“Be yourself!”, “Accept yourself!”, “Love yourself imperfect!”. All this resembles slogans that are far from real life. Despite the appeals, we are often uncomfortable in our body, we cannot always agree with our own feelings and inner critic. Isn’t it taking too much effort and energy to make this acceptance? Is the game worth the candle?
“Two years after giving birth, I was carried away by the ideas of body positive, communicated with women from our group,” says 29-year-old Natalia. – During the feeding, I recovered, and when people like you are around, it’s easier.
But one day I looked at a photograph taken during our meeting and saw everyone and myself as if from the outside. I was 25 years old, and I weighed 97 kg with a height of 165 cm. In the photo, I saw the same, albeit cheerful, but single women who took refuge in the ideas of self-acceptance.
I was scalded like boiling water. I didn’t want to be like that. I dreamed of returning to my body, catching the looks of men. It was a turning point. I realized that my acceptance of myself is the reverse side of rejection, only beautifully packaged. “
Natalia drew up an action plan: consultation with a nutritionist, psychologist, gym. Thus began her journey to herself.
There is another extreme. We are constantly making higher and higher demands on ourselves, this applies to career, relationships with others and our own body. We seem to show ourselves not only to the world, but also to ourselves with one polished side. Where is the line between connivance on the one hand and off-scale exactingness on the other?
Sometimes aspirations for the best turn into unrealistic expectations: to succeed in everything, to please everyone (which means, to give out only reactions allowed by the society). Psychotherapist Sharon Martin believes that the pursuit of perfection leads to a train of problems: we criticize ourselves harshly, find fault with others, think inflexibly, overexert ourselves from work, cannot relax, do not want to try new things, we are afraid of failure. Sound familiar?
Many grew up in precarious families that lacked predictability and a sense of security. We tried to be perfect to avoid criticism, rejection and anger, so we became: perfectionists.
It would be logical to assume that those who are goal-oriented, work hard and achieve a lot, have high self-esteem. However, perfectionists strive for excellence because they are insecure, says Sharon Martin.
Shame is the perfectionist engine. Once upon a time, we were treated as if we were bad, incapable of anything. As adults, we try to compensate for this shame by pleasing others and striving to do our best, without room for error. But happiness and self-esteem should not depend on success and achievement of goals, the therapist emphasizes. However, recognizing that we are valuable on our own, regardless of merit, many have to learn.
Be and achieve
How to combine self-improvement and the opportunity to enjoy life?
“Gestalt therapist Nifont Dolgopolov identified two main modes of life:“ mode of being ”and“ mode of achievement ”or development,” says gestalt therapist Elena Pavlyuchenko. – Both are essential for a healthy balance. The avid perfectionist exists exclusively in achievement mode. “
But we are not born that way, we become.
Imagine a child who makes sand cake and hands it to his mother: “Look what kind of pie I made!” If mom is in the mode of being, then she reacts like this: “Oh, what a good pie!” They are both happy with what they have. Maybe the cake is “imperfect”, but it doesn’t need to be improved either. Both mother and child feel joy from what happened, from contact, from life now, explains Elena Pavlyuchenko.
Mom “in achievement mode” will say: “Oh, thanks, why didn’t you decorate it with berries? And look, Masha has a bigger pie. Yours is not bad, but could be better. ” For parents of this type, everything can always be better – both the drawing is more colorful and the score is higher. What is always not enough for them. They constantly suggest what else can be improved, and by this they spur the child to an endless race of achievements, along the way teaching him to be dissatisfied with what is.
“Perfectionism is about development, and that’s a good thing. But living in only one mode is like jumping on one leg, continues the gestalt therapist. – It is possible, but not for long. Only by alternating steps with both feet are we able to maintain balance and move freely. “
Strength is not in extremes, but in balance. And in the ability to switch. In achievement mode, go all out at work, and then go into the mode of being, say: “Wow, I did it! Cool!” And give yourself a break, enjoy the fruits of your hands, and also yourself: I am here, I live, I just am …
But what is “just being”?