I am good and bad.

Perfectionism is something I have struggled with from a young age. Although I have worked long and hard to overcome the notion that I need to meet this unattainable version of myself, I still find my perfectionist nature difficult to shake.

My thinking tends to be very black and white – only one extreme, or another. This makes it difficult to find a middle ground when thinking about myself, others, and the world around me.

I’ve always strived to be a good person, and when I make a mistake, or do something construed as bad, it bothers me immensely because it challenges my self-perception.

Yesterday in therapy, my counsellor did an interesting exercise with me. She drew two circles on a piece of paper. In the left circle we wrote all the things that correspond with my idea of “good”, such as eating healthy, exercising, getting good grades, and being kind to other people. The circle on the right, we filled with the opposites, or “bad” things, like eating junk food, lying in bed all day, procrastinating, and snapping at my loved ones.

I don’t like to think of myself in relation to the bad things I wrote down, because then I feel like I am not a good person. I usually deny that the items in the right circle even exist because in my mind, acknowledging them means that I am a terrible person. When I do acknowledge them, it feels like they negate all my positive qualities, even though I exhibit my positive behaviours more often then these negative ones.

Next, my therapist drew a third circle on the paper, a large oval enclosing both the left and right circles. She wrote my name at the top, and said, this is you. Sometimes you are good, and sometimes you are bad, but it’s okay because you are a human, and we are all like this.

I had never really thought of myself as the big circle. In my mind, I was either the left circle, or the right – they were mutually exclusive. Learning to accept that I am a myriad of things that are constantly contradicting one another is a tough concept to grasp for me, but I am working on challenging my thoughts and coming to terms with these contradictions.

The next time I engage in a “bad” behaviour, I will remind myself that all humans, including myself, are not just good or bad, but both – and that is okay. I am not perfect, but I can learn to embrace all the things that make me who I am – the good and the bad.

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Adjusting and trusting

Lately, I’ve had to adjust to some new unpleasant symptoms in addition to my usual ones. Whenever something novel comes along, my anxious mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of what these new sensations mean. Do these signs point to an additional disorder? Am I going to die from this? Will I be stuck at home forever?

When I am ill, I tend to go into protective mode, trying not to do anything that could potentially make the symptoms worse. Since I don’t push myself, I’m afraid that I am holding myself back from getting better. I feel like I should get up and get out of the house instead of resting because if I stay in bed too long I could get weaker and sink deeper into the “sick role”.

However, I realized that as soon my body started adjusting to these new symptoms and attempting to heal itself, that I naturally sought out new challenges. It all comes back to being able to trust the healing capabilities of my body, and know that when I am able to handle more, my body will seek that challenge. I am focusing on allowing the natural healing progression, rather than pushing my body to do things just because my mind thinks I should be doing them.

When I first experienced the symptoms of my balance disorder, I didn’t think I would be able to ever leave the again. My mind was telling me to force myself to walk so I wouldn’t lose the muscle tone in my legs, but I knew I wasn’t ready. Feeling dizzy 24/7 was overwhelming and terrifying, but in my own time I adjusted, and now, when I keep myself in check, I’m able to work, go to school, practice yoga, even dance sometimes.

It’s always scary when something new comes along in life. I use illness as an example because that is the challenge I predominantly experience in my life, but it could be anything – a new job, the death of a loved one, moving to a new city. No matter how frightening these new changes may be, trusting that your body and mind will naturally adjust (as it has several times before) helps to get through that initial fear and uncertainty and gives us the strength to persevere.