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Old 12-13-2016, 08:52 AM
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Perfectionism

One of the symptoms of my disease of living with alcoholism most of my life is that I am a perfectionist. I take things too personally and I totally can't handle criticism. It's like my brain is wired to hear everything being said to me with a hearing problem where all I hear is criticism attacking me and attacking my character.

I am once again working through my steps and I see these patterns emerging where I know I have a very thin outer shell and I'm extremely sensitive to others and how they perceive me. Basically, I feel like I must be liked be nearly everybody. I know that's not possible in reality, but I know that it's deep seated in my psyche after all I've been through with my dad and my ex.

My bf and I were talking about it this AM because he's the exact opposite. He is the youngest of 5 and can't care less what people think of him. He's got a very tough outer shell and inner shell, as well. We were discussing birth order and how he feels like I got the trifecta when it comes to my inclination to be liked and to be perfect all the time. Alcoholic father, first born, and alcoholic marriage to an abusive jerk. Hmmm, all things fall into place and here I sit being told by my bf that he sees that in me and that knows why I struggle with handling criticism and that he hates seeing me be so hard on myself. He's always telling me that it's OK to make mistakes but, my internal voice and natural default is to say, "No, no, it's not ok! I won't be accepted for who I am if I'm not perfect." Funny, but sometimes this guy sees right through me with his intuitive thinking and perceptions and it drives me crazy. Because he's right.

And, that's the kicker of it all. I know I've had my struggles in accepting who he is and some communication issues we've had, but I have to admit that I'm still working on being emotionally healthy myself. I can only work on ME and I can only fix my side of the street. My new job will require me to be tougher on the outside and to handle rejection better. I will have to learn to let other people be right (you know, because i'm usually right all the time, LOL) and I know I will have a long road ahead of me to success in my career.

Working the steps has helped me in the past but I'm looking to expand my approach. What has helped you get over your need and inner desire to be perfect? To have acceptance and love from everyone and to be liked all the time?
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Old 12-13-2016, 09:22 AM
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Yeah, I have some perfectionist symptoms too - for sure.

Things are shifting for me lately, and I don't know if it's because of recovery in general, or just me growing - expanding my awareness / acceptance of MYSELF for a change? But recently, I'm ok with a couple dirty dishes in the sink, and being 100 miles overdue for an oil change...if it means I'm out living life and doing things I love alone or with people I love. Maybe my priorities are just shifting after losing my dad - I dunno....but I'm happy as hell about it!

THe mantras here...."its not my business what people think about me, " everyone is doing their best, and that includes me", and the quote on my avatar are always with me and help me daily.

For the record, Liz - you're pretty great as ya are!
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Old 12-13-2016, 10:00 AM
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The key for me was self-acceptance.

I didn't really believe that no one else would accept me if I wasn't perfect (though I had been conditioned to believe that to be the case); in reality, I would not accept MYSELF if I was anything less than perfect.

It came back to the core work with my therapist. Forgiving myself for not being "enough" to make my mother happy/stop drinking. Actively stopping my own negative self-talk. Spending time only with people who reflected the best in me. Learning to take care of myself.

I was able to do these things without the outside pressure of a relationship, and I thank myself everyday for giving myself that gift (which did not feel like a gift at the time so much as a "sentence"). I was able to build a relationship with myself that was the foundation for all other relationships.

But the first step was acknowledging that the only person who actually expected me to be "perfect"...was me.
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Old 12-13-2016, 11:06 AM
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I guess that it has never occurred to me that I could be "perfect". The best I could ever try for was to be, maybe, really good, in a few areas......??

In life, I don't think that many people expect perfectionism in others....except, maybe, Olympic coaches...lol.....
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Old 12-13-2016, 11:22 AM
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Great thread, Liz! I've always been a perfectionist also in certain areas of my life. My job being one of those. It's resulted in a pretty big promotion which should be good but it's not. I'm really, really struggling with it. I have trouble saying no and pushing back and they have buried me in work. I am also a supervisor now....do you know how hard it is to be a Super Codie and complete yearly reviews and complete compensation packages?? It has resulted in problems at home. My RAH has even stated that my job is my addiction. I don't want that! I don't like it! I'm really looking forward to reading the responses.
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Old 12-13-2016, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by SparkleKitty View Post
The key for me was self-acceptance.
Yep, me too. True self-acceptance negated the need for external validation.


Originally Posted by lizatola
What has helped you get over your need and inner desire to be perfect?
(cough, cough) Brene Brown's work helped me tremendously in this area. She speaks about this specific topic often in her books/videos.


Originally Posted by lizatola
To have acceptance and love from everyone and to be liked all the time?
In NO way to I expect to be liked all the time, never mind loved. People form their opinions & ideas of good/bad normal/not over many years & through the lens of their own life experiences. I don't aim for total acceptance, I aim for aligning myself with those who share enough of my own perspective to develop deeper relationships.

In the cases where I can't control that - like at work I'm exposed to co-workers that I have no say over hiring/firing - it's all about boundaries, detachment & not taking their opinions personally.
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Old 12-13-2016, 01:52 PM
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I am the eldest child of an alcoholic, so I totally understand the codie needs for perfectionism and to be liked. However, after years of codie behavior and reaching into middle age and seeing that those behaviors got me nowhere but stomach ulcers from resentment and anxiety, I decided to take the advice around here and focus on myself. This helped me feel better about myself, more self-esteem, even more self compassion. I started giving to myself everything I was trying to get from others with my codependent behaviors and then when I started feeling more confident and fulfilled, what others thought of me naturally counted less and less. In fact, I had an "a-ha" moment at work the other day when a coworker and I had a little tiff. I felt she over-reacted to something that I did and I got quiet. She asked to talk to me in private. She started the conversation out with, "Now, DD, you know that I love you." I surprised both of us when my instantaneous response was, "You know, it is really not important that we like or love one another. Only that we respect one another is important." That one really threw her off balance and it made me feel like I had come a long way in my recovery.
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by FireSprite View Post
Yep, me too. True self-acceptance negated the need for external validation.




(cough, cough) Brene Brown's work helped me tremendously in this area. She speaks about this specific topic often in her books/videos.




In NO way to I expect to be liked all the time, never mind loved. People form their opinions & ideas of good/bad normal/not over many years & through the lens of their own life experiences. I don't aim for total acceptance, I aim for aligning myself with those who share enough of my own perspective to develop deeper relationships.

In the cases where I can't control that - like at work I'm exposed to co-workers that I have no say over hiring/firing - it's all about boundaries, detachment & not taking their opinions personally.
Ok, so I just told my bf about Brene Brown this AM because he told me about a program that he attended a few years ago that was a weekend event hosted by Landmark Worldwide. He was telling me that it was a program aimed at getting people to practice leaving their pasts behind them, focusing on their futures and their goals, and then they did exercises over the weekend where they basically did a crash course 12 step program, in some ways.

I was telling him about Brene Brown's work and we started discussing Tony Robbins and various other mentorship/teaching/self improvement/self awareness programs earlier today.

Anyway, I love Brene's work and Byron Katie's work called, "Loving What Is" has been very helpful to me, as well.

Thank you all for responding. Would love to hear more. See, one thing my bf mentioned that I tend to agree with is that I will say, "Yes, I know. I shouldn't take it personally and I know, in my heart, that I don't have to be perfect", but he asked me, "Is that true? Or do you just say it but not really believe it deep down?" UGH......

See, I have a fake it until I make it mentality. I know what to say, I know what a healthy perspective is but I don't always know how to 'be' that way. I don't always know how to practice it even if I understand the concept. I say I know I don't have to be perfect and I want to exhibit that in my life, but when I break a dish or misinterpret something or hurt someone's feelings unintentionally, I beat myself up for not being better or for not apologizing fast enough or whatever. I hate being 'less than'.
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:28 PM
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If you want to put something into practice right now, then you might consider working on how you talk to yourself. Not how you are "exhibiting" to others.

You aren't "less than". You just keep telling yourself that you are, because it conforms to some deeply ingrained image you have of yourself that has been with you since you were too young to know any better. You are old enough to know better now, so you have to be nicer to yourself.

Dishes break. Feelings get hurt. We learn and we try do better next time. But all the self-flagellation in the world doesn't change something that has already happened.
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:35 PM
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Wanting to be liked, seeking perfectionism- for me they are external means of getting feedback/affirmation I matter, that I am not happy with my core self. I work with a counsellor- takes time and effort.
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:46 PM
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I think accepting your non-acceptance of your less-than-perfect self might be a good start.

I see you beating yourself up for beating yourself up, lol. That doesn't seem like a solution. It actually gets a little bit Matrix-y. I think some of the self-acceptance just takes time. Think of it this way--you're just getting to know yourself. You gonna reject this new friend just because she has a little problem with perfectionism?
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Old 12-13-2016, 03:12 PM
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For me, I "knew " it long before I ever really "got it".... it's not a rational thing that you can learn in a book, it's like the others are saying - more about putting it into practice in ways like stopping negative self talk and starting positive replacements for that chatter.

I also found it helpful to look back over my perceived "failures" & examine them again with a bit of distance. What happened as a result of my "mistake "? Did the earth stop spinning? Did they take away my birthday? Did anyone suffer irreparable damage? If other people were involved/present, did they even have a clue that I was even struggling with it all, or do I only perceive that they notice my every little action/reaction? It's difficult but incredibly beneficial to see yourself clearly without running it through the filter of self judgement.
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Old 12-13-2016, 03:21 PM
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This may seem like an odd one.

A very concrete thing I did was think twice before I used my knee jerk reaction and the words "I am sorry....." came out of my mouth.

I had to stop it entirely for awhile to see what my "instinct" around it was.

My biggest challenge was I was apologizing most of the time for being/existing or taking up space. I was apologizing to try and smooth out the emotions in a person or the room.

I also had to work through a lot of what others so eloquently wrote.....

Saying that I am sorry when I have behaved poorly is not the problem. My motivation for it, my amount of doing it, and my need to try and take on someone else's problem and apologize for it was. For me it stemmed from my need to please and be a perfectionist.
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Old 12-13-2016, 10:53 PM
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Hi Lizatola,
A big help for me is to remember that we're all works in progress. If you reread your posting, you'll see a little irony, I think, because you're hoping to get this perfectionism thing worked out . . .so that you'll be a little more perfect, right?

I try to remind myself that if I didn't mess up, it would mean I'm not challenging myself. It's like skiing--if you never fall down, you're not on hard enough slopes. And when we stop challenging ourselves, well, that's when we die.

We're all works in progress. Life is a process. It's okay. You are a really good person and learning all the time. That's the way it should be.
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Old 12-14-2016, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by LifeRecovery View Post
This may seem like an odd one.

A very concrete thing I did was think twice before I used my knee jerk reaction and the words "I am sorry....." came out of my mouth.

I had to stop it entirely for awhile to see what my "instinct" around it was.

My biggest challenge was I was apologizing most of the time for being/existing or taking up space. I was apologizing to try and smooth out the emotions in a person or the room.

I also had to work through a lot of what others so eloquently wrote.....

Saying that I am sorry when I have behaved poorly is not the problem. My motivation for it, my amount of doing it, and my need to try and take on someone else's problem and apologize for it was. For me it stemmed from my need to please and be a perfectionist.
OMG...this is so ME! I have to be careful that I don't say 'I'm sorry' too often because my motivation isn't truly that I'm sorry. I was just apologizing for 'being' there, I think.
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Old 12-14-2016, 06:33 AM
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I see great wisdom and truth in these responses. It all came
together for me and the light bulb went off when I began to
learn about self-compassion. I got alot from Brene Brown and
"As a Woman Thinketh" by james Allen.

Definition and Three Elements of Self Compassion | Kristin Neff

http://www.pdkwucc.org/asawomanthinketh.pdf
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