Stopping the Madness of Perfectionism: Part 3, The Safety Net

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A Saving Net from the Snares of Perfectionism

In the last post I explained how taking tiny steps helped me to make long lasting change and avoid slipping into the negative mental trip of perfectionism. In this post I’ll share how another principle I like to call the Safety Net, helped me to mentally frame my journey of positive change effectively, utlimately untangling me from my cycle of extremes.

 

Attention to Heart, Body and Mind

The Safety Net principle is a concept that has strengthened my resilience to the  critiquing perfectionist in me.  The idea is that I have a network of varied and empowering activities that I do every morning. Varied is an important key here. I noticed for me that when I only focused on one aspect of myself, say my body for instance by drinking water and having breakfast, in time it felt like something was missing. In my exploration of different empowering activities, it made sense to nourish as many different parts of myself as possible: heart, body and mind. For example drinking water, exercise and a good breakfast for my body, while reading, writing and meditation for nourishing my mind and heart.

The Net Holds You Up

The Safety Net principle frames how I see my morning power routines as each varied activity being a knot in a net. Each activity is connected and holding up my energy, motivation and momentum. The more of these selected activities I complete, the higher my sense of well being and confidence, the stronger my net is and the more securely I’m held up from slipping into my old ways. The less activities I complete that day, the more holes in my Safety Net, the more likely I am to slip into the self sabotage, negative self talk cycle.

Intentional Flexibility Replaces Rigid Perfectionism

As long as I complete one or two of those empowering morning activities, although not  optimal, I’m still moving closer towards my happiest, most energetic and focused  self. If one or two out of five of my morning activities gets done I’m still progressing.

The Final Goal

Ultimately the whole point of all this effort is to make these new habits, old habits. We want them to become ways that we just do things, where we don’t even bat an eye in doing them, we just do them, like brushing our teeth. On this journey I intended that feeding my heart, body and mind every day to be as natural as getting dressed in the morning.

Energy to For Better Choices

As I introduced these nourishing, varied activities into my morning’s, first in small doses of course, I noticed the difference in my day dramatically. I was more intentional and less impulsive in my decisions for the rest of the day. As Jonathan Levav of Stanford has proved in his research of decision fatigue, it’s imperative that one has energy to make tough decisions well. My morning routine was energizing me to make healthier choices for the rest of my day.

Handling the Curve Balls

This net of morning activities has held me up as I walk through the curve ball days that are full of surprises in that, if I’m not able to do one self care routine, I’d still do others and my esteem, energy and momentum  were still maintained.

The Visiting with Family Curve Ball

When I’m traveling and visiting with family, I’m basically on their schedule. It’s usually hit or miss waking up early enough to do my own thing before they wake up. If your family is like mine they want to hang out even if we’re not officially doing something like out at a festival or family party. If we’re getting ready for the day they want everyone doing it together, in and out of the bathroom around the same time, preparing food together and finally eating breakfast together. Everyone is in each others space, basically all day.

Avoiding Self Care Turning into Selfcenterdness

Writing streams of consciousness for 20 minutes while they’re all waiting for me at the breakfast table because I MUST get my power routine in, would be super awkward. There is no need to be rigid about my morning routine as that lends itself to perfectionism as well. If I woke up too late and just had 20 minutes, I’d drink 6 cups of water (half of the 1.5 liters), do 10 minutes of writing and 10 minutes of different kinds of burpees and squats for a short but impact heavy exercise. My meditation and prayer I would get in at night when I’d tell everyone I need to hit the sack a little early.

 

The New Nursing Mommy Curve Ball

When my son was born 5 years ago I nursed him on call in the first year. For the first few months exercise, writing and silent meditation were out of the question.  This safety net perspective helped me in that I focused on what I could do. For months much of what I did was not in the morning but spread out in the day whenever I could fit it in. I’d drink the liter and a half of water whenever my stomach was empty, not hard to do as an on call nursing mom. I learned a chanting meditation where I repeated a word or phrase and did that as I nursed him. Not optimal but good enough  to keep up my momentum.

In times like these when I have little control of my environment and schedule I learned that it’s more important to focus on getting self care in, not getting it perfect.

Ultimately my relationships are important to me and the purpose of my self care is for me to be able to bring my best to them. My self care habits are not meant to be impediments to them, it’s a fine balance.

Not a Race to the Finish Line

Seeing my morning power routine as a network of things instead of a finish line that must be reached by a certain time gave me the mental flexibility I needed to keep my negative self talk at bay and prevented me from stopping the habit completely for long stretches of time. I learned that

I do prefer those days when I get to do all my self care activities done in a concentrated manner in the morning,  yet when things out of my control come my way I can roll with the punches.

 

In the next post I will share how the principle of Incremental Increase helped me  to further integrate healthy new habits into my lifestyle and avoid the extremes of the perfectionist pendulum.

 

Till then, is there something that has helped you steer clear of negative self talk on your way to healthier habits?


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