“Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots.” ~Julia Cameron
Within each of us lurks a perfectionist. And perfectionists set themselves up for a lot of pain in life.
How so? I’ll come to that.
First let me describe how our first child took her first step. She was less than ten months old. A very bright girl, who wanted nothing less than my approval at all times.
On one occasion, a few months previous to that, she was crawling on the carpet and picked up some small thing. As she started to put it in her mouth, I called out loudly …
“Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ~Lao Tzu
We all have recorded messages playing in our heads, from long ago.
Listen to parents talking to young children. Often the message is less than approving.
“Don’t put that in your mouth!”
“Go wash your face right now.”
“If you keep acting like that nobody will like you.”
“Look at Cindy, how well she’s doing. If you worked harder you could do as well as her.”
Those examples are kind compared to what many people will have heard growing up.
Many of these messages enter our brains …
“Be quick to forgive, because we’re all walking wounded.” ~Anonymous
People often behave in ways that we find irritating, annoying, or worse. This can happen especially with people close to us.
They can speak with little consideration for the impact of their words. They can criticize us and pounce on our mistakes. Sometimes they do unfair things that seriously disadvantage or damage us. Or they let us down when we’re counting on them.
All these behaviors can lead to us feeling wounded. The scars can persist for years or even decades. The closer the offenders are to us, the greater …
“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” ~Paulo Coelho
We’re bombarded by images of people living apparently perfect lives. They suffer no bereavements or breakups or losses or failures. They look perfect, make perfect choices, and act perfect.
Everyone seems to love them as they sail from success to success, with zero misfortunes, mistakes, or regrets.
So, it’s easy to believe that we, too, need to be perfect.
I had a simple definition of success when I was younger. It was whatever made others admire, or at least accept me.…
“I acknowledge my own worth. My confidence is growing.” ~Unknown
Sometimes I feel like a spider whose web is repeatedly torn down. I plan something and start taking action. Then life happens, and setbacks threaten to sap my energy and enthusiasm.
Whenever I take on too much, I can feel as if I’m juggling a million balls. And doing it badly.
You’ve probably seen T-shirts saying, “Things are a bit crazy around here.” That could easily describe me when I allow myself to become overloaded.
It’s easy to feel stressed and to slip into harsh self-criticism. Especially when I hold …
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~A. A. Milne
Gratitude didn’t always come naturally to me. If there had been a championship for complaining, for a long time, I would have been a serious contender.
For years I felt entitled to everything, including the kindness of others. This didn’t make me very happy, since it was always easy to find something or someone to complain about. The more critical I grew, the less appealing life seemed and the worse I got on with others.
“There are two sides to every argument, until you take one.” ~Unknown
The phone rang. My partner and our daughter were away hiking and camping. I’d wanted to go with them, but my partner had discouraged me.
My partner had a last-minute change of heart, but I’d remained firm. They hadn’t welcomed me, I said, so they could do without me.
Now, after a day of hiking, our daughter phoned me. They wanted me to join them for dinner and then join them for the second day of the hike.
How do you deal with feelings of disappointment, frustration, or …
“What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?” ~Michelangelo
“Stop hunching! Stand up straight!” This is what I heard as a young child.
A running commentary on my appearance continued throughout my childhood. It was well intended, but not entirely helpful.
I grew self-conscious. If you’ve ever decided you’re too tall or too short or too fat or too thin, or that some parts of your body look unsatisfactory, you’ll understand.
Then I went …
“We are a work in progress with a lifetime contract.” ~Phyllis Koss
The priest at our wedding advised us, “It’s not enough to say, ‘I want to marry you’ just today. You’ve got to be able to say that every day.”
Problems and challenges in life can be like the wind, which blows unpredictably. You can’t control the wind, but you can learn to set your sails and to make repairs.
We’ve now been married for thirty years. Life, with all its ups and downs, has taught us a few lessons about building a lasting romance.
Here are ten tips …
“Love isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” ~Steven Hayes
Things go wrong in life. Distress and confusion can take root, sometimes leading to harsh self-criticism, depression, or anxiety.
We sense that love heals, and it does.
I once visited an orphanage for abandoned infants, and every toddler who I carried clung tightly to me. I can still feel their little arms clasping me desperately.
We crave love as we crave oxygen.
But what is love?
Is it something you wait for?
What if love is more than a feeling?
What if your choices and actions can bring the spirit …
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” ~Viktor Frankl
Low moods can roll in like a numbing wave, washing out the pleasure from life.
If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone. Surveys have shown that the vast majority of people in the US eventually experience some depressive symptoms, and many are anxious. I’ve been there before.
Early in my medical career, I made some research findings that contradicted the then-current views. My boss was not an expert in that area, so he simply …
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” ~Abraham Maslow
It was 4:00am, but I was wide awake. I wanted to be a great achiever, a great partner, and a great parent. Instead, I had turned into an irritable insomniac who no longer knew how to relax.
I was trying to do everything perfectly and be everything to everyone. Demands kept piling up. This made it tough to focus on the present moment.
A wandering mind is less happy than a mind focused on what it is doing, according to scientific research. …
“The simplest things in life are the most extraordinary.” ~Paul Coelho
Life can be frustrating. Things don’t always go according to plan.
People let you down, your loved ones seem insufficiently appreciative, the future seems uncertain, demands pile up, and stress invades your life.
You start to beat yourself up over mistakes. You might even start to question if you are worthy of love. Life loses its shine.
You’re not alone. Hundreds of millions of people feel this way. But pause for a little while to consider this story.
A personable young man approached me at a gathering and …
“Make ‘Let go of control’ your mantra today.” ~Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges #177
When the phone call came I was thousands of miles from home. My father was suddenly ill, admitted to the hospital. I was a medical doctor by then, and I felt a foreboding.
My mind went back to my childhood.
Imagine being a little child in a dark room. Every small noise evokes images of vicious monsters lurking in the night. They draw nearer.
You cry out, “Daddy!” And cry out once more. Then your hero comes to the rescue.
Your father shuffles in …
“Grief can be the garden of compassion.” ~Rumi
Have you ever had lower back pain? I once wrenched my back and walked at snail’s pace for weeks, crippled by pain. Lower back pain troubled me for years, until I found an exercise that reliably switches off the pain.
Have you ever lost a loved one? The anguish can seem unbearable.
Abolishing pain might seem a good idea, but please pause to consider this story.
I was once the doctor and scientist on a health “mission” with a major international organization. Our team included a vivacious and intelligent young lady …
“Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.” ~Viktor Frankl
Picture this: it was 3am but I couldn’t fall asleep. I had little to complain about, except a feeling that life seemed to be passing me by.
My father had died abruptly some years earlier, my mother had come through a major operation, our children were growing increasingly independent, and our marriage was strong.
Work was admittedly a bit stressful, and colleagues were less helpful than they might have been. But I ate a healthy diet, exercised, maintained a reasonable work-life balance, and did …