Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back Home from a Healthy and Hope-filled Trip

Sorry for the silence around here. I'd planned to blog daily while on the road but chose to rest instead. 

This was by far the healthiest trip I've ever taken. I adjusted to Eastern time during the week prior to leaving so that I was alert at fully present during all meetings (vs. exhausted and desperate to get to bed.)  

I exercised each morning, keeping my chronic pain issues to a minimum (vs. major back pain from being crammed in a plane seat and then sitting in meetings all day.) 

I felt admiration and excitement for the other women and their amazing ideas, insights, projects, gifts, and talents. 

But I can honestly say that I did not feel envy. 

Which is huge, as jealousy has been a life-long battle for me...alway accompanied by a barrage of negative comparative self-talk about how my clothes, shoes, hair, make-up, face, body, nails, voice, gestures, etc. don't "measure up" to someone else's.

For once, I did not want to be anyone else or even "be just like" anyone else. 

The more excited I got for other women, the more excited I got about just being me.

And did I ever learn a TON about how to become the woman God is calling me to be!

(Image altered to respect others' privacy.)
One of the most memorable moments for me was in the prayer room at She Speaks. I was profoundly moved to find which name of God held my name. 

I had expected to be reminded of my past and focused on all the work I need to be doing in my present to "fix" my past. 

Instead, I was reminded that God knows my past, He has taken care of my past, and I am free to enjoy what He's creating in my present!

I keep hearing and experiencing Romans 15:13:  

May the God of hope 
fill you with all joy and peace 
as you trust in Him
that you may overflow with hope 
by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Perfectionism-Food Connection

I heard Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence, speak on Sunday night and Monday morning. A few take-aways and connections I'm mulling over:

We are created for empathy.
When two volunteers are hooked up to monitors and one is pricked with a pin, both people's brains register the pain. 
We are created for connection.
When two people spend even a few minutes together, the "more expressive" person's emotions will be picked up by the other. 
We are created for comfort.
When a child sees his mother crying, goes up to her and says, "I love you Mommy!" he has literally picked up her emotions, is feeling her pain, and is now doing his best to replace her pain with his love.
When relationships with people don't work, we will replace them with relationships that do.
If you've read or heard my testimony, you know that I almost died of an eating disorder as a teenager. I'll never forget my mother's question, "Why are you doing this to us?" during our first counseling session when I was an inpatient in the Eating Disorder Unit at the Brea Neuropsychiatric Hospital the summer before I started college.
I couldn't answer. I didn't know what I was "doing this" to her. I didn't even know why I was "doing this" to me! 

But now, I do.
I was always a best friend kinda girl. I craved a close connection with one person who knew and understood me well. I now understand that my identity and sense of well-being became dependent on regular interactions with my BFF, at a brain-function level.
But in 3rd grade, Kimmi moved. In 6th grade, Marcia moved. In 7th grade, Suzie decided she hated me. And in 8th grade, Derek (who'd been my boyfriend since 4th grade) dumped me. 
No coincidence that I'd been struggling with binge eating in junior high and developed a full-blown eating disorder during my freshman year of high school. Finding people too fickle to depend on, my brain sought a more regular source of need fulfillment. Food, especially the kind that could add "sweetness" to my life, was the perfect replacement for people. 
For more than half my life, I've been ashamed of my eating disorder. Beaten myself up for being so stupidly "needy." So un-self-disciplined. With millions of children starving around the world, wasn't it the height of hypocrisy to starve myself? to binge and purge? 
For decades, I've gone in and out of counseling, trying to find the root cause of my eating disorder, trying to get a handle on related issues (compulsive spending, isolating, depression). While I have some memories of an inappropriate sexual encounter in my preschool years, pursuing the details has proved far more frustrating than freeing. Maybe that's "it." Maybe it's not. 
But earlier this year, I learned an important detail about my life that I'd never known. My mother's personality underwent a dramatic change after she moved from Boston, MA, to southern California. 
Now that much of her memory has been lost to Alzheimer's Disease, my brother and father keep commenting on how she's "the happiest she's been in 45 years." While this comment gave them comfort, I found it unsettling until I finally realized why: 
I just turned 45 years old. I was born 6 weeks before the move. 
My mother has been depressed for my entire life, and I'm only just now finding out.
I was created for empathy...I felt what my mother felt.
I was created wired for connection...a connection hijacked by depression.
I was created for comfort...which I could never successfully give or receive.
So, I turned to best friends for comfort. And when they failed me once too many, I turned to food. When my life spun out of control, anorexia became a new "BFF" and brought it back under control. 
But Jesus told him, 
"No! The Scriptures say, 
'People do no live by bread alone, 
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 
Matthew 4:4
One of the unexpected results of The PURSE-onality Challenge for me has been an increased ability to recognize when I'm "using" food and greater ease in shifting from food to God. 
I'll aim to write about that tomorrow (I'm already waaay over 300 words for today!)

Your Turn:  I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Feel free to comment below or write your own blog post and leave a link in the comments!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Further Ponderings on Perfectionism

Some quotes on perfection and perfectionism to ponder:

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing,
is giving up on being perfect
and beginning the work
of becoming yourself.” 

Anna Quindlen

“This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.”

Saint Augustine

“They say that nobody is perfect.
Then they tell you practice makes perfect.
I wish they'd make up their minds.”

Winston Churchill

“Some of us (perfectionists, especially) fuss so much
over making the 'right' choice, but in life,
all that's really needed is to make any' good' choice,
believe in it, go through with it,
and accept the consequences.”


“People throw away what they could have
by insisting on perfection,
which they cannot have, and
looking for it where
they will never find it.”

Edith Schaeffer

“Perfection is achieved,
not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Perfectionism is slow death.”

Hugh Prather

“Out of perfection nothing can be made.
Every process involves breaking something up.”

Joseph Campbell

“Perfectionism is the enemy of creation,
as extreme self-solitude is the enemy of well-being.”

John Updike

“Aim at perfection in everything,
though in most things it is unattainable.
However, they who aim at it and persevere,
will come much nearer to it than those
whose laziness and despondency
make them give it up as unattainable.”

Lord Chesterfield

“I’ve been called many names, 
like perfectionist, difficult, and obsessive. 
I think it takes obsession, 
takes searching for the details, 
for any artist to be good.”
Barbara Streisand

“Done is better than perfect.”
Scott Allen

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”
Anne Lamott

“Living in an age of advertisement,
we are perpetually disillusioned.
The perfect life is spread before us every day,
but it changes and withers at a touch.”

Joseph Priestley

And few Bible verses about perfection on which to meditate:

"As for God, his way is perfect; 
the word of the LORD is flawless. 
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”
Samuel 22:31

“Be perfect, therefore, 
as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48

“Since we have these promises, 
dear friends, let us purify ourselves 
from everything that contaminates body and spirit, 
perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
2 Corinthians 7:1

“Not that I have already obtained all this, 
or have already been made perfect, 
but I press on to take hold of that 
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Philippians 3:12

“Perseverance must finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, 
not lacking anything.”
James 1:4

Your Turn:

Pick a quote or Bible verse and respond.  

If you’re a blogger, feel free to blog your response and post your link in the comments!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No Mask Needed

Tomorrow, I leave for the She Speaks Conference. Thanks to the amazing women of Proverbs 31 Ministries, my experience of preparing for this conference has been unlike any other.
I’ve been to many writers’ and speakers’ conferences. 

Some emphasized having our pitches and proposals perfectly prepared and polished. Others urged proper outer appearance, resulting in multiple shopping trips to find just the right outfits and–of course!–matching shoes. 
In the weeks and days leading up to each one, I’d stay up later and later each night, working harder and harder to be “ready.” By my departure date, I was always sick, grouchy, and beating up on myself for everything I’d failed to do.
She Speaks has been so different! 
“Spend far more time in prayer than any other form of preparation,” we’ve been urged from the start. And this isn’t just talk; Sheila prayed for me over the phone when I called to tell her my publisher appointment preferences!
“Don’t go shopping for new clothes!” we’ve been told. “Pull from your closets and borrow from friends.”  There’s even a huge clothing swap happening the first night, with leftovers going to a women’s shelter!
“Start in scripture and let God speak; don’t go looking for verses to support what you think you’re going to say.” This advice was especially hard for me to take, as it meant tossing out several great ideas and spending months with no idea what I was going to do for my 5-minute evaluation talk!
Until last Thursday morning, that is, when I was re-reading a Bible story I’ve taught, preached on, and written about. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit has been waiting all along to show me something totally new that I’m so excited to share!
What does any of this have to do with “taking off the mask”? 
Simply this: I feel safe.
For once, I’m not preparing out of fear. 
I’m not trying to be someone I’m not or even pretending to be more than I am.
I’m going to be my get-it-done Choleric + fun-loving Sanguine self.
No mask needed!

Your Turn:

Have you ever prepared for an event out of fear rather than anticipation? What external causes led to the fear?

Have you ever prepared for an event at which you knew you'd feel safe and be able to be yourself? What made you feel this way?

Wrestling with Perfectionism

If you participated in May's The PURSE-onality Challenge, I'd sure appreciate your feedback via this TPC Feedback Survey

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Last week, I discussed “Perfectionism” as a mask, one which Sanguines are most prone to wearing when their God-given PURSE-onality is not nurtured.
I promised that I’d follow-up with a Part 2 about “taking off the masks.” You may have noticed that this post didn’t show up on Monday morning.
That’s because my Melancholy “mask” has been wrestling with my Sanguine self for several days.

I’m leaving for the She Speaks Conference this week. 

For months, now, I’ve been excited yet relaxed, faithfully preparing but not stressing.
Until last weekend.
I have meetings with editors at She Speaks, and I’ve been preparing a specific book proposal. Last Friday, something happened that makes it no longer necessary for me to pitch this project. I can’t give details, but it’s a positive “something”!
I should be thrilled, right? Excited that God is opening doors!
I started fretting about my appointments.  

Should I keep them?  Should I cancel them?  If I keep them, what will I pitch?  I could create some one-sheets for some other book concepts...but I don’t have time to make them perfect! 
I was working myself up into a frenzy of worry when I realized: Cheri, you are being silly! 

Here I’d received good news, and I was letting it distress me!  
I decided to spend the weekend praying about the appointments. By Sunday night, I felt impressed to keep the appointments and simply enjoy them.  (What a concept!)
Ahhh, much better.  Sanguine self is back on track, focused on fun!


Until I started packing. 

You can’t wear that to a meeting with an editor. Nobody will take you seriously. What on earth were you thinking when you bought that? You need to go shopping for some real clothes. 
This kind of back-and-forth has been going on about the talks I’m giving (as part of the speaker track), which suitcase to use (to check or carry on), what shoes to take (open-toes or closed).

You name it, it’s been my Perfectionistic Melancholy mask vs. Sanguine me, duking it out!
For once, though, I recognize what’s happening. I’m not skilled enough to completely prevent it, but at least I’m putting a stop to it. 

Perfectionism is trying to spoil my fun. It’s trying to convince me that I need to try harder to make the exact right decisions. 

If you don’t, it tells me, the world will end and nobody will like you ever again.
I’m not buying it this time. 

Nobody cares whether I wear plum or teal on Friday. I’m not even taking both so I can switch part-way through the day in case I make the "wrong" choice. I’m packing plum because right now I think it’ll be more fun.
And on Friday, I’m going to make sure it is!

"He rescued me 
because He deLIGHTed in me."
Psalm 18:19
(my life verse)

(Tomorrow I really will write about “taking off the mask”!)

Your Turn

I'd love to hear your thoughts about "masking"...or getting stressed out by Perfectionism...or anything else on your mind or heart!

Friday, July 13, 2012

When Perfectionism is a Mask

Yesterday, I said that not all Melancholies are Perfectionists.
However, a Perfectionist does exhibit many weaknesses associated with the Melancholy PURSE-onality:
  • unrealistically high standards
  • critical
  • grudge-holding
  • skeptical
  • hard to please
  • self-deprecating
  • self-centered
  • moody
  • persecution complex
  • hesitant to start
  • over-plans
  • focuses on the negative

So a Melancholy living out of her weaknesses certainly can come across as a Perfectionist.
And so can a Sanguine whose God-given PURSE-onality is not nurtured. At retreats, I meet many obviously Sanguine women who donned Melancholy “masks” as children and now don’t know how to take them off. 
PURSE-onality “masking” occurs when we take on a PURSE-onality that is not naturally ours for self-protective purposes. 

Typically, we perform key strength behaviors of the “masked” PURSE-onality to keep an authority figure happy. But it’s all a performance, not a true expression of a natural PURSE-onality strength.
For example, I am very capable of buying colored hanging file folders, matching plastic tabs, blank inserts, and setting up “perfectly” organized filing systems.
How do I know such behavior is evidence of my Melancholy “mask” rather than my true PURSE-onality?

First, I loathe the process. Unlike a Melancholy, who feels a sense of satisfaction while organizing, I feel utterly persecuted.
Second, once I set up such a filing system, it’s of no use to me. I can’t find anything ever again. Once I put a sheet of paper in a file folder, it’s lost and gone forever! 
Third, I start setting up filing systems as a stall tactic, not as a useful part of a healthy organizational process. I pour time and money into setting up beautiful folders which do nothing but gather dust.
The problem with “masking” is that we get stuck with many of the borrowed PURSE-onality’s weaknesses. 
The longer I wore my Melancholy “mask”, the more my Sanguine humor was replaced by self-deprecation, enthusiasm by skepticism, friendliness by self-centeredness, creativity by over-planning, spontaneity by hesitancy, and forgiveness by grudge-holding. 
I wasn’t really a Melancholy; I was just “masking.”

But I wasn’t able to express my Sanguine self, either. 
With the weaknesses of my "masked" PURSE-onality and without the strengths of my natural PURSE-onality, I became increasingly trapped in Perfectionism.
Which is why the opening verses of Psalm 18 are so real to me (and, perhaps, to other recovering Perfectionists!)
I love thee, O Jehovah, my strength.
Jehovah is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; 
My God, my rock, in whom I will take refuge; 
My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower.
 I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to be praised: 
So shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The cords of death compassed me, 
And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The cords of Sheol were round about me; 
The snares of death came upon me.
Join us for Part 2 in which we'll look at taking off the masks!

Your Turn:
  • Do you know a Sanguine who’s worn or is still wearing a Melancholy “mask”?  (If you’re not sure, the question “When did the fun stop?” often brings up quite a story!)
  • What factors do you think influence our ability to live in our PURSE-onality strengths? (For example, how might a messy family influence a Melancholy’s ability to organize, be compassionate, express devotion, etc.?)
  • Any other thoughts and/or experiences with Perfectionism?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taking a PURSE-onal Look at Perfectionism

Let’s take a “PURSE-onal”* look at Perfectionism today.
Since the life goal of the Melancholy is to achieve (and maintain!) perfection, it’s easy to assume that all Melancholies are “perfection-ists”. 
Not so. 
When a woman lives a Spirit-led life in her natural PURSE-onality, she is living in her strengths, sharing her natural gifts.
The God-given strengths of a Melancholy are analysis, organization, compassion, devotion, depth, sincerity, and so much more!  Her core identity does not reflect the relentlessly critical, dissatisfied spirit of the perfectionist.

This isn’t to say that your Melancholy sister won’t sigh when she finds a dirty dish in the sink or arrange your spices in alphabetical order the moment you turn your back. 
But her motivation may not be at all what you think.
Non-Melancholies–especially those of us who are especially sensitive to criticism–can pass harsh judgements on their behaviors.  
And we are often wrong.
I've learned this the hard way with my own mother. For decades, I took every “tsk-tsk” she uttered under her breath as a stab in my heart, proof that she did not “accept me for who I am.”
What I now understand is that my mother’s desire for perfection makes her an idealist. Because she loves me so much, she is literally pained when she can not provide the absolute best for me.  And what is the absolute best? Perfection!  
Her sighs and “tsk-tsks” are not aimed at me; they are aimed at a world she feels is not good enough for me. They express her longing for heaven, where she knows everything will finally be “just right” for her little girl.
“And the one sitting on the throne said, 
‘Look, I am making everything new!’“ 
Revelation 21:5a
Your Turn!
  • Who in your life exhibits the strengths of the Melancholy PURSE-onality?
  • When might you have over-reacted to a Melancholy’s criticism? How might you re-interpret it in a more positive light?
  • Anything else on your heart or mind...

*If you’re not familiar with the Personalities, you can hear several of my messages by clicking here:

Let’s Get PURSE-onal

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Perfectionism Is (and Isn't)

What Perfection Isn’t

If ‘perfectionism’ means striving for a higher standard than mediocrity, then I don’t think it’s a problem!” commented one woman in her response to the Women Trying to Measure Up survey.
Another suggested, “I think the current generation of young women could use a good dose of ‘perfectionism’. Too many of them are like whatever’ about everything!
A drive for excellence is not what I mean by “perfectionism.”  Neither is conscientiousness or a strong work ethic.
What Perfectionism Is
Perfectionism is an unrelenting need to have everything happen perfectly. It is driven by constant criticism of self and others.
Christian comedian Ken Davis defines a perfectionist this way:
"A perfectionist is not someone who is perfect; it is someone who is miserable because they can’t get it right."
A Textbook Case
My first “perfect” memory goes back to fourth grade, when I decided not to miss any points on my social studies worksheets all year. After the end-of-year parent-teacher conference, my mother told me that my teacher said she’d had to triple-check her math when adding up my scores because she could not believe I’d really gotten 100% all year! 
Hearing what I perceived to be maternal pride in my mother’s voice, I felt an internal switch flip “ON.” 

Let’s do it again, only better! I thought.
And if you’ve seen my monologue or read my story, you have some idea of the extremes to which Perfectionism drove me from that day on.

What a comfort and relief it is to realize that perfection is not my job but the work of the Holy Spirit in my life!
So all of us who have had that veil removed 
can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. 
And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us 
more and more like him 
as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Your Turn!
  • How do you define “perfectionism”?
  • How have you seen “perfectionism” at work in your life or the life of someone you love?
  • What scriptures bring you comfort and relief?
  • Anything else on your heart or mind...