Progress, not Perfection – Episode 29

Today, we’re going to talk about progress, not perfection. Ever feel like no matter how much you try, you fall short? Ever just want to give up because perfection just seems too hard to achieve, so why bother? Ever feel like the strides you do take forward just aren’t good enough? Join Kelli, Swetha, and special guest Wendy for this journey.

How do we see perfection or perfectionism? It seems that perfection is never achievable, because if we reach it, we must not have defined it correctly. We keep on moving the goal posts. Or, maybe you can relate to this statement: “Perfectionism is what I’m not. It is something better than what I am. It’s always got to be one level above, no matter where I’m at.” Maybe you tie it to control: if I could just get everything to fall into place … if I could only get everyone to do what they are supposed to do…  I can’t get there because there are so many things out of my control. Perfectionism leads us to do things only when we know we are good at them, otherwise we say “f— it. I'm not doing that.”

Perfection is not rooted in reality. Is progress rooted in reality? Is it reachable, tangible? It is more real, more attainable, kinder. Perfection is rooted in anger and sadness, while progress is rooted in elation and happiness. But it can be hard to see our own progress. The program has brought us a measure of self-awareness that lets us start to see our progress. It also lets us see when we are falling away from who we want to be and to get ourselves back on track, and to see our progress.

Swetha shares an affirming definition: perfection is who you are right now, progress is what you need to do so you can be perfect for tomorrow. You are exactly right now who you need to be so that you can be of maximum use to yourself and your fellows, and your higher power made it that way. (You may not like it, but that's how it is.)

How can we measure, or even just see, our progress? What tools do we have? Our 4th step and 10th step inventories can show us our progress, especially if we compare a current inventory to a past one. I can take time during our daily prayer and meditation to look at where I at today. I can get feedback through my sponsor or other program friends. Someone might come up to me after a meeting and say “I really liked your share. I want to try that in my recovery.” And I will see my progress in a new light. We might find ourselves reacting in a new way to an old situation. We can support each other by complimenting others on their progress, when we see it. And when we see (or are shown) our progress, we can congratulate ourselves — not only is this OK, it is encouraged. Laughter and humor can be a great tool when we find ourselves reaching for perfection instead of being satisfied with progress.

Kelli shares a tool she uses. When she finds herself faced with an old trigger, she “hits pause” and then “plays the tape forward”, seeing how it might turn out if she reacts in her old behavior, or how a new response can lead to a more positive result. Then she can choose progress. And of course, she uses the Serenity Prayer to help her choose progress (what she can change) over striving for perfection (what she cannot change).

Wendy shared a quote by that prolific writer, Anonymous. “As I journey through recovery, more and more I learn that accepting myself and my idiosyncracies, laughing at myself for my ways, gets me a lot further than picking on myself and trying to make myself perfect. Maybe that’s really what it’s all about: absolute loving, joyous, nurturing self-acceptance.”

Our topic for next week is Program in the Workplace. Do you have a hard time setting boundaries at work? Do you find yourself staying late even though it affects your self-care? How do you use your program in the workplace? Please call us at 734-707-8795, use the voicemail button at the right, or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
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timing – a meditation

 

Everything you need will come to you at the perfect time.

 

Sometimes, I wonder how my life would be different if I had come to my program of recovery months, years, or even decades, sooner. But when I take a moment to really think about it, I realize that nothing would be different. I would not have been open to the program. I would not have been open to hearing any of it. I would have walked away. The program came into my life at the perfect time for me. I needed to live my life exactly the way I lived so that the second I walked into the rooms I had become someone who could receive help.

If I think about things in this way, I realize that everything in my life came to me exactly at the perfect time. My Higher Power knew when the perfect time was, though, not me. I was always impatient and always in a rush to get to the next thing. Now I can let go and trust that when something should come to me, whether that be the removal of a character defect, a relationship, a promotion – anything, my Higher Power will bring it to me exactly when I need it. And the same for others and their Higher Powers. I can sit and feel frustrated that someone hasn't address his/her character defects, but in the end, I do not know when is the perfect time for them to have that defect removed. Only their Higher Power does. Because of this knowledge, I am grateful that I can let go and focus on my serenity.

A meditation for June 22, 2013.

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humanity – a meditation

 

What would happen to our recovery if it depended completely on one or two well-intentioned but fallible human beings?

How Al-Anon Works, p. 123 (tradition 12).

My recovery would fail, that is my answer to that question. I think that is why I used to be so “unserene” before my recovery program. I used to make people my Higher Power and in doing so, I idealized them. I would expect perfection. I did them such a disservice, but doing this. I did myself a disservice, too. I refused to accept them as human. I put them up on a pedestal and, in doing so, placed the responsibility of my serenity and happiness upon their shoulders. So, when they fell short of my expectations as was inevitable, I felt betrayed and hurt and that my needs weren't met.

The flip side of this is that  I wanted to be this to others. I wanted to their Higher Power. I wanted to fix their lives, I wanted to meet all of their needs, I wanted the responsibility of their serenity and happiness to fall on me. When this was the case, I felt validated and valuable. But, when I felt short of my expectations of perfection, I felt guilty that I had failed others and fearful that this meant I had no value.

In all ways, forcing the responsibility of my recovery and my serenity on others or taking that same responsibility from others and placing it upon my own shoulders only serves to separate me from that serenity that I so desperately sought. Even when I did feel serene in these circumstances, it was often short-lived. Now, in recovery, I know that I was looking externally for a fulfillment of an internal emptiness. In the end, all that could fill that space in me was a Higher Power of my understanding.  Thanks to working the Steps with my Sponsor and continuing to practice these principles in all my affairs, when I lose my serenity today, I am able to regain it again when I shift my focus back to my Higher Power and my serenity. Now I am able to do this and as such, I can love and accept the humanity in myself and others and not seek validation from those relationships any longer.

A meditation for June 21, 2013.

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forcing solutions – a meditation

 

Calvin: You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don't help.

Hobbes: Well, you've done all you can do.

Calvin & Hobbes

I love this quote because, for one, it's Calvin & Hobbes. And, two, it's so true for my life now that I am in recovery. In the past, when I was scared, I used to just keep doing things because I was craving control. I would strike bargains with God, I would manipulate, I would lie, I would obsessively clean something, I would be emotionally abusive. All of those things were never directly relevant to the underlying problem. But they were often a damn fine way for me to avoid addressing or even looking at the real issues that I had and still feel like I was in control.

Today, in my life in recovery, I try to do everything I should and no more than that. If I turn in an assignment, I try not to obsessively email the professor to see what my grade is. If I ask my partner to take on a task, I try not to nag him over and over again about how I think he should do the task and when. If I establish a boundary with a loved one, I try not to force their feelings on the issues.

These days, when I wake up in the morning, I accept I am going to try to do the best I can and that I will fall short of perfection and that others will also. I try to pray for guidance, patience, and forgiveness for myself and others. These are my “lucky underpants.” And if things don't turn out the way I wanted them to, that's great news, because I've found that when things don't turn out the way I want them to, in the long run, they always turn out better than I could have dreamed.

A meditation for June 18, 2013.

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Step 6 – Episode 28

Wow!Step 6 says “[We] were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” What are “defects of character.” What does “entirely ready” mean? How do we become entirely ready? What if we like some of our defects? How can we become ready to have them removed? Spencer, Kelli, and special guest host Melissa talk about these questions and others, sharing our experience, strength, and hope on the topic of Step 6.

What are “character defects”? This term seems very negative. A more positive view is that they are traits that block us from becoming the person we want to be. Or, paraphrasing the 7th Step prayer from the AA Big Book, they “stand in the way of our usefulness to God and our fellows.” Many of our defects are old attributes or coping schools that once served us well, but are no longer helpful.

For many of us, Step 6 seems to not require any action on our part. But if we just sit there, how do we become “entirely ready”? Melissa says that for her, there was a lot of writing and prayer involved. We also found that it involves self-acceptance, and acceptance of our faults. Ok, that’s good, but how do we get there?

Our reading spoke of “the 6 P’s”: perspective, pain, prayer, patience,process and payoff. Looking at the pain that a particular defect causes us, and the payoff that it used to give us, or perhaps continues to do us, can help move towards acceptance. If we are often late to meetings and appointments, the pain might be the disapproval of those we are meeting, while the payoff is that we are not “wasting time” by being early. By identifying the “payoff”, maybe we can find something to do that will avoid that feeling of wasting time, and will make it easier for us to actually arrive on time or early. Then we are ready for this defect to be removed.

We might be afraid that if a particular defect is removed, there will be nothing to replace it, and we won’t be the same person any longer. We can look back at the assets that we identified in Step 4. We will continue to have those, and maybe some of them will expand to fill the “void”. Or, a new positive asset will replace the defect. We can have faith that our higher power will replace the defect with something better. A listener wrote that she views the changes that will result as “a welcomed adventure, exploring the new me.”

What changes have we seen in ourselves as a result of working this step? Listen and find out.

Our topic for next week is progress, not perfection. Do you struggle with perfection?  Have you learned how to be accepting of your achievements even if they aren't perfect? Please call us at 734-707-8795, use the voicemail button, or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
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