Monday, September 30, 2013

My Journey #3: Finding My Way Through Perfectionism

To overcome my perfectionism, it wasn't easy. I remember being in first grade and thinking that my clothes were getting too wrinkly throughout the day. I remember erasing and erasing my spelling word sentences over and over because my writing didn't look "just right." The more I thought about this side of my OCD as I got older, the more I could pick out aspects of perfectionism in my younger self. This was something that I had, unknowingly for many years, dealt with. 

I didn't expect change to happen overnight. It was very challenging--not because what I was doing to overcome my perfection was hard, per se. It was, however, hard for me in the sense that working on exposure therapies left me to sit with the uncomfortableness that is anxiety. Anxiety is  just a constant feeling of "not right." Being uncomfortable, feeling off, feeling itchy in your own skin is the norm. Dealing with these issues caused me to face this feeling head-on, to sit with it, and let it ride out until it dissipated. Easier said then done for someone with anxiety, but I couldn't do this anymore. I wanted to change things.

Some of my first exposure therapies dealt with being okay with not looking "perfect." Whatever I told myself that perfect standard was. Right before I started therapy, Bjorn and I had gone to a fundraiser for his school. I thought I had the perfect outfit planned for the night, where I would feel good about myself and not worry the whole night about what I was wearing. I had a cute top, a new sparkly sweater I had gotten for my birthday, and a pencil skirt. My OCD had told me that my sweater was too "flashy looking" (whatever that means), even though I LOVE IT!! I decided to shut my OCD brain up for the night and wear my AWESOME sweater! Score 1 for me!

Right before we left, I noticed that my cute sweater had a hole in the back of it. A hole that I think I made when I tried to cut out the extra pack of sequins sewn inside the tag. First of all, I couldn't get over being mad at myself for "ruining" (my OCD words) my sweater because I was in a rush. I was so "stupid" (OCD words again). Score 1 OCD.

Fabulous sweater!!

Can you even find the TINY hole in my sweater?!? My perfectionism/OCD sure could! I'll give you a clue...

I was running late, so I didn't have time to choose a new outfit. I had to go wearing this sweater. The WHOLE time there in the car, my OCD loop played in my head. "I can't believe I'm going to this fancy fundraiser and I look like a slob. Nobody knows me and they're going to think that I am a mess! I can't believe that I am SUCH A LOSER to cut a hole in my stupid sweater! I look AWFUL! Everyone's going to be talking about what a mess I am all night!"

Now #1) This is crazy of my to think like this and have such little faith in people. I am not this kind of person at all! #2) The hole is SO TINY, I bet no one even noticed it! (Plus, it was a wine tasting party!) #3) OCD makes you think irrational and crazy things, even though you know, as a rational person, that they are not true.

I spent maybe half of an extremely fun night worrying about the hole in the back of my sweater because I didn't think it was up to my "standard" of looking nice for the evening. No rhyme or reason, just didn't "feel right" to me. 

It was such a fun night too! We went down to Clifton where one of Bjorn's student's parents live (sorry for the series of possessives there!). Their house is amazing. The food and wine were amazing. And performers from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra played beautiful music for us in the foyer of this house! Completely fabulous, and little, old OCD me is worrying about the silly hole in my sweater!

After that night, I knew that I needed to stop it, but I didn't know how. I worked with my therapist on some exposure therapies. She told me that once I got dressed for the day, I couldn't change. No  matter what--even if I hated my outfit, I thought it looked disgusting, it had coffee all over it, a student wrote all over me in permanent marker, etc. I just had to deal with the feeling of not liking it, not being "perfect," and move on. I had already learned ways and strategies to control my OCD thoughts, but my perfectionism was still nagging at me. 

That next day, I took on the challenge. Never once did I change out of an outfit once I put it on. I even purposefully spilled coffee on myself a few times (as suggested by my therapist) to sit with the idea of not being "perfect" a few times. That one was hard. Even harder--I went to work without ironing clearly needed-to-be-ironed shirts a few times. That one REALLY bugged me. But I got over it, and moved on with my life!

This sounds crazy, but I felt that way about this outfit. It was "too wrinkly" to me and I didn't feel comfortable in it. I wore it anyway!! I like it--I just felt "uncomfortable in it.

Now I get dressed quickly, without much thought. I am out the door more quickly. I don't obsess about what I'm wearing. Now don't get me wrong, those of you who know me know I LOVE FASHION!! That's why I hated that I was letting my perfectionism get to me! Fashion is about having fun with your own style and doing what YOU want with your clothes--making your own statement. It shouldn't matter if I don't feel my outfit looks "right" or not to the rest of the world. And the truth is, it doesn't! I just couldn't help that crazy weird feeling that something about me was "off."

Now I'm back to having-fun-with-my-clothes self. Two weeks ago I wore a dress that I haven't worn in a long time because when I used to wear it I had an "off" feeling. 

I do love it! I put it on and I don't get that feeling anymore. I've come a long way with my perfectionism, especially in this aspect--my clothes, my outward appearance. It's not worth worrying over. It's worth having fun. It's one thing I love to do, so why not enjoy it!

I'm definitely going to.

Love and happiness <3 Holly

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