Positivity Plan Point 9 – Lower Your Personal Standards

[Recorded on 07/12/20 – Read the transcript below]

Hi there. It’s Dr. Courtney Raspin with Altum Health and thank you for joining me tonight for week nine of the Altum Health Positivity Plan. And like the past eight weeks and like next week, I’m going to be here doing a bit of a deep dive into this week’s theme on the plan.

And tonight, we’re going to be talking about what I like to call the ‘dangers of perfectionism’. We’re going to be talking about why striving to be perfect can be so damaging for your mental health. And I’m also going to be giving you some tips to take away to help you start letting go of this way of thinking so that you can feel more connected and more positive. I’m just going to take a minute here to say hello to some of you who have joined me. Hello, Vicky and hello, Kimberly and Lexi, hello. Hello there. I’m going to say some his. I always say that, say some his. I’m going to wave. I am going to wave. Hello. Oh, and hello, Emma. How are you?

All right. This is what the plan is all about. It is about improving mental health. It’s about doing it through providing you with some specific tools and techniques to take away. All of these things based in psychological research, so you can try them out for yourself and see how that they can help you. Now last week, we talked about Amy Cuddy’s power poses. And I have to say, I had a ton of fun because not only did I get to kind of talk to you about a really cool study, but I got to show you my wonder woman wallet. And what we learned last week is that Amy Cuddy showed us that simply through changing your body posture, yeah, simply through assuming these power poses, you could change your hormone levels to feel more powerful to improve your mood.

I got to do some of those with you, and then I challenged you guys to go out and try them for yourself to see if they can improve your mood. And I’m wondering how you got on. You guys who are joining us now, I’m wondering how you got on because I’ve been getting some fantastic feedback, people saying that they’re trying these poses, especially the wonder woman pose. That seems to be the favorite. Did it make you feel more powerful? Did it make you feel good? I hope so, because the whole point was to show you that changing your body can also change your mind. I’m just going to say hello again. Hello, Sean. And hello, Sally. Thank you for joining me tonight.

Now this week, it’s week nine, and I’ve called today ‘lowering your personal standards’, but I don’t mean like slobbing out. Oh, Sean says it really, really works, the power poses. And Vicky says she tried superhero pose. I’d love a picture of that, Vicky. It really does work. And as I said, the best thing is that you can do it on your own. You can feel a bit silly on your own, not where anybody’s watching you. But tonight, maybe you’ll feel a little bit less silly because it’s about lowering your personal standards. And as I said before, it’s not about slobbing out or completely letting go. It’s about taking the time to stop striving towards perfection, learning to be okay with a little bit of life’s messiness.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s great to be driven. It’s great to be ambitious. It’s great to strive towards self-improvement. It’s healthy to get some of your self-esteem from your achievements. That’s a healthy part of life. That’s not what I’m talking about. That’s not what I’m talking about when I’m talking about this kind of perfectionism. It’s when striving to be the best becomes an obsession. Okay? When your entire self-worth gets wrapped up and tied to being the best, because when this starts to happen, it’s not self-improvement anymore. It’s not about self-improvement at all. It’s about something else entirely, and it can be extremely damaging to your mental health and can leave you feeling exhausted and frightened and very often feeling very alone.

So I guess, what is perfectionism and why is it not just self-improvement and why is it so damaging? And I think most of all, because we all know some perfectionist. I know that I work with a lot of people that are perfectionists. Why is it that this way of behaving, this pattern is something that so many people find themselves wrapped up in? Well, for many of my clients, many of them who struggle with this kind of obsessional, striving for flawlessness, they learned this way of behaving, this pattern of being from a really young age. Because as kids, they learn that in order to be loved, in order to be cared about, they needed to be a certain way, do things a certain way, or look a particular way. And not only that, they learned that if they didn’t meet these expectations, that they would be judged, that they would be criticized, and that they wouldn’t receive love and care.

Now, we all want to be loved. We all deserve to be loved. So you can see how quickly perfectionism can just walk through the door in an effort to try and save the day. Because it starts as a friend, you say. That’s why I’m saying save the day. Perfectionism comes into your life initially as a friend and it says, “Don’t worry, I see what you need to get loved. I’ll make sure you get it right. Don’t you worry.” And then it starts to shift. And it says, “Because without me, without doing things right a hundred percent of the time, you won’t be loved because you won’t be good enough. So I will be that voice. I will be there. I will make sure you get it right. And I will never ever go away because it’s my job to make you stay in control and keep striving and keep going harder a hundred percent of the time, a hundred percent right until you are perfect.”

That is what I’m talking about. So you see, perfectionism is not about self-improvement at all. It’s a way of coping, with feeling not good enough. It’s a way of trying to take back control when we’re terrified of judgment or criticism. Because we all want to be loved for who we are, don’t we? We all want to be loved. We’re just who we are inside. But perfectionism tells us that we can only be lovable when we are finished, complete, because that’s the definition of perfect, by the way. If you look it up in the dictionary, one of the definitions is free from any flaw or defect, faultless.

I mean, who’s beyond improvement? What human being is finished or complete? And because it’s impossible, guys, we’re left with this constant belief that we’re unlovable and nobody will ever care about us or be close to us for who we are. So we never let anyone in because we never feel good enough to. And then we end up feeling alone. And perfectionism, it tells us it’s because we’re not good enough. So you’re in this vicious cycle, not good, not good at all. So that’s the problem. Okay? That’s the problem we want to get away from. But what is the solution? What is the solution? Well, what you got to do, and it’s going to take some time, is you’ve got to start over finding ways. And I’m going to give you some ways to have faith that your uniqueness, your imperfections, that your humanity, who you are aside from your achievements and your looks is worth caring about. That’s worth caring about.

Now, how do we do this? Well, a few things you can start to try and do. One of them is to take a social media break or do social media overhaul, because we are bombarded with these images of “Instagram Perfect” all of the time, so really pressured environment. And it can be extremely damaging because that’s not what reality is. Make sure you focus on content that focuses on who you are, makes you feel good for who you are rather than what you look like and what you do, so do social media overhaul. Another thing is to make a list of your best qualities. I know it sounds a bit naff, but if you’re a perfectionist, this is really, really important. Who are you aside from what you do and how you look? Why are you loved? And if you’re struggling with this, talk to the people that love you. They’ll be full of things to tell you. Write those things down and look at those things every single day.

And finally, start really giving yourself permission not to be perfect. Maybe make another list of things you’re willing to start to let go. Maybe the house doesn’t need to be so tidy. Maybe you don’t need to wear makeup to all of your Zoom meetings. Maybe you don’t have to work out every single day. Start letting things go, deciding what you can let go, so you can start to feel a little bit more relaxed, so that you can start to be a little bit more vulnerable, so you can start to feel a little bit more connected.

The final thing that I would like for you to do, if you’re somebody who struggles with perfectionism is read Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. It is a marvel. I love Brene Brown, so read her. Watch her TED Talk. She’s amazing. But what this book will tell you to do, and this is the subtitle of the book, is to let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. She really is wonderful, so courageous, so inspirational, so go ahead and read that book. Now, if you guys try any of these things, then please let me know. Please message me. Please post about it. Use the hashtag #positivityplan and let me know. And of course, as always, if you’re struggling with this or you have any questions about perfectionism, you worry that you might be struggling with it, please let me know and I will try and help. Just send me a message anytime.

Let’s see. What else? I think that’s it for week nine. Next week is our final week. I can’t believe it. We’re already going to be at week 10. So join me please next week for my last Instagram Live of the year. I’ve had such a wonderful time doing it. I’ve learned so much. And so far, I hope that you’ve learned a lot too. Oh, somebody is saying something here. Let’s see. Pip, “I love her writing about vulnerability too.” Yeah, absolutely. Everything she touches is gold, I think. There’s some wonderful TED Talks, it’s The Gifts of Imperfection and there’s another one about vulnerability. It’s not coming to me, but just Google Brene Brown and vulnerability and it will come up. So that’s it from me this week. Have a fantastic week. Think about what you can start to let go and let me know. See you all later, bye. Bye.

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