I have a confession to make: I am a recovering perfectionist and I still have the odd relapse. Ironically, this blog post is the result of one of those lovely "setbacks".
Yes, that's right, out of my impossible strive for perfection came another wonderful opportunity to learn. Because at the end of the day, that is what contrast really is: just another learning experience.
So in the weeks leading up to this, I spent hours procrastinating by finding all sorts of excuses not to sit down and just write. I resisted the writing because I thought I did not have the perfect topic to write about. The truth is that the topic I had in mind was perfect at the moment it came to me. However, I then made it my mission to get in the way of creativity's business. I put it off for so long that it never saw the light. However, I am not going to beat myself up about that either. As Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in her brilliant book Big Magic: “Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into the realms of uncertain outcome. And, fear hates uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.”
So that is exactly what I did: eventually, I embraced it and dealt with it. After the storm had passed, I realised that none of this was a waste of time. It was simply as it was meant to be. It was the perfect opportunity to deepen my understanding of the B- philosophy I had learned recently.
Now I can share this little bit of wisdom with you and hopefully it adds some value to your day, which really is all that matters here.
Let's dive in, shall we?
PERFECTIONISM, PROCRASTINATION & FEAR
In order to overcome perfectionism, it is important to understand what drives it. So what do we mean by perfectionism? According to Mrs. Merriam Webster it's: “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” I'm sure you will agree that it leaves us with very little options. It really is quite an unrealistic, inflexible and unforgiving way to be approaching life, don't you think?
Now, let's look at the emotion that drives a perfectionist (albeit a recovering one) like me to act a certain way. As aBioNeuroEmotion practitioner, I believe that looking at the underlying emotion of any issue is crucial to transcending it. Emotions link our mind & body and are the drive behind any action we take.
An emotion is neither good nor bad. It just is. It is important to understand that there is a positive intent behind all of our emotions, whether we perceive them to be “good” or “bad”. For example anger is meant to give us the energy to take action, disgust is there to drive us away from potentially harmful foods or people etc.
Now, to quote Elizabeth Gilbert again: “Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat”. In other words, the emotion that drives us to hide behind perfection is fear. Fear is there to get you to flee or freeze in the face of danger. Back in those good old cave days, when your mind perceived a lion, it was the emotion of fear that led your body to run a mile! Now, as I explained in my previous post your unconscious mind, which is also responsible for 95% of your behaviour, does not distinguish between reality, imaginary events or perceived reality. So, that lion might well be that presentation you have to give or, in my case, the blog post I am about to write.
A way of fleeing from that contemporary lion is to procrastinate. When we are procrastinating, we are in fact in freeze/flight mode. It is a way of putting off something that deep down is causing us emotional unrest. Our mind is simply trying to protect us from that perceived danger.
Let's take my own story as an example. A long time ago my mind learned that it was safer for me to go unnoticed. Although that strategy served its purpose in my early years, it no longer applies. However my unconscious mind doesn't understand that things are different now. It wants to “protect me” in the same way it has always done.
Now that I am putting my work out there, understandably it is pretty upset! Acknowledging where my mind is coming from gives me a more objective perspective. I am able to have compassion for its fear and to dissociate from it. The emotion is the trigger.
DEALING WITH THE FEAR
Procrastination is a sign of overwhelm. It means that we are very much in our minds. The goal is to notice when that is happening and bring our attention back to our bodies & the present moment.
When you catch yourself checking your phone for the hundredth time instead of getting on with your project for example, stop right there, take a deep breath, notice what is happening inside you right now and ask yourself: "by acting this way what am I trying to avoid feeling?"
Dropping out of our minds and into our bodies, by really allowing ourselves to get in touch with our feelings & emotions allows us to see the light in them. The intention is to stop thinking and just feel into what is going on, bringing a sense of compassion to the equation.
Psychologist & mindfulness teacher, Tara Brach has a beautiful reflection & short meditation, called learning to stay, that is really helpful to put this into practice. You can access ithere (I have also linked her full talk further down).
The longer we avoid or suppress our emotion, the stronger it becomes, because it wants to be heard. It is trying to tell us that there is something we need to address. The more you allow yourself to feel that emotion and see it for what it is, the less hold it will have on you. That is why children can go from anger to joy in a split second. They don't judge their emotions, they allow them to be and, by doing that, they allow them to pass. Emotions are not permanent: they come and go. They only stay if we attach to them and avoidance is a form of attachment.
In some cases, when overwhelm is particularly strong & debilitating, we might need professional help to get to that underlying emotion and give it that objective perspective we need to overcome it. That is where modalities such as BioNeuroEmotion (BNE), RTT, Theta healing or EMDR, just to name a few, can be very helpful.
In any event, once we have allowed our emotion to surface, we can slowly start to detach from it, taking the attention off ourselves and creating the space to focus on what really matters: the project we are creating & the people it is going to help. That is where majoring in B-ism comes to play.
B- ISM, FLEXIBILITY & PURPOSE
So what do I mean by B- ism? The B- theory is a theory I learned on Embrace Your Feminine Essence, an inspiring course I took recently with the lovely Leticia Ringe.
It is a philosophy she learned herself from the American life coach, Brooke Castillo, and it honestly was a turning point for me. It helped me change my focus or, as we would say in BNE: my perception. In brief, Brooke will tell you that when you are trying to get a project done, you should focus on producing a B- and putting it out there, because a B- could change someone's life, whereas an A+ that never materialises (and let's face it most of those don't) won't help anybody (The full podcast episode is linked further below).
Of course no one is saying you shouldn't strive to produce quality work. Chances are if you are a perfectionist, your B- will be more like a straight A, anyway. However, your main focus should be on COMPLETING the project so it can add value to someone's life. As they say: "done is much better than perfect."
Hearing that was like the sweetest melody to my ears and it really had a huge impact on the way I did things. It lifted a weight off my shoulders by placing the importance on the purpose rather than on the form. Although I do have the odd relapse, I have moved forward in so many ways and am so much further than I used to be! This webpage & blog is a direct result of that philosophy.
How you see things is such an important part of the equation. While perfectionism
is really about fear & control, B-ism brings flexibility and purpose into the picture. It helps us to move away from fear and to dance with a certain degree of uncertainty, so our projects can see the light.
If you really think about it, control is an illusion anyway, just as perfection is. Living in that illusion is like living in a golden cage that stunts your growth. The truth is that in the grand scheme of things we have little control over the flow of life and perfection well… let's say it's in the eyes of the beholder. And, thank god for that! Can you imagine for a second how boring your life would be if everything were perfect in your terms and you knew exactly how everything was going to pan out?
The same goes for those projects you have placed on hold for fear of being judged. As always it's about finding balance: a B- is offering us that balance between perfection and mediocrity. It allows us to breathe and to move forward. Ironically, it is probably the surest way to reaching excellence.
So if you have a project in mind, just do it. Don't wait until you are ready or perfect. Just put it together. Set yourself a short deadline and focus on completing it. Don't spend hours editing your drafts. Just put it out there in all its glorious flawesomness. You can always edit it later if need be. Think about the people out there who might benefit from what you have to say. Give them the chance to see it and give yourself the chance to grow.
I can assure you that if you are worried about not being ready enough, you are probably more than ready! And please remember that “failure” is part of the learning process. People who succeed are not people who never make mistakes, or always produce outstanding work. In fact behind every piece of outstanding work, there are many failed attempts and disappointing outcomes. As mentioned in the beginning, contrast is part of the learning process. So let's embrace that uncertainty and start truly living.
For now here is a short checklist to get you on the way:
Now, go get your B- started!
Below you will find a list of recommended resources and if you have any extra tips for overcoming perfectionism & procrastination, I would love for you to share them in the comment section. We can all benefit from your experiential wisdom.
Meanwhile, may something excitingly uncertain happen to you today!
With all my love,
I help consciously aware people identify the emotional root cause of any re-occurring pattern, issue or physical ailment they might have, so they can shift their perception and show up as their best selves.
Should this resonate, you can find out more here.
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Hi, I´m Dannie
A fellow soul seeker, blogger & certified BioNeuroEmotion® (BNE) practitioner who is passionate about growing, self actualising & learning in order to lead a more coherent/conscious life and help others do the same.