As a child and into adulthood, I strove to excel at almost every task, setting impossibly high standards for myself and overachieving at every turn. I didn’t have over-bearing, controlling parents that demanded nothing less than perfection from me. Nope. It was me being demanding of myself – my own fiercest competitor in the race to the top.
My drive for excellence was partly innate, but it was also propelled by another invisible force – fear. Somewhere along the way, my perfectionist tendencies became stoked by a trifecta of fears associated with people-pleasing, loathing of making mistakes, and facing disappointment from myself and others.
But where did this all come from?... Cheryl Strayed, American novelist and motivational speaker, provides this answer: “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves…”
What story of imperfection are you telling yourself?
- I’m not good, smart or cool enough
- I don’t have the right body, education, means or finances
- I should be or should do…
- I won’t be liked
- I will be judged
When we continually tell ourselves these stories, we start to believe them as truth. Drip by drip, these self-acquired “truths”, or what I deem to be learned and memorized behaviours, further cement themselves in our lives. In my case, the stories I told myself fuelled my maladaptive perfectionism.
How do we learn and memorize behaviours?... With lots of practice!
A pioneer in the study of the mind-body connection, Dr. Joe Dispenza explains the neuroscience behind memorized behaviours and how they mould our identities and lives. Breaking it down to the basics, this is how it works:
1 – You have an experience (good or bad).
2 – An emotion is attached to this experience.
3 – When you think about this past experience repeatedly, it reflexively becomes a memorized emotion.
4 – The memorized emotion dwells in your subconscious mind from where it resurfaces automatically as a conditioned response any time you are reminded of your original experience. This is also known as a habit.
Now, this is where the neuroscience gets interesting…
5 – The repetition of emotions through association causes neurons in your brain to form synaptic connections by continuously firing and wiring together. Meanwhile, an emotional reaction to an experience creates a chemical state of being.
6 – When this chemical state of being lasts a few hours or days, it is qualified as a mood.
7 – When a mood sticks around for a few weeks or months it becomes a temperament.
8 – When a temperament lingers for years, it becomes a personality trait – your mental signature.
Coming full circle, you can now understand how our personalities can be moulded beginning with an emotional reaction to a single experience, for better or for worse, that morphs into a memorized behaviour. Breaking this down scientifically helped me to understand how my perfectionist fears developed, and that with some work and introspection I could change the state of being I had created. I could change my personality or “personal reality” by consciously changing the emotions I memorized.
What is my biggest takeaway from this knowledge? It comes down to one statement:
My only limit is my mind.
Bohdanna Diduch – The Awakened Perfectionist
Interested in delving further into how the power of your mind creates your reality? Check out Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.
Author: Bohdanna Diduch
Publisher: Kosha Life
This is great!! Thankyou so much!!
What an incredible post by the author. So insightful. More power to you