Crushing Perfectionism

Every time I start something new (i.e. a new job, a new project, learning something new, etc) I will arrive at a point in time when I feel crushed by the weight of perfectionism. I grew up in a family that highly valued and demanded perfection. For example: If I got a “B” on a report card, I was questioned, “Why wasn’t this an ‘A’?” If I got an “A”, then it was, “Why wasn’t this an ‘A+’?” I would be immediately shamed for not achieving perfection.

It didn’t matter that I had tried my best and worked incredibly hard to understand the material and was still working hard to understand and learn it even better. If my best didn’t earn an “A+” at the end of the quarter or semester, then I was a failure. It was made crystal clear to me that failure was not an option and coming even just a tiny bit short of the extremely high standards was completely unacceptable and unforgivable. Grades are just one of many examples.

That pressure to achieve someone else’s standard of “perfection” left an indelible mark on me. The daily condemnation and shame that was hurled at me became my inner monologue at a very young age and is something I still battle. Working through it has been a formidable challenge.

We all have times when we get stuck in negative self talk. Perfectionism is a battle we all fight to one degree or another. There are many problems with perfectionism, not the least of which is SHAME.

The big problem with shame is that people try to use it as a motivator. It isn’t a motivator; it’s actually the opposite! Guilt can be a great motivator for change; shame; however, not so much. Guilt = “I did a bad thing.” Shame = “I am bad.”

Shame murders motivation and crushes creativity. So what to do when you notice you’re shaming yourself for a real or perceived failure…? Flip the script!

Instead of –> Try thinking:

“I give up!” –> “I’ll try something different and/or ask for help.”

“I failed!” –> “Mistakes help me learn.”

“I’ll never be smart.” –> “I grow my brain by learning new things.”

“I’m no good at this.” –> “What am I missing?”

“This is too hard.” –> “This may take me some time.”

“I can’t do this!” –> “With practice I will be great!”

“I can’t believe I’m in this mess!” –> “I can do something small everyday to improve my situation.”

Flip the script so you can move from being crushed by perfectionism to crushing perfectionism! You won’t always get it right; that’s completely normal and natural. Practice makes progress and progress is what we’re going for, not perfection. You’ve got this!

My History

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do.” – Brené Brown

“History is written at the hands of those who win

The battle must be over for the writing to being

Take a piece of paper, open up a vein

The feather and the fingers pulls against the grain…”

I started talking about my with PTSD and the traumas that caused it because I was desperate for support. I had stayed silent for far too long. It started slowly: I shared publicly for the first time that I have PTSD and talked a bit about my specific struggles with it. Then I began talking more openly and honestly about what I was dealing with. Then, I did what I thought I’d never do: for the first time ever, I shared the story of the sexual assault I experienced in high school. And now, it’s time to share more of my story.

I’ve spent the last few months wrestling with how much to say and how honest to be when telling my story. I knew where I wanted to go with the blog, but I still feel a need to protect certain people to a certain extent and will not post names; however, I am learning that I can tell my story and it’s okay to want to. I ask that you respect my decision to not share names by NOT asking me, my parents, my sister, or other family members for those details. If you want to know more, I’m very willing to answer most questions. Please please be respectful if I tell you I don’t want to talk about it right at that moment or if I refuse to answer your question. Don’t push me for answers I’m not willing to give. You could do so much harm if you push me on this. Please please don’t.

I’ve stayed silent for years, protecting the reputations of those who abused me. There have been many times when I have downplayed the severity or outright lied to protect them. I thought love meant always defending and speaking-well of everyone, even if they were abusive.

I’ve also been holding back out of shame and fear, and also concern for those I love. Hearing my assault story was very hard on people I love, and I’ve been very concerned how telling this next piece of my story would affect them. Know that as you read this, I do not place blame on any one but the abuser. It’s no one else’s fault. Period. Do not beat yourself up for not knowing or not doing something about it. It’s their fault, not yours. Reread those last few sentences as many times as you need for it to sink in.

As I began to share my story, I found that, just as I feared, not everyone has been supportive. People have doubted me. I’ve been told this shouldn’t still bother me, after all it’s in the past (more on why that’s an incredibly insensitive and ridiculous thing to say in a future blog article). I’ve been told I need to “just get over it and move on.” People have even questioned my sister if I was actually diagnosed with PTSD (FYI: I was diagnosed during my junior year of college, although, in truth, my therapist thinks I’ve probably had it most of my life).

The damage that was done is not something one simply “gets over.” The wounds from trauma and abuse suffered during childhood run deep and it’s impossible to fully express that pain. There are no words for that kind of betrayal.

What I’ve come to realize is this: there will always be people who doubt me. There will always be people who think I’m exaggerating or completely making it up. There will always be people who think I’m overly sensitive and emotional.

I’ve pondered often why that is. I think it’s at least partly because 1. no one wants to believe that this stuff really happens, and 2. they don’t want to believe it could happen to me. Maybe that second one is because they’ve known me all my life and had no idea what I was keeping secret. On the outside, I looked like a pretty normal, albeit very shy, little girl. I didn’t fit their idea of what an abused kid looked like. I had loving, attentive parents. Although our relationship with our brother was quite unique because of his health challenges, my siblings and I enjoyed a close relationship. We were very active in our church, school, Girl Scouts, etc. I simply didn’t fit the prevailing stereotype.

But that’s the thing…when it comes to abuse: throw the stereotypes you know straight out the window.

The truth is abuse is an epidemic. Call it what you will: bullying, harassment, assault, etc. It’s far more common than most people think and it can happen to literally anybody.

I have about 520 Facebook friends. Of those 520, let’s say roughly 1/3 are men and 2/3 are women. According to current statistics, about 29 of the men and 115 of the women have experienced some form of sexual assault or harassment. (nsvrc.org)

And emotional abuse is even harder to quantify. Although studies have been done, it’s hard to estimate just how prevalent this form of abuse is. Of the studies I found, the estimates were very high, putting the number at roughly 60% of American adults having experienced some form of emotional abuse as children or teens, from an adult they were close to or, as adults, from their partners.

“No one else will know what I could see…”

I didn’t know what I was experiencing from a trusted adult in my life was emotional abuse. It was my normal. I didn’t know that not everyone was treated like I was by that person. There have been times over the years, especially as I slowly got out of the situation, that I began to realize it wasn’t normal, but it’s taken me many years to understand that what I experienced was, in fact, abuse, to be able to call it that, and to come to terms with that knowledge.

What’s made it even more confusing was that this person could change so fast; they could appear to be loving and kind one moment but turn incredibly heartless and cruel the next. I never knew which version of them I would get or what would trigger the sudden change. If I dared to disagree with them, I was told I was being disrespectful and ungrateful. I learned not to disagree. I fully believed that I always somehow earned their cruelty. If only I could be good enough, then they’d be kind. If only I could be exactly what they told me I should be, then they’d love me. If only I was prettier…If only I was smarter…If only I was more athletic…If only I was interested in and good at the right things…If only I wasn’t me…

“Love was all we wanted and only truth remains…”

They made me believe I had no value “as is” and I needed to change into their ideal in order to be worthy of love. They taught me love has to be earned. So I tried…I tried to become what they told me I should be…. I became ashamed of the real me. I put up walls, locked the real me away, and did my best to project the image they wanted to see. But it was never enough…I was never enough. No matter how hard I tried, I always fell short and could never earn their love.

“I am not the child who turned the other cheek…”

But I am no longer a child required to stay silent. I’m taking back my story.

“All my story now belongs to me…”

I know that I’ll likely still face skeptics, critics, and harsh judgments; however, adult me is truly beginning to believe what little girl me didn’t: I have value. I matter too.

“I am my survivor and you will be my history…”

Until about two years ago, I really didn’t know who I was. I knew what I “should” be, what I was “supposed” to be, but had no real idea of who I actually was.

“I will start to build a better life for me…”

So I set out on an adventure to figure out who I was created to be. And it’s been quite the adventure! There have been mountains to climb, rivers to cross, and boulders in my path; but I’m determined to keep going. I’ve come to understand that figuring out who we are is a lifelong journey rather than a destination. We continuously grow and change throughout our lives, learning countless lessons along the way.

“You will be the lesson I wish I never learned

Love will be the reason you’re reign was overturned…”

I’m determined to take the lessons I’ve learned from what was intended for harm, and use them for good. I don’t know exactly what exactly that will look like just yet, but the blog is certainly a small part of it and I’m ready now to relaunch it.

My History

By Jessica Willis Fisher

“History is written

At the hands of those who win

The battle must be over

For the writing to begin

Take a piece of paper

Open up a vein

The feather and the fingers

Pulls against the grain.

All my story now belongs to me

I will try to build a better life for me

No one else will know what I could see

I am my survivor and you will be my history

Memory is fading

Even as I speak

I am not the child

Who turned the other cheek

Power to the people

Throwing off the chains

Love was all we wanted

And only truth remains

All my story now belongs to me

I will try to build a better life for me

No one else will know what I could see

I am my survivor and you will be my history

You will be the lesson

I wish I’d never learned

Love will be the reason

Your reign was overturned

All my story now belongs to me

I will try to build a better life for me

No one else will know what I could see

I am my survivor and you will be my history

I am my survivor and you will be my history

I am my survivor

And you are just my history.”

https://youtu.be/JXOPhlthDzI