personality was 90% wrong. So, I created a list of right and desirable personality traits and strived to replace all the qualities that were wrong in me. A few weeks later, exhausted, discouraged and confused, I succumbed to my old ways: messy locker, forgotten homework, talkative, silly, creative, spontaneous, me. That try wasn’t my only attempt at giving myself a makeover in one way or another. Older, wiser me tended to mix and confuse my weak or sinful areas with my uniqueness. I fell into the ditches. I lost myself on the rabbit trails.
The title of the article is, Five Things I Hated About Me, and it’s time now to share my list. In Junior High, I was determined to become orderly, quiet and reserved, fit in more with the people around me, be less silly and more dignified, and follow the “rules” better. I thought I was a mistake. I thought I knew better than God how I should be wired. I believed others had to approve of me; all my differences were sin. Freedom happens when those head facts transfer to my heart, soul, mind. It’s realizing that having a messy locker is totally fine. I bet Martha had a clean closet. I suspect her sister Mary didn’t. I can learn to be a better listener while praising God for giving me quick words and an enthusiastic spirit. I am free.
Five Things I Hated About Me:
If you struggle with people pleasing or perfectionism, or if you are perplexed how your strengths, weaknesses, and personality can work successfully in your life, let’s talk together about living life D E E P and W I D E. Maybe you want to make your own list of things you once hated about you. They can be things you hated before you read this article! God desires to show you who he created you to be. He promises to continue the work of bringing you along, making you more like Jesus, the continual and ever-ongoing adventure until we see him face to face. I want to challenge and inspire you to live joyfully, freely, and graciously in the process!
Kerri Goodman, ACC, is a life coach and certified behavior consultant who helps women uncover and cultivate their strengths, values, and purpose and move from people pleasers to capable, confident leaders, transforming their personal and professional lives. Contact her at www.kerrigoodman.com
Proverbs 17:27 "The man who has knowledge restrains and is careful with his words, and a man of understanding and wisdom has a cool spirit."
Growing up, my report card often had a note from my teachers saying, "Kerri likes to talk too much."
As an adult, I'm still watching myself. My words are often many. As a parent, I lean toward over-talking the point when one of my kids needs a little direction.
My strength is connecting and relating to people, and the overuse of this is unrestrained words. As I grow older, I more appreciate the important role of silence and restraint, especially in my close relationships.
Right now culture's wisdom says, "Speak your truth!" We can see how this is displayed on the internet through comments on media, blogs, and social networking sites. We are blasted with unrestrained words. We feel the right to speak and be heard. We have forgotten God's wisdom on the topic, "Be careful with your words and have a cool spirit".
We can establish that it can be better to not give out our "opinions and answers". As a mom to four kids, I think parenthood is a perfect example of the wisdom of applying knowledgable restraint. When parents are constantly in teach-mode, children's brains have less opportunity to engage in creative, critical thinking. Fewer words that are carefully chosen benefits everyone.
When we are in disagreement or conflict, careful words bring calm, confidence, and compassion into the situation. Knowledge isn't used to demolish or destroy, but rather used to connect, relate, and speak words that help everyone.
What about men or women who are just finding their voice? If you've been silenced by others because of your position (adult vs child, boss vs employee) gender, or if you've been bullied into a quiet reservation, be encouraged. As an equal image-bearer of God, you absolutely have the right to speak.
A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word Proverbs 15:23
Its not for others to determine what we can or cannot say or how we should say it. Each of us bears the responsibility for our words. But God recommends that we speak out of our understanding and our knowledge.
We need to communicate to others with empathy. It sounds basic and elementary, but I promise that most people don't do this. I promise that if you do, you will have less stress internally, and less conflict with others. Some people are efficient at avoiding external conflict, by bundling it up and storing it inside of themselves. When we approach others in a state of empathy, conflict, as it applies to us, dissolves.
Empathy in communication requires us to first define the lines of our self.
It sounds like this:
This is how I am feeling. The other person is having feelings, too. I can be here, care and understand without stepping into their emotional state.
I have my own issues. The other person has issues, too. I can listen and determine with wisdom the best response without taking on their issues.
Empathy requires us to see them for who they are.
This person is not more or less important to God. We are both (regardless of actions, beliefs, or birth) image bearers if God.
I can agree, disagree, speak and listen while loving this person.
Empathy requires us to understand them positionally.
Listen and watch to understand where they are coming from and what base core thing they want. This is different than merely understanding their argument and coming to our own judgments about it.
Does this person right now want
1. To feel in command and not coerced?
2. To feel heard and know their intentions are understood?
3. To feel safe and assured they are accepted?
4. To feel correct and in control?
Our words are powerful, and the absence of words can be powerful, as well. We communicate understanding with our tone, gestures, expressions, and actions. The next time you are in a conversation that could go down a negative path, try communicating with empathy. Establish your lines, affirm everyone's worth, and try to see where this person is coming from.
It just so happens, that I have a vast collection of personal stories that I can share as examples of how these principles work. As a person who by nature talks much, and as one who still has a lot to learn, I am a treasure trove of examples.
The other day, my husband and I (who are in many ways opposite in communication/personality style), approached a job at home differently. In my frustration, my mind and mouth jumped onto the familiar track of talking, explaining, and over-expressing. His behavior was not aligned with my goals or how I was approaching this day. I guess you could say, I was very irritated. I could feel my stress rising, which now I use as my cue to slow down, step back, check where I am and decide what I want to do next. My thinking process didn't flow like bullet points, but for clarity sake, I'll write it out as if it did.
Then, I spoke with careful restraint. "I don't want to push you, control the process, or demand how you do things, and I won't do that today. I believe I need assurance that you agree with the timeline and understand why it's really important to me that we get it done."
Direct and concise language is exactly what he needed. Affirming his self-autonomy diffused his stress. Assurance and understanding are exactly what I needed. I then acted "as if" everything that was communicated would come to pass, and made the choice to relax and let go.
The beautiful thing about communicating with empathy is that no matter how far we've gone down the wrong track, we can stop and move onto the right track. Would you like to learn more about how to communicate with empathy? As a Certified Human Behavior Consultant, I can help you understand yourself and others in ways that transform how you communicate and navigate difficult conversations, and lead your life successfully.
I remember a summer when I was visiting my sister. I had traveled from Chicago, IL to Minnesota with two young kids, ages 2 and 4. She also had two little kids and the four of them played together beautifully. I recall during this visit I had left the room for a few minutes and returned to see my two-year-old son standing on the top of a glass table. My older sister was just sitting there, which surprised me at the time. I lifted him from his perch and set him down, informing him not to climb on the table again. My sister looked at me and said, “I was considering if I should take him down or not, and I was a little nervous watching him stand on the table. But I tried to guess what you’d do, and I figured you’d allow it since you let your kids take a lot of risks.”
This floored me. I had never considered myself much of a risk-taker, so that comment provoked some introspection. I realized that my definition of a “risk taker” created the context by which I judged myself. I noticed that I do take risks, but certain elements will either encourage or discourage me from doing so. This isn’t just true for me. Everyone has a certain make-up that draws out their confidence or their fear when presented with any risk.
First, let’s define risk-taking so that we are all on the same wave. Risk-taking is the act of going forward into an unknown when there is a chance that something you value could be lost. The greater the value, the higher the risk. The more clouded the unknowns are, the greater the risk. We live in the world of low risk decisions and meet them head-on without much thinking every day. Every time we get in our car and drive to the store, we are facing the unknowns of other drivers, sudden weather changes, a tire blowout, some dude with road rage, but the value of getting to where we want to go outweighs the risk. We also face high-risk opportunities every day and decide to sit them out. Something we value could be lost, and the unknowns deter us from stepping forward. Sometimes we surprise ourselves when we take a big risk. For some reason, we say yes instead of no. A lot of your risk-taking behavior can be predicted by your personality.
Your personality can actually offer some significant, bright insights into your relationship with risk-taking. Some people, like me, are drawn to the risk-taking that brings fun, comradery, new opportunities or the chance to inspire others. They don’t need much more than a spark of possibility, a group of enthusiastic people, and freedom to do it creatively to jump head-long into the adventure. My husband is drawn to risk-taking like a duck to water. It’s in his blood and is essential for life. When risk-taking offers him challenge, personal advancement, and the chance to take the lead, I have learned to get out of his way! He will charge forward, often without looking at all the details, believing he can fix any problems along the way.
Maybe this isn't you.
Some personalities resist risk-taking, but are the best at coming behind others, offering support and encouragement, while staying outside of the line of impact. They won’t lead the charge; they prefer to remain in the safe pace of routine and predictability. But these are the people that are happy to do the less exciting background support. They may not take risks, but without them, this world would fall apart. There is another personality type that doesn’t just resist risk, but they can talk others out of taking risks. They are the most calculating, analytical, and critical minds of all. They will question and puzzle through a risky circumstance, consider all the angles and possible outcomes, and make a decision when it isn’t a risk anymore.
So, some of us are natural risk-takers. Some of us are natural risk-killers. Some of us fall somewhere in between. However, all of us grow more resilient, creative, and confident by taking risks. We all can accomplish important, worthwhile things for ourselves and others by taking risk.
Each of us have our strengths as well as our challenges that may lead us to success or failure in the process. Some act without thinking, and that can create problems for families, teams and themselves. Some are excellent starters but lose their focus and don’t finish. Some are so hesitant in making decisions that they make their decision by not making the decision. Some see the unknowns as a challenge to control and drive everyone around them crazy. We all have our ways.
Whether it’s taking a risk by speaking our truth despite opposition, starting an organization or business before fully ready, inviting guests over when hospitality isn’t a natural strength, setting boundaries with a difficult person, or allowing your teen to step out more toward independence, facing your own risk with strength and courage brings success regardless of how that thing turns out. There are always unknowns. There will be elements outside of our control that impact the outcome. But taking a risk, especially when something we value is at stake, is part of living an abundant, fulfilling life. It requires us to understand our weaknesses, lean into our strengths, acquire outside resources, and grow comfortable with the unknown.
The key is understanding the unique person you are. With more self-awareness, we can also more understand, relate, and adapt to working successfully with others. DISC personality coaching provides a way to gain insights into why we feel, think and act how we do, and provides growth for us to appreciate, understand, communicate and value all people. As a Certified Life Coach and Certified Human Behavior Consultant, I can partner with you individually, or with your team, and help you LOVE risk-taking.
Jesus told them, “Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” I didn’t think I was a worrying person. In fact, I valued my worry-free disposition. As an extroverted, spontaneous, “embrace the moment” person, I was pretty sure that I didn’t worry much. I can vividly recall the exact moments I thought to myself, “I can’t think about that today! I’ll just go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow,” but with much less theatrical Scarlett O’Hara flair. No, I didn’t have a problem with worry.
I saw what worry and anxiety looked like up close and personal when we would drop off groceries to my grandmother’s apartment. My mother’s fear of heights, flying, and her need to keep life inside her comfort zone influenced my counter-familial decision to be a free-spirited. I wasn’t a worrier. I wouldn’t be a worrier.
Worry doesn’t want a little corner in your life. It wants to own all of you. When you don’t give worry the time of day over the small things, it doesn’t mean you’ve won the battle for life. When something we deeply value and love is threatened or challenged, worrying can feel like a comfort. We open our minds and hearts to it because it can feel like we are doing something. This is how worrying hoodwinked me.
Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
I write this as a humbled woman. I have come to terms that I struggle with worrying about the bigger things in life. I worry about the people I love so dearly; ones I wish I could gather up and rescue and envelop in secure, bullet-proof love. And I must confess, I worry about the “medium stuff”, too. I worry about my kids’ education and preparedness for this crazy world. And I see how I worry about the little things, too. I worry that I’ll fail at teaching my daughter to merge successfully onto a highway (our third to learn to drive, and we cross fingers that this one won’t total a car). I worry about what I'm cooking for dinner. Lord, help me not to worry about tomorrow. Today has enough problems of its own.
Do they like me? Is it good enough? Are my kids getting into trouble? Does my computer have good anti-virus software? Did I spend too much time in the sun as a teenager?
There is a deeper cost to worrying. Often, worrying is the cause for your brain fog and inability to focus or the gnawing, empty stomach feeling of impending doom. When we feel that much of life is spinning out of control, it may be under-the-surface worry. We slip into compulsive behaviors that become habits, become overly critical of ourselves and others, or find it nearly impossible to just slow down and rest. Often, we aren’t consciously and deliberately worrying. We may not even be aware that we are. It’s hard to stop doing something that you won’t admit you are doing. Do we feel guilty or weak when we worry? I wonder.
Jesus says to us, “Refuse to worry.”
When I have my creamy iced coffee in hand, I really don’t want to pair it with broccoli. My taste buds want a bagel, bacon, or a handful of pretzels but NOT spinach salad. The thoughts we give a home to creates a chain reaction, too. One thought often leads to another like-thought. After the first taste of worrying or negative thoughts, it takes a strong action to disrupt the flow. The worry train grows, builds strength. Refusing to worry means I must choose to chase down faith, trust, gratitude, and joy multiple times a day. Our thoughts directly lead to our feelings, which then create the outpouring of our spoken words, our physical state, and our behaviors. Just like my appetite, I will need to make a concerted effort and choice to at some point, stop with “less healthy” thoughts and choose whole-life-thinking. The sooner, the better. We need to bring the worrying thoughts out of the little corner and onto the table and deal with them.
But worries are sneaky little things. Remember how I told you about my alternate reality where I didn’t worry ever? Worry will come, and it will either sneak in or roll in like a thunderclouds. Worry will know which entrance works best on you. In a way, worry is a living, breathing thing. It has an energy all its own, attaching itself to us.
Learn to recognize what worry looks like and sounds like in you. Become comfortable with pulling it up and throwing it on the table and dealing with it.
Talk out your worries. Go for a walk or a run and be the crazy person talking to herself. Talk to your dog or the trees. Talk to Jesus. Do something physically active while working your thoughts from worrying to praise. Write it out in a notebook, journal or create a list. Use my Circle of Influence sheet to reduce your worries and make a simple plan in less than 10 minutes. Whatever you do, however you do it, the worry must go. It is the thief of purpose. It is the robber of joy. It adds absolutely NOTHING to your life. It kills creative problem solving. It ruins relationships. Jesus said, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Worrying cannot add a single hour to your life. It cannot add peace of mind. The answer that seems simple, is the answer that works for me. Jesus’ love gives me the courage to refuse my worries. He calms my mind. I’ll go for a drive or a walk and talk to Him until the worries appear smaller and smaller. The ones that won’t get small enough, I ask Him to be patient with me and help me chip away at it each day, handing over tiny particles of anxieties.
So, I worry. It’s true. You do, too. You may not worry as much as others, or you may really struggle with worrying. You may need people beside you, supporting you. You may need to give yourself grace when you are too exhausted to pull out your chisel. You may need to get real with yourself that you have worries. We are all different in that way. Yet, God is constant and faithful. You can trust Him today, wherever you are in your faith. Jesus said to the entire crowd that day, "But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own."
See Matthew 6:19-33, I Peter 5:7, and Isaiah 26:3 for more on worry.
I have three reoccurring dreams. In one of the dreams, I’m in a school building, racing through a maze of hallways.
Seconds before the tardy bell, I enter the classroom for the first time. Only, it’s the last day of class and I realize that I’ve not shown up all semester, nor have I turned in any math papers or taken the exams. I am a failure. I wake up drenched in sweat, heart racing, and talking myself down, “You are 48 years old with four kids and a dog. It’s just a dream… school cannot hurt you anymore”
The week when report cards were issued always found me an anxious, panicky mess.
I don’t recall one time in my years of schooling where I felt successful at the end of a quarter. I experienced some proud moments with a successful creative assignment, oral report, or project that received a “good grade”, but in my role as student, I felt like a failure. But I remember this one report card that was different.
I don’t believe I’ve ever conversed with anyone on a beautiful spring day who lamented and bemoaned the coming of warm air, green shoots, and longer, sunnier days.
Most of us celebrate good changes. When the year-long road construction project on the busy road exiting the neighborhood is completed, there is celebratory relief and widespread joy. When the coffee shop renovations make your favorite spot brighter, more spacious and inviting, you can’t wait to bring a friend and enjoy the positive changes. But have you ever experienced a person who will not tolerate good changes? How about the person who will not accept good changes you’ve made inside of you?
Jamie loved her family, imperfect as it was.
She devoted herself to loving them well, and it was just about a full-time job. Her parents were divorced and remarried, her siblings were all married with young children, and her extended family on both sides lived fairly close-by. She was there for them all. She worked to develop a relationship with each parent’s spouse and their families. She was sister, friend, daughter, aunt, grand-daughter, and often put their needs before her own. She loved to help her family and be there for them all.
She had her own husband and children, and they were active in church, the community, school, and sports. After Jamie’s third child was born, she came to find herself on the edge of a crisis. She was overwhelmed, overrun with commitments, and riddled with the guilt of not keeping all the plates spinning gracefully. Her sister was upset that she couldn’t attend her daughter’s recital. Her brother was frustrated she couldn’t babysit his kids over the weekend. Her mother wanted her to drop everything and help her shop for a dress for her cousin’s wedding – the cousin who had a drinking problem and called Jamie all hours of the night for support. After a sudden, scary panic attack, Jamie came to terms that she needed to change herself and her relationship with saying no. The need to please her family was slowly killing her.
As Jamie’s ability to lovingly say no to people, projects or priorities strengthened, her husband noticed the positive changes in her.
Jamie had more peace of mind, patience, and sparks of joy were beginning to return. Her children saw their mom in a new way – she was funny, relaxed, and more playful. At home, she felt supported and encouraged to take care of herself. However, not everyone was happy about the changes. Her family preferred Old Jamie the Yes Woman. They weren’t sure why Jamie was being so selfish now. Jamie heard their opinions through direct confrontations, indirect, passive comments, and felt it when left out of invitations or plans. While Jamie still loved her imperfect family and her devotion, while different, remained constant, she began to wonder if they ever loved her at all. And it stung and pierced her deeply. She didn't see this coming at all.
In my perfect world, I make Swedish pancakes in the morning. I make Swedish pancakes, and they are wholesome and lovely, and they set the tone of the day: cheery, efficient, spontaneous and meaningful. All of that, right there. Now let's talk reality: Waffles in the toaster, left-over pizza, goldfish and grapes or whatever the kids decide to tackle. And, I am out the door quick to grab an iced coffee to kick my mind into motion. I am NOT a morning person. I am not up early enough to make Swedish pancakes, even when I decide to get up early. And my mind wants to battle this out with me every morning.
Not a morning person, either? Keep reading to learn my Jedi mind trick to get out of bed in under 10 seconds.
If Only My Mind Would Behave.
The mind is so much more than a collection of neurons, dendrites, and axons. Our minds are really the element of us that composes our ideas, opinions, emotions, reflections, biases, zeal, and beliefs. The mind is a direct influencer to what you and I say and do. And nearly every morning, I have a decision to make: will my mind be in control of me today, or will I be in control of my mind?
Consider the typically unchallenged thought, "I'm not a morning person". I believe it is true and attached to that are a list of behaviors and standards I apply automatically. What thought do you accept about you as if it is an absolute truth not to be challenged or changed? The simple belief that I am not a morning person is just the starting point. My mind will lead me on a pathway of zero resistance. I will not make Swedish pancakes or develop any new routines or habits that are outside the acceptable patterns of my "non-morning-personhood". All these patterns, habits, and excuses begin inside my mind without my active consent -- and this happens for you, too!
Sometimes the beliefs we hold onto as IDENTIFYING us SHOULD be challenged. Actually, I believe that most of the beliefs we have that limit us must be challenged. When my 7th grade teacher told me that I wasn't very smart --a "D" grade for me was like other students getting a "B"-- it should have been challenged. Messages that define you, whether they come from parents, teachers, peers, or ourselves, have a way of attaching themselves and burrowing into us. They take deep root and then branch out their tangly, skinny, hairy sub-roots, touching many areas of our lives. The teacher's statement, and the message given to me from other adults, impacted many decisions, including my final decision on a college major. It wasn't until I entered graduate school that I dared to consider, "What if what I believed about my intelligence wasn't true?"
What If That Isn't True?
I'm not a morning person. What if that isn't true? What if something in that defining statement is NOT true? What would that mean? Could I start the morning differently? If that is true now, does that mean it needs to stay true tomorrow? As we dare to challenge our beliefs, one question leads us to the next one and to new discoveries. What if I find that I am not a morning person, and will remain a non-morning person. What defines me as not a morning person? Is it because I get up at 7:45 am instead of 5:00 am and don't like to make a mess of dishes right away? Now I'm getting to something.
Get curious. Get crazy curious about the beliefs that limit you. You need to have the curiosity of determined, feisty, child version of you -- like when you were younger and didn't want to accept the limits.
What if the thing you believed about yourself wasn't true? The power in this question can lead you right to the edge of your comfort zone. It can lead to a huge breakthrough. It can give you the confidence to pursue your dream. It can also shake you up, surfacing some uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Truth has a way of doing that. It's a hard question to ask ourselves. Our minds strive to keep us in safety, so it may resist the questions that bring us to the edge of the unknown. Your mind may push your limiting beliefs right in front of your face, playing out all the reasons why you can't, you won't, you shouldn't, including examples in HD and surround sound. Often, we need someone else to help us through the process as a sounding board and as a non-judgemental, impartial partner.
I'm not a morning person.
Yeah, by some people's standards, I'm not a morning person. But this question led me to understand that I want to get up a little earlier each day, but NOT because I want to make Swedish pancakes. I actually don't want to have a mess to clean up in the morning and prefer a simple, easy breakfast routine. This question also led me to understand that I am smarter than the adults of my childhood told me I was. A few years ago, it helped me discover I can create an organization from the ground up that successfully serves many families in my area. Two years ago, this question helped me discover that I can start my own business. It also helped me gain clarity on what I truly value, how to overcome my weak areas, and a better way to help my children discover their motivation to do school work. Have I convinced you yet of the power of this question? Want to work together to challene your limiting beliefs and gain clarity on what is keeping you from leading your life forward with joy? I can't wait to talk with you!
Oohh! I promised you my trick to getting out of bed in less than 10 seconds! Here it is!