One of my less favorite domestic jobs is pulling weeds and caring for our somewhat unruly yard. I think I’ve felt that way most of my life even though once I get into it, it’s not that bad – almost enjoyable sometimes. I wonder if I am just lazy by temperament.
As I was working this morning I thought about the times where my dad was training me and one of his phrases came back.
“If you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all!”
That message was often delivered with anger and I ended up feeling inadequate. The belief that was formed was that I didn’t measure up, and so I guess at some point I kind of embraced his philosophy too well. If I couldn’t do something perfectly why do it at all? It makes certain tasks difficult for me to start, because I know I might fail to meet my internal standards. And that in turn triggers shame. It means defective, broken, unremarkable and inconsequential. So to avoid the shame, I procrastinate or ignore.
It happens often with these blog posts. I am aware that it is beneficial to post regularly and often, yet I struggle to sit down at the computer to write if I don’t have something on my heart that feels really significant.
I wonder if you are like me.
The way I overcome some of these issues is by forcing myself to act when I am nearing a deadline. I tell myself that I work better under pressure. That is probably partly true – that there is nothing like anxiety to focus one’s attention. But I probably don’t do better work as a result, and I certainly don’t provide margin for interruptions or unforeseen problems. And if they do appear, my anxiety can turn to anger or panic. And those two emotions can create relational problems.
One of the other downsides is that Nan has to live with my tendencies. Things don’t get attended to in a timely manner. Broken things don’t get fixed right away. Maintenance chores are often delayed way too long and It becomes frustrating for her and for me. This creates another area of shame I have to deal with. I know the root cause is a form of anxiety, but awareness alone is not enough. Activating is required.
Talking through my shame issues helps me to change my beliefs and my maladaptive behaviors. I am much more able to self soothe and self accept. When shame is triggered there is likely to be an overreaction that follows. It might be projected outwards in a defensive or angry outburst, or it can be directed inward resulting in depression and feelings of low self worth. Neither reaction is helpful, obviously.
It all comes down to grace. Grace for myself and grace from others. The more grace I experience, the more I will be able to break the power of shame and perfectionism. God does not expect me to be perfect, he expects me to be faithful, and to be an expression of His love and faithfulness – to love my neighbor and myself.
Am I lazy or perfectionistic? Probably both – but thank God for grace.