Autism Program Bonus Lesson #2

Bonus Lesson #2 - Trying To Be Perfect Trips You Up

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Transcript of Bonus Lesson #2 below:

Would you ever walk into a courtroom and begin defending someone who was facing first degree murder, expecting yourself to be a top-notch lawyer?

I doubt it.

If that was your pursuit you would likely go to university and get a degree, probably work in the industry for quite a while, be under the guidance of a great mentor, or two take some baby steps, learn new and different ways of doing things, find your style, build your confidence and make lots of mistakes along the way.

If you wanted to learn to play the piano, would you read a few books, watch a few video tutorials, observe an expert pianist at play, then expect yourself to be a professional player?

So why do you expect perfection when you become a parent?

Why is it that you expect to know everything, have the answer to every question, think you should be able to predict all outcomes and expect that your ‘instinct’ will kick in and help you get it right.

And why would you think you should become an overnight expert on autism and become a parent who suddenly knows how to anticipate every need and manage every behaviour at every turn?

There’s no doubt that parental instinct and natural parenting abilities exists, but it’s often being drowned out while we are rolling around in our stories of how inadequate we feel because we don’t think we’re getting parenting right!

Every child is different. Every autistic child is different. And the reality is that it will take time and a lot of trial and error to help you and your child to navigate their way through life.

Way too often I see parents trying to be perfect. They try to do it all, be it all and have it all before they can feel they are doing a good enough job.

It’s one of those dichotomous thoughts we talked about in lesson four.

But today I want you to feel into why you’re trying to do that? What is the story underneath that desire to be perfect?

Because behind every decision we make and actions we take, there is an agenda to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. There is always a self-worth component to why we do what we do.

Let’s explore some of the reasons why perfectionism may be such a strong focus for you.

How many of these can you identify with?

  • Are you trying to prove something about yourself to other people around you – get them to hold a positive view about your character?
  • Are you fearing that you or your child will miss out on something if you don’t get it right?
  • Do you worry that you will be judged, rejected or unloved if you cannot get this to be perfect?
  • Are you a people pleaser and trying to be all things to all people to be accepted, loved or approved of?
  • Have you learnt somewhere along the line that you should be able to get things to be perfect if you were a good parent?
  • Do you have an inaccurate reference point of a parent in your life who you are seeing as being perfect and you are trying to live up to what you think their standards were? (often we only see what we want to see though and don’t factor in a completely different generation, other responsibilities and demands, and different wants/needs and situations of the family, so the comparison you’re making is not even accurate!)
  • Did you experience pain from the parents you had, and you are determined that you will do everything right by being the exact opposite of the parent that hurt you?
  • Did you experience criticism, ridicule or reprimand as a child if you didn’t get things perfect or achieve well, thus have created the habit to set high standards to avoid pain? (Many adults are unconsciously still running the patterns of thinking that were set up in their childhood).
  • Have you been quite good at many aspects of your life in the past and believe that means you should be really good in all areas of your life including parenting, with no flexibility to be learning something new?

Perfectionism, like everything else we’ve been discussing on this program, comes from your beliefs about who you believe you need to be, what you need to do or what you need to have to get life right and feel good, or feel good enough as a parent or as a person.

The problem with reaching for perfectionism.

The goal: To prove I’m getting life right or to reach certain standards and expectations of my life so I can feel good enough, valued, successful or whatever self-worth goal you’re trying to achieve.

The strategy: Set lots of goals to get life right in all areas of my life. To micromanage all these areas and take notice of anything that could go wrong that could lead me off this perfect path that may cause me to be less than perfect. When I notice things that could potentially lead me off the path, I need to set more goals to course correct before it goes wrong or to attempt to put me back on the perfectionist path.

Sometimes the strategy can be around not accepting new circumstances of my life. Like with autism for example.

Perhaps you had a vision of how parenting was supposed to look like and that has been altered.

The mind is struggling to accept and adapt to the changes between expectation and reality, and the perfectionism is a way for the mind to try and get ‘back on track’ to the normality that was wanted, not realising that the answer isn’t in perfection, but in flexibility and surrender.

The result: Because my brain brings me evidence of what I have attention on, I keep noticing more of what doesn’t go right or what could go wrong, so I never actually feel like I’m reaching the goal of being a perfectionist.

I never feel like I’m getting my life back on track because the reality is you can’t.

Life has changed, and that’s okay, but those four stressful thinking lenses are preventing you from adapting to this new reality and working with it.

The mind is still trying to get the old expectation or vision to unfold.

The emotional result: I constantly feel like I’m always getting it wrong and moving away from perfection instead of towards it.

I feel stressed out all the time because I’m not reaching my desire.

Because I feel bad, I then act out with anger in an attempt to control things to go right and reach perfection or because I feel hurt that life keeps showing me how I’ve failed.

Only problem is when I get angry, I feel guilty and then I identify how I’ve moved even further from the goal of perfection.

Conclusion: I rarely ever feel like I’m good enough and I never feel like I’m doing anything close to being perfect.

Does this sound familiar?

The pursuit of perfection is a fruitless goal because perfection doesn’t exist!

The reality of life, parenting and any other topic in life, is that sometimes you reach your goals and sometimes you don’t.

Sometimes you know how to get things to go to plan. Other times, there are unexpected anomalies you didn’t know about.

However, that said, the problem is never the pursuit of perfection itself, but the self-worth attachment you have to attaining perfection – ie what you think it means about you.

You can want to have things completed, be efficient and organised.

You can want to be a good parent and give your children the best life possible, but when you come from a place of NEEDING perfection to feel good or feel good enough, it trips you up and only ends up making you feel bad.

How To Put Today’s Lesson Into Practice

Let’s get an understanding of what is driving your need for perfection.

Think about the questions I’ve asked above in the lesson?

What events, experiences or beliefs are causing you to believe that perfection is necessary for your emotional survival?

Stay aware today of just how often you notice things that could go wrong or have gone wrong and how you stop yourself from seeing any progress made towards your goals, keeping you stuck on the ‘perfectionist’s pathway’.

Support: Let us know what you discover on our Closed Facebook Group. You’ll be surprised to know that you are not alone!