I may be calling myself out, but so be it: I am in therapy. Teeehee. It’s true. I’ve had lots of time in therapy, and I find it quite helpful. So helpful, in fact, I’m showing my true blue colors and bloggin’ about it. One of my biggest issues - Clinical Perfectionism. For those of you who want the hoytie-toytie definition, it is as follows:
It is suggested that the defining feature of clinically significant perfectionism is the over-dependence of self-evaluation on the determined pursuit (and achievement) of self-imposed personally demanding standards of performance in at least one salient domain, despite the occurrence of adverse consequences.
It is suggested that such clinical perfectionism is maintained by the biased evaluation of the pursuit and achievement of personally demanding standards. Specifically, it is suggested that people with perfectionism react to failure to meet their standards with self-criticism. If they do meet their standards, the standards are re-evaluated as being insufficiently demanding. (Behavior Research & Therapy, Volume 40, Issue 7)
Since February 2010, this is one of the significant issues on which I’ve been working. My biggest breakthrough came by way of a fairly new psychological method: dialectical behavior therapy (Thank you, Daniel Rozdial).
A key aspect of DBT, as it is known, is a technique called “reframing.” Here’s an example...
When I trip over my won feet - as I do often, I might add; sort of Miss Congeniality style; my reaction used to be “You are such a freakin’ retard. Can’t you even walk, idiot?” I thought nothing of this kind of self talk. It was common place; every day. I cannot even count the number of times I would call myself stupid, retarded, dumb, dimwit... you get the point.
Broken down on a logical level - here are the questions one must ask:
-Do a lot of people trip over their own feet?
-Are those people human?
-Do humans by their very nature make mistakes?
-Is it okay for me, as a human, to make a mistake?
-Can I forgive myself for being imperfect - for being a human?
In a word, yes. When you put it like that, of course. It sounds preposterous to even ask! But how, then, was I to get my heart to realize what my brain already knew? Enter the DBT skill “Reframing.”
Now, when I trip over my own feet, my reaction is “Teehee, that was silly!” Now bear with me for a second, because I know ti seems so simple, but do you see how much softer it is to say to oneself, “You silly girl!” than it is to say “You retard!” The sting, judgement, and condemnation are no longer there. Being silly is okay; acceptable even. Being stupid, retarded - is not.
And in making a habit of removing the words retard, idiot, stupid, dumb, etc. from my lexicon and replacing them with words like silly, goofy, quirky, zany, etc. and being mindful to do so on a daily, hourly, and sometimes minutely basis, I have begun to learn not to be so harsh on myself; to allow a bit of forgiveness for mistakes, and to relax those super standards of PERFECT it is in my nature to hold myself against for comparison.
And honestly, if I have to publicly broadcast that I’m in therapy to help just one reader along the way to breaking the perfectionist yoke they bear, it’s worth it! For more info on DBT, click here.