Are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is a mental dysfunction. In psychology, it’s referred to as a personality trait hyperfocused on flawlessness and perfect performances.

A young patient, Dina, was a scholar in the university. Her life has been an endless report card on grades, accomplishments, and looks.

One evening, Dina was rushed to the hospital by her father. Her sister found her slumped on the floor of her room with bloody cuts on the wrists.

She tried to end it all. That time, she could no longer keep up with her grades due to severe social anxiety.

What makes perfectionism toxic is its negativity. It’s overly anxious on avoiding failure, mistakes, and messes … an impossibility in reality.

Even if you express love to a perfectionist after some misses, it isn’t enough comfort. The perfectionist is way too dependent or conditional on performance to feel loved.

Psychology Today magazine explains,

“There is a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection. The need for perfection is transmitted in small ways from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, remember that “you are good enough.” You are worthy as you are because you exist.

You don’t have to prove your value to anyone, even to yourself. God has already placed that value on you and your life.

“Perfection is an illusion. Yet perfectionists demand it from others while being far from flawless themselves. The margin of error of the human condition is often our greatest area of excellence and discovery,” reminds writer Stewart Stafford.

Finding Your Right Work

Work is life. It consumes so much time from our limited supply of days. In just a few short decades, the time and energy we spent working adds up to be life itself.

Livelihood is a natural expression of our working life. A source of income. Using our talents and capacities. Doing what we do best.

“I’m looking for something more than money out of my work; I expect deep fulfillment and a little fun too,” said an executive of a major American corporation.

Right livelihood – whether via a job, profession, business, or any talent – is as important as mental health and wholeness. Just as the right foods are for our physical bodies.

Buddha described “right livelihood” as work “consciously chosen, done with full awareness and care, and leading to enlightenment.”

Surely, I’d not recommend orange robes and vows of poverty for us like Buddha. But I can see the practical psychology of his point.

You (and all of us) need to choose the right livelihood. Your right work. For the only one life you have.

But most people today are “aliens.” They’re alienated from both their natural talents and potentials. Their proper place and function. Their purpose for life.

Most people merely work for the money. Eight-to-five penance for daily bread! As a result, many get bored, frustrated, constrained or dulled in their days. Some get serious mentally illness.

I met a young woman who drifted into a boring, but high-paying accounting job. After much inner struggle, she left her secure niche to study psychology.

She’s getting straight A’s in her studies. But having a hard time paying bills. A life state she didn’t experience before.

Yet she was sure that she had found the right road for her life. Her right career. Her right livelihood. That allowed her to excel and gave her the power to be resourceful.

Nothing stopped her from becoming a psychologist. So after years of hardship, she completed her graduate studies. She used her former contacts to start practice.

Now a successful, highly paid psychotherapist, she said, “My choice and hardships were so challenging. But I feel at home in this work. For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing joy and fulfillment.”

You Are Who You Create Your Self to Be

Self.

Psychology refers to the human self in varied ways. Personality. Identity. Psyche or soul. Deep core.

Since we all age, does the passing of time affect who or what you are? Will you be the same self/person 5 years from now? 10 years? 20 years?

Depends.

Several days ago, I was in a “graduation.” A patient, Anthony, finished our long-term therapy program. And all his family members gathered together for a joyous celebration.

One of Anthony’s close cousins remarked publicly, “He changed. He is not the same person I know. Something happened to him.”

Anthony’s body still has some similarity and continuity with what it was before. But he developed a new, different set of beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral manifestations.

He was seen not to be the same self/person he used to be. For Anthony, therapy facilitated a life change.

When I took my old car before to the mechanic for repairs, he made some replacements. Some parts of my car were changed that made it look new and run better.

Whether via therapy, some other kind of healing experiences, or a negative traumatic event (e.g. stress, depression, abuse), you may not be the same person you used to be.

Either for good or bad. For better or worst.

It’s a matter of what parts of the self are chosen to change. It’s nature, degree, and dynamics. Depending on how much the parts, connections, and interactions produce the different changes.

You alone can make that choice. The self/person you want to be.

As Stephen Richards writes, “You are essentially who you create your self to be, and all that occurs in your life is a result of your own making.”

Bullies and Victims

Hollywood actor, Tom Cruise, battled the effects of childhood bullying. For many years he struggled with anxiety panic at home and at school.

Cruise says of his father, Thomas C. Mapother III:

“He was a bully and a coward … the kind of a person who, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life – how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe, and then, bang! … Big bully comes up, pushes you. Your heart’s pounding, you sweat, and you feel like you’re going to vomit …”

Bullies have a strong urge to dominate. They lack empathy. Untroubled by anxiety or guilt over the suffering they inflict on others. They blame others for their offenses.

Males are more prone to physically bully. Females bully by picking on appearances, social status, and relationships.

Generally, bullies attack – through damaging, manipulating, or controlling relationships and situations.

How about the victim?

Some victims of bullies are “blind.” They refuse to defend themselves. Offer healthy boundaries. They allow themselves to be bound by the bully to isolation, humiliation, and despair.

A case in point is Martha, one of my clients who is repeatedly abused verbally and physically by her husband. For years, she displays pain, which fueled further attacks from her bullying spouse.

It impresses me how much Martha readily acquiesce too quickly to her husband’s demands. She’d just cry and cower. She’s so submissive before she’s picked on and bullied.

Dealing with bullies is not avoiding conflict. Running away, pretending bullying or abuse is not happening, hiding it, or being afraid to talk about it is actually destructive.

Facing bullies is taking responsibility to speak up to them. You walk tall so they don’t perceive you as weak or easily manipulated.

You set and state limits on bullies. Healthy boundaries so they know your thresholds. You don’t volunteer to be a victim.

You remove yourself from a relationship in which a bully tries to control or own you. You don’t allow bullies to undermine your sanity … or that of your children, loved ones.

Face bullies. Protect yourself. Seek support. Be brave.

Labels Don’t Define You

Diagnostic labels are typical. You enter a hospital, consult a doctor, and take lab tests. Then, you’re given a Label of your condition.

In psychological care or mental health, labels abound. They emanate mostly from DSM. It’s a doctor’s guide on mental health disorders used by MHP (mental health practitioners) around the world.

Yesterday, I was reading a psychological report on Marino, a teenage client. It’s issued by a registered drug-based professional mental health agency based in Manila.

In the report I found lots of familiar DSM labels. Depression. Agoraphobia. Social anxiety. Depersonalization Disorder. Schizophrenia.

As usual, aside from the labels, the agency required the client to take brain drugs. When the drugs manifested serious side effects on the teen client, his mother chose to stop it.

When the mother reported about it to the agency, she was simply told to comply. Without drugs, they said, no psychotherapy will be allowed for his son.

Labels and the pharmaceutical industry usually go together in psychiatry. Describing who you are as “depressive” or “BPD” or “schizoid” is an attitude often encouraged by the big pharma.

In my initial session with Marino, I’d noticed how much the “labels” given him have already affected his sense of himself. Mostly in our talks, he spoke of who he is as the “labels,” the sickness.

Sadly, in my observation, Marino has come to see himself as inherently dysfunctional. A major part of it was the result of the way he was labeled and boxed in.

Framing one’s identity around some drug-based label is dangerous. It harms one’s overall health. Worse, it can destroy even the core of one’s self identity.

You are more than any diagnostic “label.” You are a person, not an object. The label is just a temporary state or external behavior. It does not exclusively define you.

Transcending “labels” means looking at life beyond them. Labels can be useful in a way. But they can also shape your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Be careful then. Discern differences. Labels stick, but they can also be unwrapped. You and any label are two different things.

Most importantly, you can be stronger than the “label.”

In Search of “Real” Life Using Travel

A few years ago, I travelled around the exotic places of Thailand. It’s one of my “travel without money” adventures, once again. My Australian host treated me to a nice hotel and sumptuous meals.

For a few weeks, I was hanging out in the beaches and Buddhist temples. Simply curious. Savoring fresh air and seawaters. Knowing the culture and their religion.

I received special gifts of insight about me, fellow humanity, and life in general, along the way.

One afternoon, in a cafe, I met an aged American “secret agent.” He was with a young Thai girlfriend, possibly 4 decades his junior.

In our conversations, both intimated that they’re running away from something with their travels together. Not just around Thailand, but also around different Asian countries.

The elderly American, away from the pain of his divorce and estranged children. And the young Thai woman, an escape from poverty and a broken, abusive family.

People seem to be running away from something in their travels.

Yes, travel can be like that – but it’s also running towards something. A search for a run towards something “real.”

While watching a little boat passed by Hua Hin, I felt myself in both ways. Escaping from and running towards something.

I’ve been running away from the “worldly” idea of what life is. Imperfect though I am, I avoid that nonlife.

And I run towards a life with a higher purpose, authenticity, and connection. A life above the sun.

Reflecting, I realize how much society boxes me in. With illusions, diversions, false news. It simply cannot fathom that “normal” is outside its norm. I travel away from the abnormal to what’s normal.

People who found “real” life in their travels break the mold. They just don’t travel. They discover, see, and experience life as it really is.

Be free to travel towards the world and true living. Your whole life is yours to travel. It’s short. And you get to travel it only once.

When Another New Year Comes

We mark our calendars with New Year. 365 days of 1,440 minutes a day is about 525,000 minutes supply per year!

New Years are milestones. They represent significant points in the passing of time.

Stop and reflect about your self. Your life, every new year.

It looks like New Years are designed to enable us to make an annual life self assessment. Not only of length of years we’ve got, but our depth or quality of life as well.

Are you just growing older? Or, are you also growing whole and healthy?

The psalmist gives us a best wish to say each rolling new year along this line.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

I’ve a caution for you and I.

These New Years are not like an insurance policy where there can be pledge of automatic renewal. Obviously, no one holds a guarantee of another forthcoming new year added into his or her life.

So, if our Creator gives you another new year, He must have some plans for you. He has some things in His mind that He wants you to pull off through your self and life.

Surely, that includes more than your coming 525,000 minutes for the new year!

You need wisdom.

Wisdom comes privately inside the self. It’s a by-product of right choices, habits, and principles applied to circumstances and relationships. It’s a fruit of a disciplined, deeper self.

Can you find marks of wisdom in your self, life, and future plans when another new year comes?

Make the most of the time given to you. One of these New Years will be God’s terminal point in your life!