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My therapy journey – chapter one. Sunday March 6, 2016

Hi. I'm Debs and I'm a perfectionist. It's my lifetime struggle. The problem is there is no perfect so I am constantly held hostage to my own high ideals.

The reason I say this is because I was writing for Moodscope for most of last year and feeling good about it. Really good. But then I stopped. I went downhill mentally and the creativity dried up. The perfect idea eluded me. And then I realised what a perfectionist I am and how much it holds me back. What kind of life to be constantly striving for an elusive 100% that can't be reached?

So I asked myself what I would do if I wasn't waiting for the perfect idea? What if I could just write? Surely I could just write? What if I just write about me and what I am going through? So that's what I've decided to do. I am going to write about my journey in therapy. And hopefully some of it will resonate, be of help, or prompt a thought or two. My perfectionist mind is already telling me that I should have started this a year ago when I first went into therapy but I'm ignoring it and doing it anyway! (breakthrough number one!)

Last week my therapist said that I have a problem making mistakes. I'm terrified of them. I need to be 100% certain of my decisions before I make them, and then if I perceive a 'mistake' I drop the project, move on, start something else and the cycle repeats itself again. I sabotage myself in every aspect of my life. I'll reframe that: DID sabotage myself. With men: every man I met I'd be assessing to check if he was 'Mr Right' and as soon as I found something wrong I'd run. With my house: I moved in and then started finding things wrong with it. Even with my son: I picked the wrong father, I'd made a mistake and this time I couldn't take it back.

A lot of people with depression are perfectionists. It probably comes from the view that we're not good enough so we're striving to be the best. But in that path lies misery and more depression. I get this now. And I've decided to be good enough. To live in a house that's good enough. Be a good enough mum. Make good enough decisions. Or wrong decisions. Who cares. And I'm open to meeting a man that's good enough. And just maybe falling in love with his imperfections and he with mine... And maybe I'll find that being good enough is just perfect after all.

What about you? Where could you make some mistakes and live with the consequences? Where can you be good enough and love yourself for it?

Debs xxx
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


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Comments

Adam Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:05am

That was a very thought-provoking post Debs, thank you. I also have a tendency to perfectionism that can be damaging. I have found it helpful to think about what actually constitutes 'perfect', and to reframe it. Perhaps 'perfect' needs to be viewed holistically and subjectively. In other words, if 'perfect' causes anxiety and stress, it is not in fact perfect for you at all.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:05am

I love that Adam, the idea that if it's not good for you how can it be perfect. I'm going to remember that whenever I feel myself slipping ;-) xx

Bev Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:08am

I totally agree with what uve written , thats exactly what im like , I too have started therapy (cbt) and trying to open my mind to feeling differently about how I live my life.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:06am

Well done for starting therapy Bev, such a gorgeous move. Let us know how it goes xxx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:42am

That should have read 'courageous move'! See - not perfect ;-) Maybe it will be gorgeous too, I hope so ;-) xx

Louise Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:12am

Hi Debs, I hate to admit it (obviously!) but I can totally understand. I have always been crippled by the need to reach perfection. I am always being praised for my beautiful artwork and so it should be after the amount of blood and sweat put into it, but little do they know how many pieces were thrown away before I finally accepted this was as good as it gets. I need to take a leaf out of your book and accept my lower status as 'the best I can be' and learn to be content with that. Thanks and good luck.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:08am

Thanks Louise - I'm an artist too so I recognise this! I'm always surprised when a piece of work I think of as 'rubbish' attracts positive comments from other people. Maybe everyone has a different view of what perfect means... and that would mean it definitely doesn't exist xxx

Helen Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:35am

Oh boy does this resonate. I tell myself I don't have to be perfect but I don't believe myself....deep down.....

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:10am

Isn't that interesting Helen, that really we don't believe it deep down? That resonates with me too. xxx

Zareen Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:53am

Your blog entirely resonated for me today Debs. Thanks for writing it.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:10am

Thanks Zareen, have a lovely Sunday xx

Anonymous Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:59am

This is brilliant Debs, I totally agree, I used to be the same but therapy helped me and I no longer believe I need to be perfect, no longer give myself a hard time for all sorts of things. Thank goodness! Absolutely aim for GOOD ENOUGH, or aim for 51%, it's incredibly liberating.

Thank you and well done for writing this, I love it! BP.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:16am

It is liberating isn't it?!! Thank you for your kind words BP, they've made my morning ;-) xxx

Hopeful One Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:01am

Hi Debs- an insightful blog. That inner voice we all have becomes our own enemy when it turns critical. Then nothing is good enough and we berate ourselves for not being perfect We stop realising that no one is perfect. . It also makes us discount the positive and then we become its prisoner . We somehow need to negotiate a truce with that inner critical voice . I achieved that to a certain degree by accepting that ift was better to be approximately right than precisely wrong which happened in that quest for perfection.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:17am

Thanks HO!! I love the idea of being approximately right instead of precisely wrong! Brilliant xxx

Hopeful One Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:13am

Hi Guys- anybody for a laugh? lLets remind ourselves that a laugh a day keeps the doctor away.

A Boy Scout , wanting to earn some extra money , decides to do odd jobs for his wealthy neighbours. At the first house, the owner says ,"Well, you can paint my porch and I will give you £20. The owner gives him the paint and brushes and goes back in the house. His wife overhears their conversation and asks him if the Boy Scout has realized that the porch goes all around the house. "He should. He was standing on it" A short time later the Boy Scout came to the door to collect his money. "You`ve finished already?" the man asks. "Yeah, and i had paint left over so i gave two coats." Impressed the man reaches for the money. "And by the way," the Boy Scout says , "it`s not a porch. Its a Lexus."

Hayley Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:23am

Ha! This is ace :)

Lou Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:51am

I do enjoy your jokes HO! Thanks for sharing :)

Ann Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 11:54pm

Tee hee! Xx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:18am

Ha!!! Fantastic ;-) xx

Hayley Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:23am

Debs this really resonated with me.
One of the things I struggle with is feeling like no matter what I do - how much effort I put in / how much positive feedback or reinforcement I get - it is never enough.
Over the years I have gotten better at telling myself it is enough and that I am good enough but sometimes I still don't believe it.
Thank you for sharing :)

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:41am

I'm so glad it resonated Hayley, that inner critic can really be so cruel can't it? Sometimes I find I can chat to him a bit, ask him what he wants. Often the need to be perfect is the worry that to be anything else would make us unloveable, once I realise this I can tell the critic that it's ok, nothing bad is going to happen. I know all he wants is for me to survive and reproduce and anything that challenges this is' dangerous' to him. But it's ok, I tell him, we're safe and well and you can rest now ;-)) xx

Ann Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 11:57pm

Ooh, very interesting insight into your inner critic, thankyou.

Lou Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:49am

Debs,

What a brilliant blog. Clearly you have struck a chord with many of us!

In psychology a theorist called Winnicott put forward the idea of the "good enough" mother. It is important that a child gets used to good enough, not perfection, because the world around them is not perfect and they also have to learn that they can cope for themselves. Which means that "good enough" is, actually, perfect!

I am delighted that you are writing again, especially since you are writing such great stuff!

Lou

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 9:12am

Ahhhh, Lou, thank you! I'm so touched by your words. I have read Winnicott before but had forgotten this so thank you for the reminder. I'll be writing lots and am really excited about getting back 'out there' again xxx

Ann Mon, Mar 7th 2016 @ 12:02am

Winnicot is new to me, but the good enough mother is a great concept.. New thought in terms of psychology/wellbeing. But not unfamiliar... I do take my own mum's approach that I need my son to develop his independence, but def one to try and remember as a wife and employee and friend, etc, as well as in my parent role.

Leah Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:52am

Debs , thanks for a great blog.
However I am feeling like the odd one out here and maybe in all of moodscope. I am not a perfectionist never have been- I am not sure what the opposite is maybe an imperfectionist!!
I had very low standards so low with men that I would settle for a man who liked me. I felt because I was so flawed I could not expect much from a man and would put up with his flaws.
In every day my standards are very low- with housework, with my writing,with my fashion,in fact I have no high ideals whatsoever. Maybe I am the exception that proves the rule.
I am pleased that you are finding therapy useful and gaining insights into your behaviour.
I always find it interesting how everyone experiences depression differently.

I look forward to more of your blogs.

Anonymous Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 9:00am

Hi Debs. It's good to see you here and I understand where you are coming from perfectly. However I haven't got enough energy most days to strive to be perfect and absolutely know that I never have been by anyone's standards let alone my own. I have settled for my heart being in the right place which is my excuse for not getting things right. I am sure your heart is in the right place Debs. I know it from when you wrote before and your blog now. Surely not being perfect IS perfect? Jul xx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 9:09am

Hey Jul, lovely to see you here too ;-) I totally get what you're saying - my response to Leah goes into more detail about how I'm not perfect at all, it's just a ruse ;-)) Lots of Mother's Day love coming your way xx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 9:07am

Hey Leah, I totally get that. The weird thing is - for me at least - that I say I'm a perfectionist but I don't act like that. My house is a tip, my car has got coffee cups in it from two moths ago, my bathroom is half decorated and my wardrobe needs a complete makeover! So the standards don't ever get lived up to. I understand perfectionism as a mere construct that our psyche comes up with to open the door to the inner critic... So, I say I'm a perfectionist (in my brain, not in every day conversation!) but I'm surrounded by mess so then the critic can come in and say 'look at all this mess, look how long those dishes have been there, you're rubbish, you'll never meet a man living like this, you're not good enough'. And on it goes. Once I started to see it like this I could change my relationship with the critic and let him go.... Thanks for opening up this discussion - it's such an important point xxx

Anonymous Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 12:36pm

Oh how I love this reply to Leah! It made me laugh. I have been cleaning my cooker hood this morning plus the outside of the oven, stair bannisters and the hall way. I am not sure why this sudden burst of cleaning and energy but my goodness it all needed doing. I think it has to be something to do with your blog and Leah's reply. Not sure I will be doing much more now though but I am thinking of buying one of those steamers which clean bathroom tiles. I can feel a Stepford Wife coming on. Jul x

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:57pm

You just made me laugh out loud Jul. And I'm on a train for gods sake! Can I borrow your steamer when you're done?! xx

Norman Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 10:22am

Debs, Leah,

these are two sides of the same coin surely? A counsellor once told me about "black and white thinking." If I can't reach perfection I don't (won't?) try. Part of my distress at work is having very high concept of what a co-operative is, and get stressed by what passes for management.

Interestingly I am now dating a lovely woman who seemed all wrong for me: religious to my humanist; conservative to my radical; car driver to my public transport environmentalism; nothing at all like I expected. But so far (to my surprise) it is working and I'm enjoying every minute of the journey.

Anonymous Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 12:39pm

Hi Norman. My OH of a number of years is the total opposite to me in so many ways if this helps you along the way? Romance is in the air! I love that. Julx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:59pm

Oo - dating a lovely girl!!!!! Yeah you. You've inspired me to get my lazy dating arse back out there again ;-) Thanks N - she's a lucky lass xxx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:59pm

Oo - dating a lovely girl!!!!! Yeah you. You've inspired me to get my lazy dating arse back out there again ;-) Thanks N - she's a lucky lass xxx

Climbing out of the well Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 10:22am

Thank you do much for this Debs, so glad you started writing again. I have also been crippled by perfectionism in the past but with a lot of hard work and insight I'm learning to manage my perfectionistic ways. Thank you for the reminder about how important it is to challenge our often vicious internal critics. Love to all x

LillyPet Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 4:11pm

Love back C ;) LP xx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:01pm

Love to you to climber ;-) xxx

Jan Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 10:25am

Thank you for posting this. I know that I'm a bit of a perfectionist too, which is why I've had so many failures in life. No matter what the books say about just telling yourself that things are good enough, my inner voice says they are not. I am always striving for perfection. Your post made me feel better though, as I realised I'm not alone in this.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:03pm

Don't listen to that pesky voice Jan, it's just your dumb ass machine brain trying to keep you safe. Say thanks, stop listening and get on with being amazing you xxx

The Gardener Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 11:35am

Good morning all. Perfection would be nice, I am just an ace bodger, perfection I leave to the professionals. Therapy! you can imaging in 61 years of marriage there have been some ups and downs. The worst were that Mr G would not discipline our girls - I HAD to excercise some sort of control, and became the ogre. We went to MG (Relate) for a while - but really tea and sympathy, nothing concrete. When was thought to be bi-polar our GP sent us to an excellent psychiatrist -two sessions and he said I was 'not a fit candidate for marriage!' who is? Hardest job you'll ever take on. Then I went to a psychotherapist who was also a priest - brilliant man. He dug out what my m-in=law had done to me - asked what I wanted to do - put a pouffe in the middle of the room and I bunged all the cushions at it. At my sessions I followed one middle age woman in, and as I left another took my place. I said 'I'm not one of those' and stopped, having thanked the guy profusely. I do get a sort of therapy now, through the state for carers - all lovely people - but whether they can stop me going mad with the current behaviour of Mr G I don't know. He should have had a therapist for years to come to terms with his sight problems - does not believe them, and if you've got a wife to beat about the head why bother. Looking at my beautiful new kitchen, my claim not to be a perfectionist is rubbish!

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:05pm

You're so poetic Gardener, the pictures you paint with words are amazing. I have such a vivid image of your life... That's an incredible talent and I'm sure could be such a gift to so many xxx

Skyblue Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 12:12pm

Hi Debs, so nice to see you. I have come to the conclusion at the end of a long fight (with the fear of not being perfect) that if there actually WERE perfect people out there, no one else would/could love them. Great blog, superb discussions, many thanks. xx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:10pm

Brilliant SB! Have you seen the new TV ad for Match (depending on what country you're in of course). It shows people falling for each other's 'imperfections'. It's so great. There's a quote from someone that goes something like 'show me the parts you don't love so I know where to begin'. I love that, and need to post it up in my house! Xxx

Frankie Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 1:27pm

Oh Debs, me too! And I think it was my "perfectionism" which contributed in part to my medical condition (where I have had to learn to pace myself and to rest frequently). And yes Norman, that black and white thinking - if I can't achieve perfectionism, I don't even start ... This is a brilliant blog, thank-you! And the timing, coming just after Les' excellent blog on procrastination is genius (thank-you Caroline!)
Waving hello to everyone ... Frankie

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:11pm

Ahhh Frankie! Love seeing you in here. Waving back and sending you a big imperfect, slightly clumsy cuddle! xxx

LillyPet Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 4:06pm

Hey Debs, I'm so glad you're writing is flowing again. I have struggled with creativity from childhood. Maybe it's part of feeling that things have to be correct. I've had sudden and rare bursts of insipiration, but nothing recently!
I'm so interested in your journey through therapy. It sounds like yours is long term. Is it private (If you don't mind me asking)?
Really glad that it's helping and that the good enough feeling has eased the perfectionism illusion.
Nature isn't perfect, but it's beautifully perfect. I'm looking at some flowers, one has wilted, still beautiful just as it is. Happy Mothering Sunday Debs and hugs to all :) LP xx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:14pm

Happy MD to you too dearest LP, so lovely to see you ;-) I'm having private therapy and I also do LOADS of reading too. So my blogs might be something I've learnt through my sessions, or something I've distinguished. Either way I hope they help. Much love to you xxx

A View from the Far Side Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 4:32pm

This struck a massive chord. Thanks for writing it Debs.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:14pm

No problem View, thank you for commenting ;-) xxx

Salt Water Mum Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 7:40pm

Ah yes...
- The 'good enough mother'
- Black and white thinking
- Perfectionism (here's another mortal who is crippled by thoughts of perfectionism but yet unable to put any of them into action)
- right back to being good enough... my new morning mantra :-)

The wonderful writer Nora Ephron said 'Insane people are always sure they're just fine. It's only the sane people who are willing to admit they're crazy'

Relevant? Probably not! But I love it !

Thanks Debs (and it was a pleasure to read all the replies)

Happy Mammy's day,

SWM x



Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:17pm

Hey SWM, your comments are always relevant! And what does that mean anyway?! Everything is relevant to everything in the end. Nora Ephron - another great writer. Thanks for popping in ;-) xxx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:19pm

Thank you everyone for the great discussion today, you've left me with a big smile on my face. I love this space, it's so inspiring and you all make it great!! Have lovely weeks everyone, sending huge love to everyone xxx

Mj Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 8:58pm

Debxxx that post was way better than good enough. You know what? It was authentic. It was you. Which means it was a mirror for me and my human condition. It also inspired me to get off my perfectionist pot and write what I know and simply let the world decide if it is worth reading. I love the process of writing. Even the rewrites that go after the first, second, and bird rewrites. Then it's a creative art.

So keep going. I can hardly wait to read the next one.
Margaret from across the pond
xxxx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 10:08pm

Margaret - you've just moved me to tears! Thank you so so much, to hear you say you're inspired means the world. I can wait to read what you write - unleash it on us ;-) So much love coming your way xxx

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 10:08pm

Can't wait!!

Peter Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 9:26pm

Thank you for this post Debs - to me it was 'perfect'! My particular issue is in not having 'perfect' thoughts. Negative memories, assessments of self and others, comparisons are always creeping in. I find it hard not to try to make these ' better' or go away. Thanks for your honesty and insight - it really helps.

Debs Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 10:11pm

I get that Peter, I think - for me - the trick is not to try and make the thoughts go away. It's like the old saying says 'what we resists persists'. Meditation is suh a great way to create some space from the thoughts. There's no panacea of course but anything that separates the thoughts from us and who we are is a good thing in my book ;-) xxx

the room above the garage Sun, Mar 6th 2016 @ 11:03pm

Thoroughly identify with this...another perfectionist signing in! I am glad you are gong to write again...I've missed it! Love ratg X.

Debs Mon, Mar 7th 2016 @ 10:01am

Room - you are my inspiration, I hope you know that. You and the other amazing writers make me want to get back on it! xxx

Ann Mon, Mar 7th 2016 @ 12:36am

Hi Debs, hi all, thanks for this blog and all the experiences, especially Leah (different viewpoint is what i love about moodscopers), Lou (Good enough parent), and Peter...

My early thought (not perfectly formed enough to type here this am ;-) was a bit like Peter's, in that I am striving for perfect mental health... had an anxious dabble with SSRIs last week, just cos i was having a bad day and happened to be going to the GP about other difficult issues, and dissolved in tears, and she only had 7minutes - but next week, my counsellor couldn't conceal her feelings of frustration, which made me stop and think, instead of sleepwalking into taking them again. (I took myself slowly off them over 2 years ago, not sure they did much for me anyhow.)

Yes my MH is a bit of a roller coaster still, but the troughs relate directly to another health issue, and i do still function through those, on a day to day basis.

I get fed up of the inner chatter... would like it to stop... maybe I need to do some more work on 'him' as Debs calls hers. (Think mine is a high-expectations Mum voice... gone over the top.)
And - Start doing that work, rather than waiting until I know how to be perfect at dealing with my critic...

All very interesting stuff... Thanks again!

Debs Mon, Mar 7th 2016 @ 10:05am

I get that Ann - the mental chatter is insane right?! But the turning point came for me when I stopped trying to make it stop. It won't. I started meditating to enable me to with the chat and see it for what it is - nonsense. It took me a long time to finally give in and dedicate 20 minutes to sitting in meditation and it's the best thing I've ever done! Gradually day by day I'm detaching from the voice. It still goes on but it's losing it's power. Try it. See how you get on. Huge love coming your way xxx

Cyndi Mon, Mar 7th 2016 @ 10:59am

A long time ago, I heard the saying "make a mistake with courage, have courage to make a mistake". I try to keep that as a mantra when trying things. I quilt and play golf. Both of these avocations have taught me to live with my mistakes. Granted, with quilting I can "unsew"(rip out some stitches), but even so, all my quilts, leave some area to be improved for next time. And with golf, one has to shake off one's mistakes, otherwise it will effect the next shot! I find dwelling on the past mistakes not to be healthy. I try to do the "best I can" and live with it. Not saying it is easy. GOod luck in your travels.

Debs Mon, Mar 7th 2016 @ 9:40pm

Thanks Cyndi and thanks for sharing ;-) I might just take up golf after reading that ;-) xxx

Debs Mon, Mar 7th 2016 @ 9:40pm

Thanks Cyndi and thanks for sharing ;-) I might just take up golf after reading that ;-) xxx

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