pressure to be perfect

The pressure to be perfect

I got to spend last week with a group of delightful 12-13 year old girls at my leadership camp. When I asked what stresses they had, they summed it up beautifully with these words: “pressure to be perfect”. Perfectionism is a big problem for kids and parents in today’s culture. I never thought I was perfectionistic because my house wasn’t clean, but that’s not exactly how it works. The medical definition from Merriam Webster is “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” In my clients, and in kids, I see it as black & white thinking. If I’m not good, I must be bad. If I’m not “liked”, I must be disliked. If I’m not smart, I must be dumb. When we believe there is only one right way to do things, the stress and pressure we feel is overwhelming. Perfectionism, as I see it, is the fear that the real me isn’t good enough. But if I put on a performance, look or act a certain way, then you will think I am worthy.

Perfectionism is not a healthy striving for excellence. It is the belief that if I act good enough, I will be. It shows up as meltdowns and temper tantrums (at all ages). It inhibits creativity and innovation because perfectionists are less likely to take risks or try things they know they won’t succeed in. It’s a primary cause of depression because it distances us from our genuine emotions and sets us up for unachievable goals. “I have to be the best at everything.” “I have to look perfect.” “I have to make everybody like me.”

A lot of my “SuperMom” clients yearn for their old school days when the measure of success was very clear. In school, you know exactly what needs to happen to considered successful. Motherhood is frustrating for those of us who want to “do it right” but can’t find a system or checklist to know if we are being successful. There are no metrics, no measure of better than/worse than, no way to gauge if you are a good enough Mom and it sends our insecurities into a tailspin.

With kids, perfectionism shows up as early as age 4-5 with not being able to lose gracefully, being inflexible, giving up easily, and emotional drama. You can watch them beating themselves up for mistakes and not wanting to be seen as vulnerable. Perfectionistic kids will deny any wrong-doing, use dramatic language “everybody, always does this _____.” Some perfectionistic kids can put others down as a way to feel better about themselves resulting in social isolation (perceived or real). Some kids develop a fear of success, avoid ‘being seen’, and strive for mediocrity, in order to avoid making public mistakes.

Whether we are overachievers or underachievers, our goal is to make up for the inside feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. You can spot perfectionism when the emotional reaction doesn’t match the event (Your kid is devastated over coming in second. You ate too much ice cream so you throw your whole diet out the window. You fear people not liking you so you mold & adapt yourself to convince them you are worthy of their friendship.)

I used to stress out while running late. Racing in the car, my kids would watch me be frustrated, impatient and get really mad at myself, just because I was late. I had beliefs running through my brain like “Being late is rude & disrespectful. I can’t believe I messed up AGAIN.” It wasn’t until I watched my 5th grader STRESSING OUT over forgetting his spelling book that I started changing my ways. The good news and the bad news is that kids learn by imitation.

If the following remedies freak you out, chances are you’ve got some perfectionistic ideas running your life. Click here to schedule a free discovery coaching call with me.

– Say the words “Oh Well” often and out loud. Let it became a daily mantra for your mistakes as well as your kids.

– Celebrate mistakes. “Who made the best mistakes this week? Let’s go around the table and see whose blunder wins the prize!”

– Model self-compassion and forgiveness in front of your child. “I had a goal to exercise three times this week and I didn’t do it. Oh well. I’ll do better next week.”

– Watch your words. Be careful not to use black/white dramatic language around your kids “If I don’t meet this deadline, they’re going to kill me”. “I looked so horrible I thought I might die of embarrassment”.

– Let your kids see you fail. At the roller rink yesterday I had so much fun watching people of all ages and ability levels, fall down, repeatedly. (Only the 13 year old girls made a big deal out of it). Let your kids see you fall, fail, get up and try again. Find an activity you all stink at and fail together. Failing=vulnerability=connection with others.

– Make sure you are praising your kid’s effort and process, not the result. “I love how hard you worked.” “I was so proud of you for trying something outside your comfort zone.” Avoid praising the outcome “You got straight A’s” or “You’re the winner!”

– Tell them that no matter what grades they get, who their friends are, or how they perform on the court, they will always be loved and accepted for who they are.

What growth feels like

Is it time to make a change?

There is a common misperception that living the life you are meant to live will feel amazing. That once you’ve found that THING you are meant to do, life is sunshine and roses and it’s all down hill from there. I think knowing what our deepest desires are and ignoring them, is actually the cause of our greatest suffering. When we aren’t being our best selves, we feel the dissonance. We’ve got this nagging voice in our heads that never shuts up. When we try to take action to be better and do better, it creates hard work, fear and resistance. Whether it’s learning to meditate, exercise, looking for a job, asking for a promotion, starting a business, writing a book, the more important it is to us, the more resistance comes up for us. I see change happening in these four predictable steps.

1. Everything is fine. You are living your dream. You are content and appreciating your life as it is. Your internal voice and your actions are aligned, allowing you to move throughout your days with integrity and simplicity. (Remember the days before all your friends starting having kids? You were content with it being a far off dream.)

2. Your life looks fine from the outside, you have everything you wanted and are happy and grateful……BUT a little voice on the inside keeps nagging at you. This voice, whether you call it your conscience, your intuition, your gut instinct, your inner guidance, whatever, it won’t relax. You try and ignore, suppress it, deny it and it works for a while but it never really goes away. Instead we get more creative in our attempts to shut it up, we over-eat, over-drink, over-work, over-exercise, over-analyze, watch too much TV, worry, micro-manage, you name it, we’ve used it. We expend so much energy to tune out that inner voice that just wants us to grow. This voice can be your closest ally, steering you into the life you are meant to live, or your worst enemy, making you miserable until you obey it.

You’ll know it’s time for your next level of growth because you’ll start getting bored, restless, and irritable. People will get on your nerves. You will complain more. Doing things you used to enjoy, won’t be as enjoyable. You will try everything and anything to resist this calling, until the pain of resisting it, grows bigger than the pain of change.

3. You accepted the call! You’ve figured out what that inner voice was trying to tell you and are taking actions towards that goal. Your inner voice and outer life are in alignment and it feels SO MUCH BETTER! Life feels richer. (Falling in Love! Conception! Promotion!) Life is beautiful! You feel free and powerful until…..

4. The fear shows up. “Who do I think I am?” “Why am I doing this?” “This is too hard” “I know this is what I’m meant to do, how come nobody is supporting me?” FINDING your calling feels great but pursuing it is really hard! You try to go back to your old life but it doesn’t work, like wearing clothes that are too tight, you’ve already grown. Not pursuing your dreams and goals feels horrible so you commit to feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I believe it is our obligation to grow. There are many people around the globe and throughout history who were so focused on survival, they didn’t have the luxury of personal growth. If we have our basic needs met, I believe it is our responsibility to listen to our inner guidance and accept our calling. Growth is painful and scary and always comes with resistance, but doing the work we are meant to do, and living the life we are meant to, always feels better. It’s not easy or comfortable but it’s so much better than ignoring.

What is your conscience telling you is your next area of growth? Sometimes it’s an internal change like worrying less or exploring your creative side. Sometimes it’s an external change in your career, relationships, health or wealth. If you’d like help figuring out what the voice is saying and overcoming the resistance and fear that keeps you from getting it, sign up for a free life coaching session at www.lifecoachingforparents.com/coaching

Capturing good

Making good times last

So far, my summer has been filled with family outings, camping trips and vacations. Between the packing, unpacking and laundry my favorite moment was taking my kids and their friends to the waterpark. It felt like Waterworld itself was making me happy but I know that is not the case. There is always a thought inside our minds that makes some experiences better than others. Otherwise, every time I went to Waterworld I would be happy and this has not been true for me (I used to be very nervous with kids around water). If the waterpark itself was causing the happiness, then every person everyday would have the same great experience and I know this doesn’t happen. But for some reason, on this day, I was extremely happy as I plopped down onto a lounge chair in front of the wave pool. I wanted to capture this amazing feeling that suddenly came over me so I dug around to find what the awesome thought was that was causing me to be so ridiculously happy. After a minute of poking around my brain I found it, one of my favorite thoughts ever, “There is nothing I have to do right now.”

If you get the opportunity this summer for fun and relaxation, find out what the thoughts are you are thinking because those are going to be really powerful for you.

You might feel amazing while camping with the kids, but it’s because you are thinking some amazing thoughts. “I’m such a good Mom for giving my kids this experience” or “I just love it here”. “It’s so nice for us all to be together.”

Tuning in to your own moments of joy will help you recognize your values, your priorities and what you might be missing in your life. If my life was empty and boring, the thought “There is nothing I have to do right now” would feel horrible. Instead, it’s an indicator that I’d like more moments of idleness.

I was watching some mushy macho guy crying on The Bachelorette (The Bachelor series is CANDY STORE for a Life Coach!) as he told the story of how he nearly lost his life in a car accident and how grateful he was to be sitting by a romantic fireplace with this amazing woman. My ears perked up as I tuned in to what was sure to be an fabulous thought and he said, “Everything in my life, every challenge I’ve been through, has been leading up to this moment, right here with you.” No wonder he was so moved, that is a beautiful perspective we could all have, every day!

Do you think a glass of wine on the patio relaxes you?  Stop and try and catch the thought you are thinking before you even take your first sip….I bet it’s a good one.

If your happiest moments are caused by thoughts of “how beautiful it is here” you might be yearning to notice or create more beauty. If you are most thrilled by the friends, family and togetherness, you might want to bring more connection into your everyday life.

I wish you lots of wonderful and beautiful moments this summer of whatever your heart desires the most. To extend them and make them last, find the thoughts that are creating them and use them even after your vacation is over.
But right now, I’ve got a whole lot of nothing waiting for me on a lounge chair so I’d better go attend to it. Cheers!

funny fears

The funny thing that scares us the most.

I was freaking out. I was about to speak in front of 300 people and I was pacing and sweating in the hotel lobby waiting to go on stage. I had 15 minutes left of this major anxiety and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I have talked in front of countless parents over the years and had never been this nervous before. These were nice, hard-working, devoted SuperMoms waiting for an uplifting keynote address, why in the world was I WAY more nervous than ever before?

I took three deep breaths and realized the thought in my head was, “There are three times as many people here as I’m used to and they are paying me three times as much, I have to be three times as good.” Clearly this thought was not helping me but as I used this 15 minutes to work with my brain, I discovered something FASCINATING. Something that has forever changed the way I deal with my own fears and has been massively helpful for my clients.  The thing we fear most, is our own tongue-lashing. We are afraid of regret, making mistakes, and being embarrassed, because of how we berate ourselves afterwards!!!

Of course I don’t want anyone to think I’m stupid or ugly but when I think about it objectively, it’s never really about what other people think. Realistically, there is probably 5% of every audience that thinks I’m a stupid lame dork. Maybe 10% of folks think I’m brilliantly amazing, and the other 85% probably don’t think much of me at all.  They might say, “that was nice” or “I really liked her talk” and then go back to their lunches and their lives.  What I truly feared the most, is what I would say to myself in the car on the way home.

I used to be REALLY mean to myself, (“You are such an idiot! Why did you say something so stupid? You completely blew it!”) and the worst thing I used to say to myself….”You didn’t say everything perfectly.” Yep, this funny little perfectionistic thought used to send me into a shame spiral from hell. And since it was true almost everyday, I was really good at being mean to myself.

Shame feels really heavy and dark but when we shine a light on it, we realize that thing we fear the most is the negative things we say to OURSELVES.  Isn’t that so funny!? Why not just stop saying mean things to ourselves?

What if, no matter how ugly we looked, stupid or rude we sounded, what if we could have our own back? What if we could treat ourselves like our best friend would?  “You tried your best” “It’s not a big deal” “You’ll get em next time” “Nobody even noticed” “Have a hug and a glass wine and things will be better in the morning.”

That day, seconds before I went on stage, I made myself a promise, that no matter what I said or did, I would have my own back. I would say nice things to myself, about myself, on the drive home. I would allow three things I could improve upon, but everything else would be compliments.  When you commit to having your own back, it takes the fear away. You are FREE to try new things, make mistakes, and do things outside your comfort zone!

Answer this….”What would you attempt if you had no fear?”  What might you try if you promised to compliment yourself for the effort, not the result?  Where do you find yourself being proud or jealous of others?  If you did what they were doing, what would you say to yourself?

Once my clients realize that their greatest fear is their own tongue-lashing, they learn how to be supportive of themselves.  When you can be nice to yourself, you have nothing to fear. Regrets, failure, embarrassment don’t even exist! With this tool in their back pockets, my clients have taken on many scary and amazing things like moving to another country, going for that promotion, leaving a bad relationship, taking a vacation by themselves, asking for a raise, committing to a new relationship, starting a business, exercising for the joy of it, sometimes, even something as scary as slowing down, stop taking care everyone else, and just remembering how to play.

Commit to having your own back, no matter what, and see where it takes you.

 

Make the most of your Mother’s Day

Let’s face it, this might be the ONE day of the year when you get asked the question, “What do you want?” Instead of sticking with traditional flowers & massage, why not use this day as an excuse to genuinely answer the question.

What is it that I really, really, really want?

I believe this is a spiritually profound question that deserves our time and attention.

If there were NO RULES, and NO CONSEQUENCES, what would I do with a whole day just for ME?

If I COULD NOT care what people thought and had NO FEAR, what would I do for MY mother’s day?

I’m sure you could tell me in 5 seconds what your kids want, your husband wants, your mother and your mother-in-law want and what they all want for you.  Leave them in the house for a minute, climb up on the roof and dream with me for just a while.

If you could do anything in the whole wide world, what would your heart desire?
Would you wake up in Hawaii and go to bed in Paris?
Would you sing in a Broadway musical?  Go shopping in London wearing one of those wacky royal hats? Would you spend the day asleep in bed or re-enact your Vegas bachelorette party?

What do you really, really, really want?

Without judgment or filters or “I could never do that”.  Just you, remembering what it’s like to dream again.
Asking this question connects you with your spirit, that part of you that has gotten lost along the responsible parenting journey and taking care of everyone else’s needs.  It doesn’t mean you are a bad parent to want what you want, it’s just an exercise to show you where you are out of balance.

It’s okay to admit that you want more alone time or “receiving” time, where other people cook and cater to your needs for a change.  Don’t let your dreams scare you, just asking the question will make your spirit feel heard. Maybe you want to hold a baby all day? It doesn’t mean you have to have another, it just means you long for that sweet, connected, nurturing side of your personality.  Longing for adventure travel?  That might mean you are ready for your next stage of personal growth and learning.

One year, I craved productivity and accomplishment so I painted my dining room.  Another year, I spent the day alone in nature. Now I like to spend two nights in a hotel by myself, feel free to get creative. This mother’s day, ask yourself what you really want and then do something that will give you that same feeling. Notice how just thinking about it changes your state of being.  You feel more expansive, more relaxed and FREE (and you haven’t even left your computer yet!). I’d LOVE to hear what your heart is desiring, jump on over to my facebook page and share it so we can all enjoy that feeling.