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Perfectionism can be Limiting

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I know. Simply the title of this entry has some of you already defensive. I am defensive about it and I am the one writing it. The idea that striving for perfection may be unhealthy or counterproductive is hard for many of us to accept. I mean clearly we were taught to be the best, to strive for the top, to excel in all things…so of course we should strive for perfection right? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Too soften the blow I have added the word ‘extreme’ when I describe perfectionism because again I know this idea is hard to accept. But let me help you as I help myself. There is a stark difference between striving to be the best you can be and striving to be perfect. Being the best you can be means that you consistently put your all into your efforts. Striving to be perfect means you don’t allow room for mistakes and ultimately growth.
I use to see extreme perfectionism as a badge of honor. I now understand it is often an indication of hidden fear. I will explain what I mean, but first, do you mind if I put on my clinician hat for a moment?

In my field the idea of ‘perfectionism’ can lead to serious challenges in our ability to live our lives freely. Perfectionism demands that an individual be without any error, it places unrealistic expectations on one’s performance and it leads to emotionally damaging self-criticism. It also puts too much weight on the perceptions of others. Lastly, and this is the one that really concerns me…it leads to the person striving for perfectionism to be judgmental of others who don’t always get it right.

I know! I know! You are saying “Come on Robin…it’s not that serious”. But if a need for perfectionism is high on your radar I don’t want you to so quickly dismiss this information.

If anyone has followed my work longer than a month you know that I love Oprah. Within the last year I was introduced through Oprah (like we are friends…let me keep my fantasy world in tact please…) to my new obsession and her name is Brene Brown (this woman is amazing). Brene Brown recently said this when it comes to the idea of perfectionism:

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

I could do a church shout on that! Please re-read it! Perfectionism gives us the false belief that we can “….avoid or minimize feelings of shame, judgment and blame”.

Remember I said that I now understand that striving for extreme perfectionism is an indicator of unspoken fear. We are afraid to be judged, afraid that we will not ‘measure up’, afraid that someone will see our flaws and imperfections, afraid that if we are not flawless we will not be deemed credible.
Of course when we are being logical we know that most of that doesn’t make sense and even if it is true it shouldn’t be…but again that is when we are being logical and most times ‘perfectionism’ is driven by our emotions and not our logic.

So what is the real truth about perfectionism? Instead of it pushing us forward, it actually holds us back. Below are 3 facts I have learned about perfectionism through my own journey…check them out and let’s free ourselves…

Perfectionism…

1. …Stifles your creativity
Being able to truly create and dream requires mental freedom. Perfectionism literally stifles your ability to be FREE! Who can be free when they can’t make any mistakes? If you want to truly be your best creative self, intentionally schedule time where you can create without an expectation of doing it all right.

2. …Suffocates your confidence
While you might long for perfectionism, it is illusive and you can never fully meet that standard. And so then what happens? Well over time you begin to subconsciously (or maybe even with full consciousness) beat yourself up for not being perfect…for not getting it all right! In order to limit the self-esteem draining impact of perfectionism, remind yourself (audibly if necessary) that you are amazing not because you are perfect, but because you keep going even when you don’t have all the answers or when you make mistakes.

3. …Sabotages your growth
I know you think that demanding perfectionism will increase your professional and or personal growth, but it does the opposite. First of all it creates stress for you and carrying stress long-term has consequences. Secondly, it can hinder how people connect with you. On a personal level, your friends and family can not measure up to your unspoken (or for those of us who are really out there…spoken) demands. You may think you aren’t putting your pressures on other people but it happens often without you even trying too. You raise the bar so high that your friends, family or even your children just can’t meet it. And professionally, your need to be perfect in your delivery causes you to be overly analytical, unable to go with the flow and it may even cause you to miss deadlines because “…I can’t turn this in until is perfect”. In order to stop the sabotage, get feedback from people you trust. Ask them to hold you accountable. Let them know you want to maintain your standard without limiting your ability to connect and produce.

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Chartering New Territory? These tips may help!

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Charting new territory can be a little off-putting and even downright scary at times.  Often, going places and doing things that you haven’t done before can cause even the most confident person to have moments of self-doubt. So if you find yourself in a new season and it feels a little unsteady, it is okay.  Below are a few things that you must do if you are going to be successful in this unfamiliar place.

One of the first things to do when navigating new terrain is to accept your new normal. Recently my good friend K.D. Bowe sent me a text telling me that very thing and initially I rolled my eyes at the text. Not because he isn’t right, but because it so sounded like something I would say.  And he was right.  When you are in a new place, you need to accept the new normal. Even if the new place isn’t permanent, you will never be the same person you were before the experience, so instead of fighting the waves, learn to ride them! (Click to Tweet)

As you travel through this new season, you should remember you have actually been here before. No, maybe not the exact same scenario, but experiencing something you’ve never experienced before is not so new after all.  Think back to your first day on your college campus….maybe your first day on a new job.  Think back to the first year of marriage or maybe the first day you brought your first child home.  You have experienced a ‘new season’ before so think back to one of those experiences and identify what you did during that time to get adjusted. (Click to Tweet)

As you continue on the journey, you must connect with a comrade.  If you look through ANY of my previous blogs you will find this as a common theme! Get off of Isolation Island.  It is vital that you stay connected to at least one person who is on a similar journey as you.  The two of you can discuss your feelings, fears and frustrations.  This friendship is a safe place for you to be vulnerable and know that you are not being judged because your comrade is feeling so many of the same emotions. Maybe you and your girlfriend are both high power executives trying to deal with a male-dominated workplace.  No, it’s not in the same field, but the challenges are the same. For me, one of my best friends is a Pastors wife and so many of my feelings as a politician’s wife are similar so we can support one another! This comrade is not there to help you stay stuck, but to help you normalize what you are feelings and for the two of you to encourage one another along the way.

Connecting with someone who is experiencing a similar season right along with you is important, but you should also search for a tourist guide.  Don’t laugh but at one point I was seriously considering a career as a tourist guide. Seriously! But after doing one tour for a group of people, I realized that was not my cup of tea! But when you are going through a new season in your life, you want to connect with someone who has been there before and can show you around!  Think through your network of friends/family members to see if there is someone in your life who has faced as similar situation.  If not, ask around.  Share with people you trust what you are facing and they may be able to connect you with someone who can give you direction and support.

Finally, while you are gaining stability, you must manage your expectations, both good and bad.  If you have started on an exciting journey, don’t expect that your life is going to be “just perfect” because this is what you’ve always wanted.  On the other side of the coin, if this is an uncomfortable place you are in; don’t regulate yourself to misery because an aspect of your life is shaky.  Manage your expectations by keeping this season in its proper perspective.

By following these tips…

Accepting your new normal

Remembering that you have been here before

Connecting with a comrade

Search for a tourist guide

Manage your expectations

…You will be able to create a pathway for yourself that brings you closer to fulfilling even more of your destiny!

Those are my tips.  What tips would you share for someone who is charting new territories?

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What to do when what you know to do isn’t working for you

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Teachers teach.

Encouragers encourage.

Ministers’ minister.

Leaders lead.

But what do you, when what you do doesn’t work for you?

If you’ve never been at that place, trust me…it can be best described as confusing, frustrating and even emotionally debilitating. How in the world can you do a great work in the lives of other people but those same results seem to be elusive for you?

Again…what do you, when what you do, doesn’t work for you?

Maybe you know you have been called to help people in the area of their finances. For years you did the work in your own finances and you were able to sustain a level of success and now you are helping others in that same area. But what happens when you go through a season where the same advice that is liberating others financially no longer seems to be working for you?

What about a preacher of the Gospel who God uses to speak life into people on a daily basis. What does that preacher do when it seems like the message God gives him/her resonates so strongly in the lives of others but seems to fall flat in his or her own life?

Think about the doctor whose remedies and procedures have helped others so profoundly, but that doctor (or that doctor’s family member) continues to struggle with a health issue they just can’t seem to shake?
What do you do, when what you do, doesn’t seem to work for you?

I know I have been there. I know intimately how it feels to encourage others to live abundantly, to soar, to embrace God’s plan for their lives and to see those people do that very thing! It is an amazing feeling to hear others share how the very work God has called you to, is actually working in their lives! But while I know that great joy, I also know how it feels to see that manifestation in the lives of others, while secretly wondering why the very thing that I am speaking to them, somehow just doesn’t seem to be working in my own life.

Maybe you know how that feels too. Maybe you have seen great results as a teacher with your troubled students but for some reason your own child continues to struggle. Or maybe you’ve seen God use your gift of song to deliver others but you can’t seem to shake free from your own burden. It is such a difficult place to be when it seems like your calling works for everyone else but you. Maybe you are a prayer warrior who sees God answer your prayers for others but He seems silent on the prayers you pray for yourself.

If you’ve ever experienced this it can leave you feeling like a fraud. How in the world can you speak life into others, teach others, encourage others, help to liberate others, but yet you are unable to do the same thing for yourself? Isn’t that the very definition of a fraud…or a hypocrite?

But the truth is, you aren’t being a fraud at all. You are being human…and there IS something you can do, when what you do doesn’t seem to be working for you.

But before I share that with you, let’s be clear. If you are going to teach others in a specific area, you need to have experienced some measure of success in that area. In other words, it would be difficult for me to teach you how to earn a million dollars if I’ve never earned a significant amount of money in my lifetime. It is unwise to try to teach, lead, speak on an area that we haven’t been tried and tested. But…there comes a time in your life, where it seems like you’ve hit a brick wall and you aren’t experiencing what others are experiencing through you. So what do you do?

#1. Tell yourself the truth!
It’s time for you to have a “come to Jesus meeting” with yourself. I recently read a quote by Virginia Wolfe that said “you can’t tell the truth about someone else if you haven’t told the truth about yourself”. Almost a year ago I wrote a blog and reminded you all that if you are going to be purposeful and powerful you can not bury your head in the sand. This is the same premise. You must tell yourself the truth. Do not live in denial. Be honest with yourself about what is not working in your life. Once you are able to be completely honest, you will then be able to make the necessary adjustments. The truth really does set you free.

#2. Don’t try and eat your own fruit!
We live in a world that celebrates independence and self-sufficiency. I am personally guilty of being at times rigid about handling “life” on my own. Despite all the support and love that I have around me, it is very easy for me to fall into the “me, myself and I” syndrome. But the truth is that I can’t eat of my own fruit. I am passionate about encouraging women and couples to live the life God has called them to live. I am fortunate enough to be able to walk out my purpose through speaking and writing. But those avenues are often my way of pouring into others, but God uses the speaking and writing of other people to pour into me. In 1 Peter (chapter 4) we are encouraged to “….Use your gifts well to serve one another.” In other words, your strengths, gifts, calling are not for you. They are there to be a blessing to others. And as you bless others, in return God will place people in your life to bless you.

#3. Take a chill pill!
If you can get past the terminology I used from the 80’s, I am sure you get the point! You need to chill-out! Many times we push ourselves to the point of burn-out. We are seeking some indication that “we’ve made it” without realizing even if we hit the target, it will very quickly move again. We go from project to project, seminar to seminar, client to client, church service to church service, with very little down time. If you are starting to feel like the very thing you are called to do, doesn’t work for you, that may be an indication that you need to hit the pause button. In one of my favorite books, “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus,, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done“ the author teaches that in the Jewish culture there is what is known as the “Shabbat” which is the Jewish Sabbath. Observant Jews consider the Shabbat as their rest day once a week. During this time they shut-down from all work, no travel, no computers, no phones, no TV, no twitter or Facebook. They use that time to pause and be present and see life as it is. I think that all of us can learn from that. We may not do it weekly, but we should take time to shut down from the rat race and be still (and quiet) long enough to hear God speak.

#4. Don’t be afraid to reassess!
Speaking of hearing God’s voice…many times we need to create a space in our lives to hear if God is giving us different or new instructions. This can be difficult because re-assessing may mean a major shift. And many times when you’ve invested so much in one area, it seems foolish to move in another direction. Think about it. When you have invested time, money and sweat equity in one area, but you are sensing it is time to move into another area that can feel scary. But the truth of the matter is that you don’t want to be anywhere that God isn’t. If you have lost traction in one area of your life, maybe it is because God wants to redirect you somewhere else. Don’t be afraid to reassess where you are to be clear that you are where He wants you to be.

#5. Remember who you really are!
One day I called a girlfriend and told her that I was having an emergency. Of course she quickly became concerned and asked me to tell her what was going on. I explained to her that I was losing it because I had no clue about what I was supposed to be doing in that particular season of my life. I was surprised when she actually started laughing and said “wait! Did the purpose coach just call me and tell me she didn’t know what her purpose was?”. She then went on to remind me of the season God had me in, the many roles I was playing and pushed me to look at myself beyond what I do for a living. Her ability to make me laugh and at the same time remind me of who I really am was so helpful!
Many times we get so caught up in our professional titles that we forget that we are so much more than what we do. But when your work is more than a paycheck…when what you do is truly a calling, it can be difficult to separate…but you must separate. Whether you are a teacher, a preacher, or a lawyer…who you are is so much more than what you do. And in those seasons when what you do, isn’t working for you, it may mean that you need to remember who you really are…beyond the title that you have been given.
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If you are feeling stagnant or feeling as though the very work you do for others isn’t working in your life, consider employing these 5 steps in order to experience a fresh perspective and strength for your journey. Now it’s your turn. Have you ever experienced this dilemma? If so, what steps would you add?

If this blog was helpful to you, consider sharing it via your social media platforms.

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Ready to make this week count? 3 Things you can do!

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re you ready to make this week count? Here are THREE SIMPLE STEPS you can take to move from being passive to productive!

1.  Be still &  be quiet

Instead of waking up, rushing into your day, coming home, rushing to get your “stuff” done as you prepare for the next day, how about taking a minute to slow down and be quiet? Whether you do it first thing in the morning or before you retire for the night, take a moment to be still. Turn off the phone, the TV and anything that would distract you, and quiet your mind and your soul.

Initially this activity may be difficult for some people.  The idea of being still seems unproductive and maybe fruitless. But stillness is quite the opposite. Stillness is the key that helps us to realign our mind, body and spirit so that we can function effectively.

Seek refuge through prayer or meditation and watch how this one commitment will make you more productive and purposeful.

2. Reach out

This action is two-fold. We’ve all heard the adage “we have not because we ask not”.  This week think about any support you need to move forward in your life (personally or professionally) and then humbly ask someone to assist you.

Most of us have people in our lives who want to support us, they just don’t know what we need. This week, make your request known.  Remember, when asking someone to support you, make it as easy as possible for them. Are you seeking professional mentorship from someone? Consider volunteering for their organization so that you can watch and learn.  Do you need a recommendation? Write the recommendation yourself and ask the person to approve it.  Make your “ask” as easy as possible so that the person isn’t taxed by your request.

But don’t stop there.  Think about someone in your life that you know needs support and reach out to them. Ask them how you can be of service to them and if possible do what you can to help.  When we give or serve out of the goodness of our hearts, we will never be left empty.

3. Take a step

I don’t know what you are hoping for this year, but this week, take one step towards your goal.  Are you seeking financial stability? Then sign up for a financial class.  Are you hoping for a promotion? Express your career goals to your boss.  Do you need to process a situation in your life that is hindering you? Reach out to a therapist or spiritual advisor.

This week, take a step towards your goals even if the step seems small. Each step will move you closer to your goals.  Remember our comfort zone is never stagnant. It is either growing or shrinking.  Inactivity lulls you into being stagnant which keeps you away from the abundant life you’ve been promised.

 

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Let me hear from you.  Which of these steps do you think you can do TODAY?  Remember, your tomorrow is simply a result of what you do today.  Make proactive choices daily so that you can have the life you want to live!

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Life Been Turned Upside Down? 4 Things You Can Do to Turn it Around

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A few weeks ago as I walked into my house, I was trying to juggle a bunch of stuff in my arms and as I walked through the door, I stumbled and fell. Go ahead and laugh. I did. As I began to gather all of the stuff that was in my arms, I realized everything had fallen out of my work bag. And there was a lot of stuff!

Once I finished laughing at myself, I decided to sort through all the stuff I’d dropped. First I started throwing away all the junk that I’d accumulated: Gum wrappers, old receipts, and even a broken pair of sunglasses. While I was going through the junk, I came across a few treasures! I found the office key I’d been looking for, a $10 bill and the brand new eyeliner I’d forgotten about! Finally as I pulled myself off the floor, I made a promise to myself: I will stop trying to juggle that much stuff at one time!

Fast forward a few weeks as I talked to a client who’d recently had the rug pulled from underneath them in their life. I immediately thought back to my fall and realized there was a lesson in it! I shared the lesson with my client and now I want to share it with you.

Here are 4 things I want you to do if your life has been turned upside down:

1. Be still.

Don’t move right away. If you fell down, stay down. But just for a moment.

I know. This is literally the exact opposite of what we’ve been taught. We’ve been told “when you get knocked down, get right back up”. And you should get up. Eventually. But at first, I want to encourage you to be right where you are…for a moment.

The length of your ‘moment’ depends on the severity of your situation. Some of you may need to be still for 24 hours and some of you need to give yourself a month. Maybe two.

Why is this important? In order to ensure that you rebound in the healthiest manner, you need to take a moment and take stock of your situation. Our human response is to run from uncomfortable emotions, but you need to give yourself a chance to feel what you feel.

Remember when I fell I sat there for a moment and laughed at myself? It was my first reaction to my embarrassing situation! But for some of you, your situation is no laughing matter. Recently I was working with a client whose son was murdered a few short months before our session. My client was fussing herself out because she couldn’t get herself together! I gently encouraged her to give herself a moment to feel what she has to feel. As I shared with my client, and now with you, you must allow yourself to grieve the loss (or feel the pain…no matter what it is)…It’s a part of the process.

Answer this: What are three words you can use to describe how you feel (felt) after your life was turned upside down?

2. While you are down, get rid of some junk

Since we are in full spring mode, I’ve been talking a lot about Spring Cleaning our lives (and relationships. Check out this worksheet!). One of the first steps in spring cleaning is getting rid of the junk.

As you are trying to get back on track after a major life upheaval, it is important that you take time to rid yourself of anything that does not help to facilitate your healing and growth.

Do you have “Stinking Thinking” that clouds your ability to see your situation positively (“I will never get over this”; “This is just the way my life will always be”; “I should have known this would happen”)? If so…it’s time to get rid of that way of thinking!

Are you holding on to someone who you know is going to continue to hurt you?

Are you staying in a situation that is no longer beneficial to where you are trying to go?

Remember, when you are in an emergency situation you can’t be exposed to anything that will make the situation worse. Since you are down anyway, go ahead and rid yourself of any access mess!

Answer this: What do you need to get rid of immediately and who can hold you accountable to doing it!

3. Keep your eye out for old & new treasures

Many times when our life has taken an unexpected turn it is easy to get caught up in all that is wrong. But remember all things really do work together for your good! It is up to you to adjust your perspective so that you can discover hidden treasures in the midst of your situation.

About 3.5 years ago our home was flooded and we lost nearly everything we owned, including 2 cars! Yes…both of our cars were damaged beyond repair! You can imagine that I literally felt paralyzed at the thought of trying to rebuild after that type of loss.

But in the midst of that situation, as devastating as it was, I can remember so many blessings that came from it! My family and I were able to see how much we were loved as people showered us with support, as we went through the items we could salvage I found memorabilia that I’d forgotten about because it was buried in all of our clutter, and I discovered how resilient my family is as we got through that situation together.

I am not sure what your story is. I don’t know what has happened that has taken you for a loop, but if you keep your mind open to new possibilities, dreams and never before considered options, you may find that this situation was a blessing in disguise.

Answer this: What strengths have you discovered about yourself during this situation?

4. Figure out how you got here and vow never to return

Here is the last step to turning things back around after your life has been turned upside down. Take a moment to figure out how you got in this situation in the first place.

Remember when I fell walking into the garage. The problem was that I was carrying way too much junk (is that the same for you? Are you carrying too much junk?)! Because I was carrying so much stuff, I couldn’t see that there was a doll on the floor as I walked in and so I tripped! (Lesson: make sure your children put their toys up…! Another blog for another time).

Your turn! Take some time and evaluate how you ended up in this situation. And wait. Before you shift the blame to someone else (he hurt me; she did me wrong; they lied on me), take responsibility for your role in the situation.

Let’s use my real life fall again. Yes…the doll should not have been in the middle of the floor…BUT…if I wasn’t carrying so much junk I would have seen it!

Many times we have a hard time taking responsibility for our situation because it feels like we are giving the other person (people) involved a pass. But that’s not true. What is true is that we all contribute to the chaos in our own lives. And it is your responsibility to own up to your role FIRST!

And in those very rare occasions where we didn’t actively contribute to the situation we find ourselves in, even still you can do step # 4. Pay attention to the road that led you right where you are…and if you don’t like your location, commit to not traveling that road again.

Answer this: How did I contribute to this situation and what can I do to ensure that this doesn’t happen again?

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Whew! I know that was a lot! I want you to try these steps and then let me hear from you! We are on this journey together! Here is your recap:

When your life has been turned upside down:

1. Take time to just be still

2. Get rid of the junk

3. Find treasures in the midst of your situation

4. Figure out how you got here and vow never to return

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Stinking Thinking

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Whether we reference it clinically (Cognitive Distortions - CD's) or the easier to remember name, Stinking Thinking, below you will find a list of common default ways of thinking. CD's hinder us from being "FREE" in order to truly GROW!  Take some time to review this list and identify 3 TOP that resonate the most with you.  Next, ask someone you trust to hold you accountable to CHALLENGING your thinking when you demonstrate this train of thinking. ________________

1. Filtering: Focusing on the negative details while ignoring the positive aspects.

2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking): Seeing things ONE WAY (either THIS or THAT), not allowing for any gray or middle ground.

3. Overgeneralization: Coming to a conclusion based on one piece of evidence.

4. Jumping to Conclusions: Deciding how someone feels (Especially about you) without giving them the opportunity to clarify.

 5. Catastrophizing: Magnifying a situation - Expecting and speaking disaster.

 6. Personalization: Believing that everything others say has something to do with their reaction to you.

7. Control Fallacies: Viewing yourself as a victim because you feel externally controlled or assuming responsibility for others pain/happiness.

8. Fallacy of Fairness: Distressed feelings because we think "life isn't fair" based on our idea of fairness.

9. Blaming: Holding others responsible for your pain and frustration.

10. Shoulds:  Determining (without flexibility) how others should act and being upset when they don't follow our rules.

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