I'm going to beat perfectionism - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-10-2016, 08:47 AM Thread Starter
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I'm going to beat perfectionism

I'm going to beat my perfectionism. I feel like it's the main reason I'm struggling in life at the moment, and it really holds me back at many things.
I'll be writing a journal with my perfectionist related toughts here, that may get really stupid and sensless at times, that I can look back to when I'm lucid and try to work trough.

I'll be using this site as a guideline.

Obviously, I'll start on Module 1 - What is Perfectionism?
Starting on page 5.
Am I a perfectionist?

1. Nothing good comes from making mistakes: True
2. I must do things right the first time: Somewhat true
3. I must do
everything well, not just the things I know Iím good at: Somewhat true
4. If I canít do something
perfectly then there is no point even trying: True
5. I rarely give myself credit when I do well because
thereís always something more I could do: True
6. Sometimes I am so concerned about getting one task
done perfectly that I donít have time to complete the rest of my work: False

Answering true and somewhat true on most of these, I should really work on my perfectionism .

When am I a perfectionist?
"Being a perfectionist doesnít necessarily mean you have unrelenting high standards in every area of your life, although this may be the case for some people. It is possible to be a perfectionist in one area of your life (e.g., at work) but not in another area of your life (e.g., grooming)."

√ Work
√ Study
■ Housework/cleaning
■ Close relationships (e.g., partner, family, friends)

Organising and ordering things
■ Eating/weight/shape
Grooming/personal hygiene (Only some times)
■ Sport (but I avoid it like the plague because I suck at it so maybe)
■ Health/Fitness
Other (Hobbies)

Area where perfectionism is most problematic: Work
What problems result from perfectionism in this area? Whenever I do something wrong at work, I take it really hard. Sometimes I even get suicidal. Whenever I write an application I have to read over it until I feel like it's good enough, or until the deadline comes. Whenever I get a rejection... I feel like I'll never amount to anything and that isn't good for me. Often I will blame it on the application or the CV being flawed. My education and work history sure aren't perfect.

Embrace the glorious mess that you are
Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-10-2016, 08:48 AM Thread Starter
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How am I a perfectionist?
Determining perfectionist behaviors

Decision making

Not being able to decide what to wear to work each morning
Being unsure what colour shirt to buy so buying one in every colour
Finding it so difficult to choose what restaurant to go to that it becomes too late to eat out (Some times)

Reassurance Seeking
Asking others to check your work in order to ensure the result is acceptable
Needing everyone to compliment your meal when you do the cooking

Excessive Organising and List Making
Repeatedly writing and re-writing lists e.g. the tasks you want to get done in the day
Having to have your office completely tidy and organised before being able to work

Giving Up Too Soon

Not looking for a house to buy because you are sure you won’t find one which meets all your needs
Taking up flamenco but giving up after two lessons because you can’t keep up with the teacher (even though nobody can)
Quitting your job because you made a mistake and you fear being fired

Putting off starting an assignment for fear that it won’t ever be done well enough
Delaying starting a healthy eating plan until the time feels ‘right’, with no birthday dinners, Christmas, holidays, or celebrations in the near future

Not Knowing When to Stop
Creating a list of first aid items to take on a trip and ending up with a whole suitcase of ‘necessities’
Arguing a point over and over, long after others have lost interest

Attempts to Change Other People
Correcting people when they mispronounce words
Commenting when you feel people are being ‘politically incorrect’ and guiding them to behaviour you think is more acceptable

Giving directions to your house in excruciating detail, then sending an email repeating the information
Always making sure you arrive at least 30 minutes early to appointments
Washing the kitchen three times, with antiseptic cleaner, before preparing a meal

Replacing an item of clothes if there is a tiny hole on an inside seam (even if it’s invisible from the outside)
Folding and refolding laundry if you can see the edges aren’t exactly even

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Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-10-2016, 08:49 AM Thread Starter
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Repeatedly looking in the mirror for facial blemishes
Looking over work, searching for errors
Frequently checking your watch to make sure you know what time it is

Cutting out recipes from the newspaper and filing them in case you ever want to make a particular dish
Keeping your bank statements for 20 years just in
case you might need them
Keeping piles of old magazines in case you might want to reread an article one day

Failure to Delegate
Staying late to do the photocopying because you don’t trust the secretary to put the documents in the right order
Not letting others clean the house because you’re
afraid the tasks won’t be done properly

Reading the newspaper very slowly to make sure you don’t miss any important news
Speaking slowly to ensure you say the right thing (some times)

Not putting in applications for jobs for fear that you will never get them
Never weighing yourself because you believe that any weight gain will ruin your day
Not asking for a pay raise for fear of being denied


That concludes module 1. Module 2 tomorrow.
(Post got too long so I had to divide it. Sorry)

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Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-10-2016, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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I burned my dinner so I'm feeling pretty useless right now.. Doing module 2 after all. Don't want to take too much space in one day.. and I don't want to bump this up tomorrow when the more interesting and useful topics are on top and this thing has gone to another page...

Module 2 - Understanding Perfectionism

How did I become a perfectionist?
As kid, my parents would praise me for every thing I did. Everyone would compliment my "art". My parents would work really hard to support the family. They would often work late or take work home. I feel as working hard is more important than having fun. I can't even find reasonable arguments to suggest otherwise. The site calls this "modeling". I've always wanted them to be proud of me.
My grandmother would be very vocal when I did errors. I remember once I washed my room by myself before she visited. I felt so proud. Obviously I did a **** job. I had forgotten to wash behind the door and I didn't wash the lamp. Of course grandma noticed, and she told me how fitly I was. Later she called some relatives (Who I still haven't met) and told them what a filthy girl her daughter has. This really hit me. It was wrong to feel so proud of doing such a **** job. I still can't live up to her standards. She will comment on other people judging them harshly, for their "mistakes". She also constantly pick on my mother for everything that's "wrong" with her.
Then we have my ex. I once told him it would take 15 minutes to walk to the restaurant, it took 17. He was so pissed he yelled me out in public for not being able to tell time and demanded I apologize. I refused I felt humiliated and was really upset about this for days. He made it abundantly clear that if I wasn't 100% sure of something, I should rather shut my mouth instead of making an idiot of myself. Of course this happened several times over the 4 years we were together.
I don't blame them for this. I do blame myself though. I shouldn't (have) let that impact me like that. I feel like **** for writing this, but.. I'm not going to delete it this time. Whatever I write in here, I'll keep. This is to help me. Hoping I won't have to regret too much of this. Anyways.. Moving on.

Rules for living
This part is just about the unhelpful rules and assumptions that are related to the perfectionism. I suspect you could say that there are a lot of worked in ANT's (Automatic negative thoughts) involved. At least for me it is.

Unhelpful Rules & Assumptions

Setting Even More Demanding Standards

Doing well isnít good enough, I have to do better
If I donít strive to achieve higher standards, I am a lazy and useless person
Losing those 5 kg. wasnít enough. I need to get down to a smaller size

Fear Of Failure
I must do things perfectly
I must not fail
I canít have others think poorly of me
If I try, then I will only fail
If I make a mistake then I will be rejected
If I put my work out there, then others will think badly of me

Constant Checking
I have to go over any work I do, several times, before I can show it to anyone else
I have to weigh myself several times a day to make sure Iím not gaining weight

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Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-10-2016, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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Simplicity, Structure, Control
I must know what is going to happen
I must be prepared for possible outcomes
I can’t let anyone else do a task in case it goes wrong

All or-Nothing Thinking
If I don’t get a High Distinction in this topic then I don’t deserve to be doing this degree
My work is never good enough
There is a right way and a wrong way to do things
If I eat any chocolate at all then I’ve blown my diet and I might as well binge

Shoulds, Musts
I must be perfect or others will realize what I am really like
I should never eat before noon
When I clean my house I should always clean every room thoroughly

I must work all the time or I will become a lazy slob
I have to work extremely hard in order to deserve a treat

Gosh. I feel like I checked a lot of those boxes... I should be writing how these affect things, but.. I don't know. For all these points? That would take way too much space.

Unrelenting High Standards
This is usually more subconscious, and might be hard to define.

Performance at Work/school

Standards I set for myself: In short, to not fail. Failing, I don't feel like I deserve to achieve success. I feel like I'll never amount to anything. I feel like working hard "enough", I'll earn that place in society. Sort of. I just want to be where I feel like I'm supposed to be. And I can't get there by failing. I can't get a drivers license if I fail the test. I can't get a job if my application isn't good enough. I can't get a promotion if I'm not a great employee.
Is it flexible or achievable?: No

Grooming & Personal hygiene

Standards I set for myself: Here I am a bit more variable. Sometimes I want to be so clean, you can smell the soap off me several hours later. My hair should be perfect and frizz-free, and all my clothes should look brand new, and never worn. This isn't realistic. Usually, I just want to be clean though. A quick shower is ok, and I don't mind that my clothes are, wrinkly and worn.
Is it flexible or achievable?: Yes, most of the time.

Organization & order

Standards I set for myself: I want things to be in order all the times
Is it flexible or achievable?: Yes, I'm flexible. This only gets enforced when I'm organizing. No half-assing there.

There were more points but I don't feel they apply to me.
(For those of you that don't know, there is a character cap. I have to divide the posts)

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Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-12-2016, 05:41 AM Thread Starter
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Module 3 - What keeps perfectionism going?
Not achieving the standards seem to enforce them.
Trying to reach these standards comes at the cost of my mental health and stress as I established earlier.
But what happens when I do achieve these standards?
When I got the job I have now, I was initially happy. But then I felt is wasn't good enough. It's the kind of job a 15 year old gets to earn some extra pocket-money. Not really suitable for a 30 year old that wants to build a life. I lied about being comfortable socially, I told them I was single and not dating so I hadn't really thought about having kids, that was a lie. I got the job, just because I lied at the interview. If I don't deserve this, how can I even deserve something decent? I still feel like I have to work even harder (with higher standards) to get something better. Something decent. Don't get me wrong. I'm really grateful that I have at least this job.

Information Processing
With perfectionism it may be easier to to get caught up in errors.
I know for myself that I read and rewrite applications at least 10 times before I send it. If I then spot a comma where there is supposed to be a period, I loose it. I know at that point I can't possibly get the job. And I'll spend the rest of the week in a ****ty mood obsessing about that error.
When I get a rejection I will ask why (as instructed by the courses I've been to) And the reply will always ring in my ears for days.
Often they will tell how many applicants the position had. Usually its around 320. I will always feel like I'm right there at the bottom, and that all those other 320 people were better than me. Specially if I go back and read the application, which often do. I will butcher it look at how I could have worded myself better. The amount of work I put on this is ridiculous. I know this, but I can't help it.

When I'm obsessive about my hygiene and grooming, I will spend hours brushing my hair and I'll really focus on those stray hairs. Usually this ends up with me feeling ashamed of my looks and staying inside, unless I have to go out. Fortunately this is kind of rare though
This is probably due to bullying, which again, I blame myself for because I wasn't confident enough when I tried to stand up for myself.

Self-criticism and Unhelpful Thinking Styles.
Obviously, self-criticism and perfectionism goes hand in hand.
Going trough the common harmful thinking styles with perfectionism that I know I do sometimes.

Black and White thinking
I know this is irrational, but I will often think like "if I fail this, I will never reach my goal".

Mental Filter

When I get worked up I'll definitely get insanely focused on the small mistakes despite the rest being almost flawless.

Should and Must

"I should excel at my work if I want a chance at something better"
"I must write the perfect application"
This isn't healthy.

Blowing things out of proportion. Yep. I do this.
"That customer didn't find what he wanted and seemed almost offended for that, now I'm going to cause the store to loose customers, and that will cause them to have to cut back and I'm next in line so I'm going to loose my job."

"I'm a worthless piece of ****, I'll never amount to anything"
"I'm a stupid idiot"
Yeah.. I do this constantly.

Jumping to conclusions
"My clothes look old and wrinkly, and my hair looks like a mess. People must think I'm poor. Or maybe even homeless"
"I said *this*, I'm sure they think I'm an idiot/freak/attention craving *****"

Magnification and minimization
Explaining away my own positive sides as if they aren't important. Yeah, I do that too some times.

So, I do all of the common thinking styles.. great.

Embrace the glorious mess that you are
Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-12-2016, 02:43 PM Thread Starter
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Module 4 - Changing perfectionism
To help identify the impact perfectionism has on my life, the module asks me to make some lists.

Weighing up the helpful (+) and harmful (-) aspects of perfectionism
- Time consuming
- Stress, lots of it
- Suicidal tendencies
- Keeps me from enjoying otherwise nice days
- Sleep deprivation caused by stress
- Procrastinate endlessly on hobbies I used to enjoy
- May contribute to migraines
+ I'm very focused on some things.
+ I most probably won't make the same mistake twice in a working environment

Personal benefits(+)/costs(-) I expect if I can loosen my standards
+ The ability to fully relax
+ The ability to believe in a brighter future despite "conditions" not being met
+ Enjoying hobbies at a similar level I used to
+ More courage to try doing new things
- May fall back and end up making a fool out of myself publicly. Undoing all my progress.
- May neglect important tasks like applying for jobs in order to have fun

Am I ready to change?
The CCI says
"Changing your perfectionism will require a certain amount of time and effort. Are you able to commit to this task? You might not be able to make this commitment if you have other stressful things going on in your life (e.g., relationship difficulties, severe depression, and substance misuse). If this is true for you then you may need to get help in relation to these other problems before you are able to devote time and energy to overcoming perfectionism"
I'm not sure how severe my depression is. I think its more moderate, but I do get somewhat suicidal. During the winter, this appears to be on a weekly basis at least. I'm also very stressed about my financial situation and low prospects for the future. I feel like the perfectionism contributes to these.
Therefore YES I'm ready to change, but, I can see that it will be challengy.

Setting goals for Change
THIS, is something I've always had problems with. I have a big problem believing in the future, believing things can change, and most of all, setting realistic time-frames. But hey, lets try.

Step 1: Choose one problem-area to work on first

I choose Work. That's the one I have the most issues with.
This will be the area I'll be focusing on

Step 2: Adjusting the standard
I need to be ok with failing. It shouldn't be the end of the world.
Edison got 10.000 of his light bulbs wrong. Maybe I have to apply to 10.000 jobs before I get one. I've roughly sent 1170 applications the last 4 years, if my math is correct. Only 8830 to go XD lol. Not that serious about that part.. I'm tired. sorry.

Step 3: Identify the perfectionist behavior I wish to work on.
I want to say procrastinating, but that's more related to the hobby and not work. Checking. I check an application 10 times before I send it. I tweak it over and over, and then I check it after I get the rejection. This isn't good and needs to change.

Step 4: Identify a specific goal towards reducing perfectionist behavior
No checking after the rejection, I remember that being less tormenting before I started doing this, and only checking 3 times before I send the application.

Step 5: Set a Time Frame.
Ummm 1 month? February is usually a slow month for applications though. Maybe we should say 3 months. Things in the job market should start picking up soon. (I apply to everything I CAN do)

CCI's Coping tips:

1. Practice - Practice makes perfect.
How many times have you heard this? How many times have you repeated a behaviour in order to ďmake it perfectĒ? Well, we would like to encourage you to practice NOT being perfect!
2. Give yourself permission to make mistakes - We all make mistakes.
In fact, some of our most valuable learning comes from taking a non-judgemental look at the mistakes weíve made. Making a mistake and living with it is a sign of progress!
3. Remind yourself of the unhelpful consequences of your perfectionism
this is particularly helpful if you are struggling to stay motivated.
4. Learn to laugh - happy people know how to laugh and donít take life too seriously.
5. Reward yourself often
- give yourself a pat on the back when youíve accomplished something outside your comfort zone!

Rewarding is going to be hard (as well as allowing for mistakes, but that's kind of the point here). Probably serves a purpose though.

Embrace the glorious mess that you are
Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-12-2016, 04:34 PM Thread Starter
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**** it, this is stupid. I'll never beat perfectionism until I feel safe financially.. and that's never going to happen. Getting a job is just too important to downplay like that.

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Elizabeth Gilbert

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-2016, 08:42 AM Thread Starter
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Tomorrow, I'm going to try the written theoretical drivers test. I'm doing this without studying, as a way of pushing my perfectionism. Obviously I'm going to fail the test, but the idea is that, I will then study at a normal pace, maybe 8 hours a day for 2 weeks, and then feel readier than I do now and then maybe not get too nervous/distracted on trying to get a perfect score.
I've been delaying it for months, maybe even a year, after failing the first try.

If I do fail, I will try my best to say "but hey, you didn't study at all, what could you expect"
Little undecided if I should give myself a reward if I don't fail. Probably shouldn't even imagine that scenario .

Embrace the glorious mess that you are
Elizabeth Gilbert

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