Healing Series: Perfectionism

Pamela Cordano, MFT teaches us why so many adoptees struggle with perfectionism. Even better… she gives us three practical tools we can use to work on our perfectionistic ways.

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Show Notes


Topics We Discussed

  • Adoption sets up a perfect storm for perfectionism to be a danger or a trap we can easily fall into.
  • Perfectionism is born of insecurity and an avoidance of negative evaluations from the outside.
  • The fear is, if I do something wrong, I could be rejected from this new family.
  • We would never want to become a perfectionist unless we were really afraid of something. It’s fear that drives for formation of a perfectionist.
  • Perfectionism is like an affliction.
  • Perfectionism is like living in a mine field. A bomb could go off anywhere, anytime, and there’s no way to let down too much or disaster could happen.
  • We are monitoring our behaviour for something or someone on the outside. They fear their badness or their flaws will be discovered by others.
  • One exercise: walk around the block and note what you think everyone is thinking about you. Then do it again, but this time instead of having an external focus, “inhabit your own eyes” and think only about what you see. This is a place we feel much more safe and comfortable, when we are in our own inner orientation.
  • The eye story is a metaphor for something larger. When we are in a perfectionistic state of mind we are hostage to some standard that we’ve set for ourselves and we’re kind of imprisoned in this state. The opposite of this is getting into our own eyes. That’s comparable to getting into our own hearts and minds and livelihood.
  • There are some perfectionists that are really, really hard on others, but most of us don’t hold others to the same standards.
  • Perfectionism often affects adoptees when they write to birth parents.
  • Focus on what is right in front of you to draw yourself out of perfectionism: a conversation, a cup of coffee. Listen to music so you don’t have to hear yourself think.
  • We’re not going to find our inner security in perfectionism because there’s always something else to get perfect.
  • If terror is at the base of adoptee perfectionism, perfection is not going to quell the fear. It’s actually going to keep feeding the monster more things to worry about.
  • We need to reexamine where we’re going to find security inside of ourselves.
  • Read the article - Regrets of the Dying — Bronnie Ware
  • We are trying to shift our paradigm to trying to live lives that people expect of us to living from a place we really want to live from. Authenticity.
  • We really find our security in living a life that is authentic and meaningful to us.
  • This whole perfectionism trap is a hamster wheel that just goes on and on and on and eats away time and energy and health and resources that could be put in places now that we are adults that would be more meaningful and practical.
  • Three things we could do:
    1. Exposure therapy
    2. Tiny habits
    3. How we talk to ourselves (inner voice!). Say to ourselves three things we’re doing right
  • We’re all so unique. We have different things that make us feel connected to the larger world. When we focus on these things, that’s a stable place in our brains. It’s more solid than perfectionistic thinking, so move toward recognizing that our security lies in paying attention to what is important and meaningful to us in our life.
  • It would be great if we could find a little part of ourselves that is excited to start chipping away at this so instead of feeling overwhelmed we could look for the fun.
  • Mary Oliver reading Wild Geese - YouTube

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