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An Invitation to Let The Tyranny of Perfection Go

A package from a dental visit with appointment card, toothpaste, toothbrush, and floss, along with a folder from a surgery center and envelope from a doctor's office addressed to Jill Carnell

I was in a group this week when somebody started a share with, "I'm held out as a 'success,' so how can I be a mess right now?," which reminded me that I haven't shared the latest in my physical well-being journey.

The TL;DR version of this post is when you experience a sentiment similar to the one I witnessed this week arise, let the tyranny of perfection go, friend. You're a human being, and you don't have to be perfect.

The latest in my physical well-being journey

Growing up, I was fortunate that my healthcare providers were stable. I saw the same pediatrician until I was 18, the same dentist, and the same optometrist. Once I got into adulthood, that changed a bit. Part of it was moving around for school and work, and part of it was providers retiring or moving. Maybe this is something you've experienced, too.

As I settled after law school, I went back to the same dental and optometry practices and found a new primary care physician. Then, several years ago, she retired, and I was in the market for a new doctor. I found one I loved, and then she moved and the practice couldn't absorb her patients. She referred me to another doctor, who I liked ok and saw a couple of times. In the midst of this, 2020 happened, and then my new doctor changed her practice and moved to Atlanta to work for the CDC.

Other than chronic migraine, I am relatively healthy for a middle-aged curvy gal. Besides the ongoing admonishment to lose weight, my healthcare needs over the last few years have been yearly vaccinations, which I attended to at our local Little Clinic at Kroger.

At the same time, there were orders for a mammogram, routine bloodwork, and a colonoscopy hanging on our fridge for going on two years as I had "find new doctor" on my To Do List. At the same time, I was working to stand up Thought Kitchen, including making presentations about the Seven Dimensions of Well-Being, one of which is physical. Do you know one of the topics that Loretta and I talk about during the discussion of physical well-being? If you guessed "getting routine and age-appropriate screenings," gold star for you!

Mark had been gently asking me from time-to-time during our Jill's Medical Orders Hanging on the Fridge Era to find a new doctor. He was kind about it, and I knew it came from a place of love. I kept responding with "I know it's important, but I'm busy" or "I know I should, but I can't find anybody I like" or "Yeah, I know, I plan to work on that on Friday afternoon after everything else is cleared off my To Do List."

At the end of last year, I got serious about finding a new doctor, partly because presenting about the Seven Dimensions of Well-Being while not attending much at all to one of my own dimensions felt WAY out of alignment, partly because I wanted to treat Mark's request like I'd want him to treat one of my requests, partly because I wanted to get this task off my list, and partly because I actually wanted to attend to these components of my physical well-being, which requires the support of a doctor.

After some searching, I'm back at the practice where the doctor I loved was, and my primary care physician is a Nurse Practitioner I really like. Earlier this year, I saw her for the first time, and I told her I was there to see if we could work together, explained how overdue I was on several screenings, and we collaborated on a plan. She encouraged me to pace myself and supported me in figuring out where to begin. I've now had bloodwork, a mammogram, and a colonoscopy. I still have the pap smear to go. So far, everything is normal, and I'm feeling good about attending to my own physical well-being.

I'm sharing this with you because one of the reasons that I took action instead of staying stuck in the Jill's Medical Orders Hanging on the Fridge Era is because I let go of the tyranny of perfection and all of the mean-spirited self-talk that arose out of it, such as:

How could you let this go on so long?

You know better than this!

What's wrong with you? I bet all the other women your age do this stuff without all this hoo ha!

Just pick somebody! You don't have to "vibe" with them!

Jeebus! You better not tell anybody about this or NOBODY will take your work seriously.

How can you be such a mess right now?

These thoughts all arose, and by using the practice of self-compassion, I worked with them and moved through them. Put another way, the tiny perfectionist tyrant in my mind still hurls her mean-spirited self-talk at me. Instead of getting tangled up in it, I recognize it and note it, and then I choose to respond to it with the practice of self-compassion. I have agency to choose, and I choose self-compassion.

If you'd like to learn about self-compassion and other mindfulness-based supports, enroll in Kitchen Essentials, our freely-offered seven-day course to get you cookin' with tools and practices that bring ease to your life.

You're a human being. You don't have to be perfect... and also, when the unpleasant arises, self-compassion is so much more pleasant than beating yourself up and is much more likely to get you where you want to go. Try it on and see how it fits you.

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