The Painful Pursuit of Perfection

The Painful Pursuit of Perfection

Life sometimes feels like an uphill struggle.

To-do lists keep getting longer, distractions get louder, and expectations are damn hard to fulfill. Pressures placed by society, family and social groups, religious affiliations, the media, work, even ourselves, can alarmingly weigh us down. Pressure, and the stress accompanying it, feels terrifyingly heavy.

In my own life, I feel the pressures of being a small business owner, a wife, a daughter and a friend.

My husband asks why the dishes and laundry are never done and why I wait until the last minute to get to the grocery store. My parents ask when they can expect a grandchild. I feel separated from my Mom friends and family because I don’t qualify to be in their club, and evidently I have no clue what overwhelm feels like. I am behind on my continuing education in massage therapy because I have been studying the business side instead. I want to factor in more white space in my schedule to make room for taking care of myself, spending time with God, and to be available for my friends. I’d like to take my dogs for a walk. I’d like to have time to exercise, shower and eat breakfast most mornings. I’d like to fit back into my “skinny” jeans. I want flawless hair and skin.

And while I keep my plates spinning I get to see everyone’s perfectly edited highlight reel on social media; their 6-figure businesses, easily attained beach ready bodies, and beautiful, well-behaved children and GQ husbands who take out the garbage.

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Photo by Katie Hall Photography www.photosbykatiehall.com

Life appears effortless and awesome, and I feel more and more disconnected and ungrounded.

Sometimes I find myself asking, “Nina, what the F is wrong with you? Why can’t you keep up?”

The challenges feel mighty and sometimes the only sweetness I savor is from the organic bakery nearby.

 

A lot of my stress–my soul pressure–comes from feeling like I’m not enough.

I often feel the sharp point of perfectionism. It’s not unusual for me to think, “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t know enough”.

These thoughts regularly cause me tremendous anxiety and fear. This fear makes it impossible to respond productively to any challenge in front of me, undermining my confidence and abilities in overcoming adversity.

The little voice in my head repeats my failings on a loop, and there is no way I can overcome the barrier in front of me.

Growth stops. Stress remains.

To make matters worse, I plug into the self-defeating shame I hear in my head and allow it to fuel my actions– which at this point are completely irrational and not very productive. This is where I’m a mess and become the person no one wants to be around and everyone thinks should be medicated.

I feel unfit for human consumption.

 

I am a perfectionist.

I’d like to think owning this characteristic will help me become a recovering perfectionist.

Being a perfectionist goes way beyond setting high standards for oneself, developing mastery and excellence, or having a keen eye for detail. These are positive attributes, but a perfectionist takes it a step further; it becomes a hard-driving force behind identity that stifles creativity and puts pressure on relationships.

For a perfectionist, a challenge presents a Win/Fail opportunity; the lessons learned along the way are not always seen. The journey is bleak and fraught with self-defeat.

If you win you are a Winner, if you fail you are a Failure. It’s deeply personal, internalized, and insulated.

I’ve set unusually high, often unobtainable, standards for myself. I was counseled at some point in my early academic career to remember, “Even when you know you’ve done a good job, always remember someone else has done better than you”. I grabbed on tightly to the idea that if someone out performed me, I was not as much of a blessing to my family.

Second Place is really First Loser.

I got paid for A’s on my report card; B’s awarded me a lecture on how I didn’t work hard enough. Couple that mentality with the majority of my childhood friends being high-level over-achievers who ranked higher than me, I often felt sub-par. I was exhibiting disordered stress patterns in the 2nd Grade.

 

Sometimes these standards trickle over onto the people closest to me.

When I am tough on myself, I become tough on everyone around me. I feel angry, judgmental and hypercritical. My power cord is plugged in the wrong outlet of criticism and punishment instead of love and understanding.

In my professional life, I have found some balance to perfectionism. It has driven me to pursue high quality education from exceptional teachers, and I have created a practice model not typically found in the massage therapy profession in my community. However, when I try to expand on the ideas of growing professionally, building my practice, and designing a new practice model, perfection paralysis takes hold and stops me in my tracks. The little “you aren’t good enough” voice speaks up.

I feel unworthy and useless when my ideas don’t pan out the way I expected them to.

When I can’t seem to figure out how social media or network marketing works, or newsletters go unopened, ignored and unread, I hear, “nobody cares about what you have to say. Nobody cares about you”! And, for some, that may be true; opening myself up to share my story makes me feel exposed.

I am opening myself up to outside criticism and judgment, and Perfectionist Me is freaking out.

 

There are other times when I’m plugged into something way more powerful and I feel alive and on fire.

Self-acceptance and love wash over me and I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. In this space I feel like setbacks are lessons, not attacks, and I have the calm perspective to see the proper course correction needed to get back on track. I feel inspired, plugged into genius, brilliance and divinity. Options are available, lessons are learned gracefully, and my growth and maturity level up.

I can lovingly laugh at myself. I feel relaxed.

This is where I want to live all of the time!

 

I’m slowly learning to positively and truthfully re-identify myself.

For me, this has been a deeply spiritual lesson, and I greatly rely on my mentors at the church my husband and I attend. I have been loved and challenged at the same time, and the newfound conclusions I am coming to, based off of God’s Love, have been difficult, rewarding, and much needed.

My closest friends, my connection network, are also an integral part of helping me learn, as Brene Brown calls it, “the gifts of imperfection”. I can trust them to not demand perfection from me, and they continuously remind me to be gentle to myself. I know they have the courage and strength to hear my story and support me in it, and sometimes help lift me out of it.

They have the stamina to love me, not despite my imperfections, but because of them.

 

As to the other bits that fire up my perfectionism, with a lot of talk therapy, research and prayer on the issues at hand, I’ve come to understand some things are out of my hands and will always be out of my hands.

It’s not worth it to harshly criticize myself for other peoples’ actions. What others do in their lives has no significant impact on my own.

We all have agency for our own actions, and not everyone is going to like everyone else. I can’t please everyone no matter how hard I try, and I am not a failure if I fail to make people like me.

I regularly remind myself I can only do what I can do, when I can do it.

 

With more love, understanding, and acceptance of myself, and everyone around me, recognizing we are all imperfect people, life feels sweeter, more brilliant, and divine. There is more flow and less crashing.

There is more compassion and empathy.

Challenges are met with grace and gentleness, and don’t feel like personal attacks, but opportunities to really learn what I am capable of. I just may surprise myself!

I can certainly deal with more of that in my life. I crave more of that in my life.

I think the world needs more understanding and acceptance and less criticism and judgment. It starts here, with myself.

It’s completely my choice, despite any challenge or adversity that comes my way, to choose not to let the stress of perfectionism in when it knocks on the door.

Do I choose criticism, or patience? Judgment, or understanding?

I choose gentleness and love. Perfectionism can knock, but she can’t come in.

 

 

 

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Reach Out and Touch Someone

One of my biggest pet peeves is learning more about my loved ones on Facebook than by actually spending quality time with them.

Know what I mean?

When the cogs and wheels of the machine of my life really get going, it’s easy for me to put the blinders on, keep my nose to the grindstone, and fail to connect to the people that mean the most to me.

I’m so not okay with this!

 

Let’s be real:

Is the minutiae of life more important than our loved ones?

Are we really that important, or do we just want to feel important?

Who do we want to be important to?

 

In today’s Self-care Tuesday, we’re talking connection.

 

 

 

Can I challenge you?

How long has it been since you sat down with the one person who seems to keep popping into your mind?

You see their status updates and feel like you are participating in life with them, but when was the last time you sat across from a table with them, or at the very least, heard the sound of their voice?

Maybe it’s time to phone a friend.

 

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Make a call. Set a date.

Coffee. Tea. Cocktails.

Play date. Walking date. Slumber party.

If you need to re-connect to yourself, find a way to slow down and quiet down in order to touch base with yourself.

Are you are on the right path at the right pace for your priorities, preferences, and goals?

Maybe you need to re-connect with something bigger than yourself.

Source. Universe. Nature. God.

Whatever you call it, phone that friend too.

 

Connection is Vital to Health

Human connection is super important to health and well-being.

Having friends on Facebook is more of a relationship with a computer screen, not an actual person.

Living in social media isolation is not true connection, nor is health promoting.

 

Make the call. Set it up. Hear a voice. See a smile.

I assure you, connecting is going to fill your tank in an amazing way.

You will feel inspired, loved, important, and energetic.

And as an added benefit, with the energy hanging out with your loved ones provides, you will experience a tremendous boost of excitement and motivation when it comes to that busy to-do list!

 

Now it’s your turn!

In the comments below, tell us who you are going to connect with.

Consider it a “cosmic contract” and a promise to yourself.

How long has it been since you’ve seen this person? What would meeting and re-connecting with them mean to you?

 

 

 

 

Are You Deficient in Vitamin N?

Are You Deficient in Vitamin N?

Sometimes I look around and I see more concrete than grass.

More tall buildings than trees.

Hear more blaring car horns than chirping birds.

Smell more gasoline fumes than sweetly fragrant flowers.

 

We live in an Urban Jungle.

And like all nutrients important to your health and well-being, Vitamin N is quite essential.

 

 

Vitamin N?

That isn’t on the supplement label of my multi-vitamin. What’s the RDA of that?

Can I put that into my blender bottle protein shake?

 

Vitamin Nature

Studies have shown time spent in nature is a sure-fire way of getting out of your own head.

In science speak, that time stuck in your head is called rumination.

Rumination is the over-thinking or obsessing over of situations or relationships, and is thought to be responsible for a wide array of negative consequences such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addictive behaviors.

Could it really be so easy as to spend time outdoors to clear the static in your attic?

 

Clear your Mind. Soothe your Soul.

I think the musings of John Muir, Naturalist, Environmental Philosopher, and Preservation Advocate, sums up the outdoors in the most romantically poetic nature:

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.    (From Our National Parks)

That single quote above makes me want to grab my tent out of the garage, tie up my hiking boots and head out to a place with no cell service.

 

But Responsibilities

It’s not easy spending a week (or two) in a national park.

Deadlines. Responsibilities. Finals. Graduations. Dance Recitals.

Life happens regardless, and not many of us can just pack up and haul out.

Not many also have the skill set and desire to “camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows”.

Climbing mountains is hard, dangerous work. I wouldn’t recommend just heading out.

 

So How Do Us Urban Dwellers Get Our Nature On?

Kick off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass.

Plant some flowers and get some dirt under your fingernails.

Splash around in puddles.

The opportunities are as endless as your imagination allows, and your willingness to get a little dirty.

 

As I write this, I hear a gentle rainfall outside. The windows are wide open so I can fully hear it, as well as experience the cool caress of the crisp breeze accompanying it.

I made plans and reservations earlier today to go camping for two nights with the Hubs in a few weeks for our 17th wedding anniversary.

I hiked in two different local forest preserves this past weekend.

I like to get my Vitamin N in in as many varied, super-dosed ways as possible.

 

How do you like to spend time communing with nature?

Share your most favorite Vitamin N stories below.

How do you spend time outdoors?

What benefits do you feel after some essential time in nature?

(and if you know of any great hiking trails…let me know! I’m always up for a new adventure)

 

 

 

 

 

Try a Little Tenderness

Try a Little Tenderness

 

Your little girl comes home from school and you can tell something is off.  She isn’t her bubbly, boisterous self.

Something is weighing her down.

You approach her gently and lovingly and eventually she feels ready to open up and share the heartbreak she faced today.

 

Pop Quiz: What do you do?

You can approach this delicate situation in one of two ways…

Version 1: You cross your arms and remind her that life isn’t fair. People are mean so she better thicken her skin in order to survive in this cruel, harsh, unfair world. Don’t forget to remind her that no matter how hard she tries, someone will be better than her. She can always do more to get ahead in this dog-eat-dog world.

**or**

Version 2: You embrace your little beloved girl and remind her that sometimes life isn’t fair and people can be mean, but it’s important to stay strong and true. You encourage her to be the shining light in a dark world because her spirit, full of love, can heal the hurting and fix the broken. Tell her you understand how hard it is in this sometimes cruel, harsh, unfair world, but all we can do is try our best from a place of understanding and love.

 

It’s way too easy to be your own worst critic.

When things don’t go right in your life, do you lay it on harsh like version 1, or do you gently speak to yourself like version 2?

I get it, the mean girl inner dialogue.

You hold yourself up to some crazy high standards. When things don’t pan out like you wanted or expected it’s not uncommon to beat yourself up for your shortcomings.

Don’t speak to yourself in such a way you would never, ever allow someone else to.

 

You always…

You’re such a…

Why can’t you ever…

 

Remember your inner child.

Speak to your inner self in a kind and loving manner.

What would you say to your child?

Your niece or nephew?

Your best friend?

Would you be hard with them, or would you be the picture of patience, compassion, and understanding?

Be generously patient, compassionate, and understanding with yourself.

When you feel bitterness and anger begin to set in when things don’t turn out how you expected, ask yourself, “What would I say to my loved one in this situation if they came to me for advice or understanding?”

Now be gracious with yourself.

You deserve to hear it too.

 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

In my numerous years of working with stressed out people as a massage therapist, I noticed there are some pretty glaring blind spots when it comes to stress management.
An hour massage once per month is great….but it isn’t enough to help you restore relaxation and enjoy the health and wellness you crave.  That you deserve.
Too many people lack the necessary skills to bring calm back into their lives.
I used to be one such person too. Still am sometimes.
Join me from the trenches as we attempt to shine a light on the blind spots and bring some peace and calm into our crazy lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Have To Own Your Story

Why You Have To Own Your Story

 

 

We’ve taken “don’t air your dirty laundry” to a whole new level in our social media culture.

Not everyone is qualified to hear all the parts of your story, but living without truth and integrity can cause you to stay stuck in the areas of your life you wish to improve upon.

 

Authenticity and vulnerability are the keys to honesty. Silence and secrecy keep you stuck.

 

Be truthful.

Don’t broadcast a highlight reel when you feel like crying.

Likewise, don’t feel guilty if your life is great at present! Let us celebrate with you. Don’t squash your joy.

If you are struggling with something, own it.  Don’t plaster a fake smile on your face or publish a BS FB post.

Denying your feelings when things are tough typically keeps us from seeking the help or learning the skills we need to move forward.

 

It’s okay to not be okay. 

It’s also okay to be fantastic.

Let’s not feel guilty for either one!

Own your Truth. Represent yourself honestly.

Move through your challenges, and let’s dance bomb your successes!

 


 

In my numerous years of working with stressed out people as a massage therapist, I noticed there are some pretty glaring blind spots when it comes to stress management.

An hour massage once per month is great….but it isn’t enough to help you restore relaxation and enjoy the health and wellness you crave.  That you deserve.

Too many people lack the necessary skills to bring calm back into their lives.

I used to be one such person too. Still am sometimes.

Join me from the trenches as we attempt to shine a light on the blind spots and bring some peace and calm into our crazy lives.

 

 

Doormats Are Not Happy, Nor Healthy

Doormats Are Not Happy, Nor Healthy

Boundaries. Oh, Man!  Let’s talk about a tough topic.

If you want to ensure vital and vibrant health and happiness, you gotta understand what is important and valuable to you and protect those things fiercely.  That’s a boundary.

 

Have you every had someone come onto your property uninvited?

How about someone standing just a little too close to you?  Makes you mad and uncomfortable.

These are pretty easy to understand, your physical boundaries.

 

Boundaries have a funny way of getting fuzzy when it comes to your emotional and mental well-being.

Anyone with a meddlesome family member can speak to that.

These boundaries can be much more difficult to manage and protect because of a deep desire to not upset someone, even when they upset you.

Fuzzy boundaries can lead to emotional instability if you don’t figure out and protect yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Emotional instability and mental static can lead to some serious stress and overwhelm in your life.

If you want to live a vibrantly healthy and happy life, it’s important to maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships.

 

Signs of weak boundaries can include:

  • Abuse of any kind
  • Sacrificing your goals, dreams, or plans to make someone else happy
  • Blaming others for your emotional states, or for what happens in your life
  • Taking responsibility for someone else’s feelings

Healthy Boundaries are critical for:

  • Being assertive
  • Meeting your own needs
  • Empowered ability to make healthy choices
  • Positive, healthy self-esteem

 

Sit down and figure out what is important and valuable to you.  Protect those things.  Don’t allow yourself to be a doormat to another person by keeping fuzzy and weak boundaries.

Draw your “property line” and stick a DO NOT ENTER sign on it.

Some people love to step over the line in the sand. They will speak to you or try certain shenanigans, physically/mentally/emotionally. Protect your space.

Likewise, honor and respect the boundaries of those around you.  Show them how it’s done by remaining calm and kind whenever boundaries are in question.

 


 

In my numerous years of working with stressed out people as a massage therapist, I noticed there are some pretty glaring blind spots when it comes to stress management.

An hour massage once per month is great….but it isn’t enough to help you restore relaxation and enjoy the health and wellness you crave.  That you deserve.

Too many people lack the necessary skills to bring calm back into their lives.

I used to be one such person too. Still am sometimes.

Join me from the trenches as we attempt to shine a light on the blind spots and bring some peace and calm into out crazy lives.