• Shame Hides in Our Secrets

    Everyone has dark side or something they don't like about themselves. We want to learn how to be comfortable with noticing the shadows within without fear or judgement. When we keep secrets about ourselves from ourselves, it sets up an internal world of of confusion and self-denial. Once we bring out the parts of ourselves we've hidden into the light, we start to heal. Shame hides in our secrets, but in our therapy sessions there's no judgement and no reason to hide. Let's talk about the things that you've never said out loud. We'll talk through the difference in feeling ashamed and feeling guilty. Guilt often stems from something we've done that we regret. Shame shows up in a feeling that there's something wrong with us. 

    Folks that struggle with shame often feel worthless and responsible for everything that goes wrong. When things don't turn out the way we thought, we might let pervasive shame tell us that it's a statement about our unworthiness. We can internalize the tragedy as a punishment rather than simply bad luck. 

    There may be past sexual, physical, or emotional abuse that we've buried and our afraid to tell anyone about. You are not to blame for other people's mistreatment of you. You are also not defined by any specific event imposed on you by others. You are worthy of love and contentment in your life. You define your own meaning.

    When we're struggling with guilt we need to first make amends with ourselves. Forgiving ourselves for past transgressions is a vital part of healing. It's important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. We're all doing the best we can with the information we have. Let's work on self accepatance.

  • Living with Imperfection

    Just trying to get everytPerfectly Imperfecthing right sounds like a good thing, right? Well, it depends. How far do you push yourself to make sure that there are no mistakes, nothing left out, and you are above reproach? What are your motivations for seeking perfection and what toll does it take on you personally?  

    On the surface, perfectionism can sound like a responsible and admirable trait. The problem is staying on that surface level of how things look rather than the reality of how things actually are. Social media for instance only shows the results of achievements. The months, years, or even decades of incremental progress and learning from mistakes isn’t often celebrated publicly at all. We can get caught in the trap of thinking that we should be able to do things perfectly right out of the gate. Who are we after all, if we aren’t the award-winning student, highly-paid employee, respected father, or coveted colleague?

    Perfectionism often involves basing our self-worth on how well we meet self-imposed standards and high expectations. It starts out as a way to improve ourselves and bridge the gap between what we consider the ideal and where we are now. When it’s adaptive, we understand that we’re going to mess up along the way. Adaptive (flexible) perfectionism presents as setting realistic goals, but accepting ourselves and appreciating our efforts even if things don’t turn out the way we hoped. 

    Alternatively, maladaptive (rigid) perfectionism shows up as a need to be in control of every aspect of our lives and environment. When it becomes clear that this isn’t realistic, the reaction is extreme and self-critical. When we struggle with maladaptive perfectionism, we are highly self-conscious and develop negative attitudes when things don't go as planned. We assign ourselves tasks to prove to that we meet rigid standards. The trouble is that the more we achieve, the worse we can feel about ourselves. If we meet the standard, it’s not good enough. We should have done it faster, better, and with more panache. If we didn’t meet the standard, we aren’t good enough. We didn’t work hard enough and aren’t smart enough. Either way the result is self-criticism. 

    Rigid perfectionism increases the risk of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues so it’s important to challenge the negative beliefs we may hold about ourselves. In the next article, we’ll look at ways to change patterns of limited thinking that lead to maladaptive perfectionism.

    To find out more information about managing perfectionism, contact Brandy Schafer at Expressionists Counseling, LLC.