Friday, February 10, 2012

A Recent Perfectionism Monster Smack Down

Oh hi there!

I'm all out of time for things like blogging. It's not you, it's me. I have lots of semi-interesting ideas which I'd love to capture, but the blog has been on the back burner for the last week or so (or month, really).

So I'll just share one thing that happened recently. It's about my Perfectionism Monster, who haunts my brain and tries to make me feel inadequate and unworthy. I've been fighting it successfully for lots of years now, but the stupid thing simply won't just go away already. It comes back and tries again (it's a persistent monster) and so I have to always be ready for it.

Last week at CrossFit, we started off the day's WOD with 100 burpees for time. (What's a burpee? Here's a video demonstration. I don't do them with the knee modification either because I'm badass.)

I knew it would be hard and I knew it would suck and I knew that, since the other two people doing them with me are my badass coaches, I would finish last. But I also knew that I would finish. I went into these burpees not worried, unconcerned, and mostly just curious about what my time would be.

I finished in 8:07, much more quickly than I'd imagined (I thought for some reason that it would be about a 15 minute workout), and then sat down to take the prescribed 10 minute break before my next task. I even was mildly impressed that I only finished about a minute and a half or so behind the slower of the two coaches.

And then the Perfectionism Monster started whispering. I felt a wave of doubt and sadness and what's-the-point-ness that was so strong I nearly broke down in tears right there in the gym.

This had nothing to do with finishing last, by the way. There was no comparison of my performance with the other guys' performances. It's hard to explain somehow, but this feeling of sadness and failure was completely about me--there was no second-handed aspect to it at all. I wasn't thinking "I was slower than them." or "I finished last." I was thinking "Why am I even trying to do this?" and "I suck." and "I am too old/too out of shape/not really an athlete." Everything that went through my brain was an assessment of me and my self-worth, and had nothing to do with anyone else.

I think this is an important distinction, because I sometimes wonder if those who don't have this problem might see perfectionism as partly an issue of second-handedness. And for some, it might be--I have no idea really, and I don't presume to speak for others who possess Perfectionism Monsters. I think the fact that my Perfectionism Monster rarely whispers messages about others could be an indication of how thoroughly I had (have?) accepted it into my subconscious and how deeply it affects my self-esteem. Or maybe it's just my own weird brand of perfectionism and all Perfectionism Monsters have a way of worming down into people's psyches in a similar way.

I don't know. I'm not a psychology peopleguy. I'm a Jenn peopleguy, and I can only try to express what it does and how it feels and maybe there is a real-live way to describe this sort of thing in psychology terms. And I don't really know why I'm trying to describe it here, except to try to get across how pervasive this thing has been in my psyche, how truly destructive it can be sometimes. Maybe someone reading this can relate, I hope.

Anyway, back to my problem last week. That wave of sadness and doubt hit me quickly, and those feelings and thoughts all happened within the span of a minute. I was done with the workout, then BAM! Perfectionism Monster. And then, I stopped it in its tracks. By minute four of my rest period (and I know this because I had to time my rest period), I was already fighting back.

I felt as if a shadow or a cloud had washed over me, so I imagined the Perfectionism Monster as a shadow. And because I was still huffing and puffing (try doing 100 burpees and you'll understand!), I imagined myself blowing that cloud/shadow away from me. The shadow was obstructing my view of my accomplishments, see, and I didn't want it there any more, not for one. more. second. I got mad.

So I took deep breaths and blew the cloud away from the sunny place where my accomplishments lived. I could see things like 100 BURPEES FOR CRYING OUT LOUD and LESS THAN 10 MINUTES WHICH IS PRETTY GOOD IN MY OPINION just shining there under that cloud. I saw I KEPT MOVING WHICH IS THE BEST STRATEGY FOR LOTS OF BURPEES and LOOK AT ME, KICKING BUTT and A YEAR AGO THIS MIGHT HAVE KILLED ME. And finally, I saw I TOTALLY DESERVE THIS AND CAN DO THIS.

I breathed and breathed and the cloud-shadow-monster dissipated and I could finally truly see all my progress there, shining in the sun.

And I still had a few minutes to finish getting set up for the next activity. And when I didn't max on that lift, it was no big. Nary a wisp of a cloud nor the tiniest shadow. I think the Perfectionism Monster knew better than to screw around with me any more that day.

This post has been more difficult to write than I thought it would be. It's sort of an emotional topic. Diana recently talked about perfectionism on her webcast and I thought she discussed many good strategies for dealing with it. One thing that I'd like to stress is that, even when you know a good way to handle things, it still can be really really difficult. Applying those strategies takes time and effort and lots of trial and error. In other words, you might suck at it at first (a double-whammy for those of us with Perfectionism Monsters!). So I'd just like to offer my encouragement if you are fighting your own Perfectionism Monster. Blow away that shadow, kick its butt, fight it however you can. Don't let that evil thing win!

1 comment:

Stephanie Ozenne said...

I just wanted to say "YAY, Jenn!" (For the burpees *and* the smack-down on the PM)