Monthly Archives: December 2010

22Dec/10

Happiness Habits at Christmas

For most of us Christmas is a busy time where we have much to get done and extra family to visit or entertain. I’m not the world’s best Christmas organiser – there have been more Christmas Eve wrapping sessions than I would have chosen – but in general everything important gets done and I don’t get stressed about it too much. So I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist about Christmas. Some years I try harder to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas than others. Last year I created homemade hampers full of jams, chutneys, truffles, sweets and marinated feta, for all our family, made personal crackers for everyone with the children, and made a bit effort decorating the table. But this year I have just about managed to buy all my presents and make a Christmas cake (actually the fruit is still marinating in the fridge but in my head I’ve done it). But I’m not feeling bad about it, I’m actually quite amazed at what I got done last year!

One thing I do struggle with at Christmas though, is keeping up with the daily habits that keep me organised and slightly sane. When the house is full of people it is more difficult to set aside time – even 5 minutes – to plan the day, or sit down for a quiet meditative cup of tea, write my journal or do exercise. And we all know that healthy eating goes out of the window at this time of year!

So this year my aim is to focus on 5 minutes in the morning to plan, then take 5 minutes before bed to write my journal. If that happens I’ll be satisfied and feel that I am creating a little headspace for myself to reflect and organise. Hopefully this will help me have a happier Christmas.

What small habits will you focus on this Christmas to create some space for yourself?

15Dec/10

What is a Perfectionist?

In my life, being a perfectionist means:

  • I expect to get everything done.
  • I want to feel in control – ie everything must be going right and running smoothly.
  • If things go wrong life isn’t perfect anymore, and that’s a problem.
  • If I have a problem, I should be able to work at it and sort it out.
  • I’m not allowed to get angry, because it means things are not running smoothly.
  • I’m not allowed to feel physically tired, or have an afternoon slump, because that stops me getting things done.
  • I love getting things done, or rather I love having done lots of things.
  • There is always something else to be done.
  • I should be able to translate all (or at least most) of the ideas in my head into reality.
  • Because I can’t act on all my ideas and get them done, it means I am not the mum I wanted to be. Or the successful professional/business woman I wanted to be.
  • Not meeting these expectations makes me feel like a failure – however unattainable they are.
  • Being a perfectionist is the only way I can be.

Until now. As I’ve recently  realised, it’s time for change.  Being a perfectionist no longer serves me or my family.  Reading some of the above sentances makes it clear how skewed my thinking has become due to this expectation of perfection.  So I’m going on a crash course in being kinder to myself and lowering my expectations.   To get me out of the habit of setting high expectations, wanting every moment to be perfect, and needing to be in control at all times my mantra will be:

  • I don’t want to be perfect.
  • I’m aiming for imperfection.
  • It is ok for me (and my family) to have a rainbow of emotions in one day.

I just need to remind myself, one moment at a time, that there is another choice.  I won’t make that choice every time. I will automatically think my ingrained perfectionist thoughts, but I’m starting now to try and replace them, and it’s ok to do that imperfectly.

08Dec/10

Striving for Perfection

My name is Thea Jolly and I am a perfectionist.  It’s been 8 minutes since I set my last impossible and unachievable goal.

I’m not one of those really hard working perfectionists that succeed at pretty much everything but still think they are a failure.  I am what I call an idealistic perfectionist, which is probably another way of saying a lazy perfectionist. I have high ideals and goals for myself, but I don’t quite get them achieved – or even started. But somehow I always think I will achieve them, so when I inevitably don’t achieve them I feel like I’ve failed for not reaching my own impossible standards.

An idealistic perfectionist like me spends their days noticing or remembering or creating a long list of jobs, standards, goals that they should do which will make their life perfect.  The chatter in their heads is constant, always judging, analysing, questionning.  We agonise over the best, most perfect, use of our time because we have to achieve the most within the time we have. We are eternally optimistic about what we will get done today and always suprised when we don’t do it. The expectations we have of ourselves are crazy.

But last week, I had a bit of a revelation (if revelations can come in bits?).  I realised that being an idealistic perfectionist wasn’t a very good idea at all.  You see, previously I’d been almost proud of this personality trait.  I knew that it meant I was my harshest critic, and that I set my standards too high, but I also thought that this was better than being otherwise. No one else is going to kick me up the backside to make me a better mum, or a successful businesswoman, so I had to rely on myself to push me along. And improving and learning is what we are here for isn’t it? (I still agree with this last sentance.)

One of the causes of my change of heart was seeing my eldest son displaying the same perfectionist attitudes and behaviours. Seeing this in another person, especially one so young – he’s 8 – and who I love so much, showed me how self-destructive, defeating and just plain wrong it all was. So I decided to give it up.  Like an alcoholic who chooses not to drink each day I am now choosing not to set impossible goals and expectations each day.  Unlike an alcoholic who can’t undrink a forbidden glass of wine, I can replace my bad thoughts with more liberating and constructive ones.  Every time I think, “Oh I could finish the ironing tonight” (all 3 baskets of it!) I tell myself, “Hang on a sec, you don’t want to be perfect anymore, so lets just do it for 30 minutes .”  And when the children are arguing and I start to feel like they are spoiling everything, I remind myself, “That’s fine, life isn’t meant to be perfect all the time. It doesn’t matter if my children fight – it’s their job.” And I smile to myself and glide serenely past. Or most probably I don’t, but I’m trying. Either way it doesn’t matter because I’m not striving for perfection any more. I’m allowing myself to be imperfect and it’s incredibly liberating.