Seriously, eons. Like, enough to log 37 hours or so of NPR (and lately Pandora action by James Taylor, Kesha and the like). I’m a road warrior. I’m also dad of three gifted girls. But you knew that. Why am I telling you this?
Today’s guest blogger knows commuters and gifted girls well. Welcome Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Megan Bearce. I found her while researching a story for work on how to beat a rough commute. She’s a mom and a writer.
She’s also author of the book Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When a Job Keeps You Apart.
Goal! Excellence Instead of Perfection
by Megan Bearce, LMFT
Given Eli’s love of soccer and girl power, it seemed fitting to have the recent World Cup championship win by the US women’s soccer team be the context for what I wanted to share. The following is a quote from the article 10 Inspiring Quotes From the Members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.
What I often hear when working with the women and girls in my therapy practice is fear. More specifically, fear of failure and fear of “what if,” and typically these fears are driven by perfectionism. I feel Abby’s words of wisdom are a great reminder for everyone who is striving to be their best but find self-criticism sabotaging their efforts.
According to Brené Brown: Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?” How we respond to a “failure” is greatly influenced by which of these we identify with. Perfectionism is rampant in our culture and especially so for girls. Whether it’s body image, the SAT’s, a performance, or a simple quiz, living life with no margin for error is paralyzing, stifling, and filled with shame. According to Merriam Webster, perfectionism is:
“A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; the setting of unrealistic demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.”
Pretty brutal huh? Where is the empowerment in that? What if instead we focus on building resiliency, which is “the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens.” We then view the outcome, the “failure,” as an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-assess. We practice differently, get a study partner, or find a mentor. Maybe we change directions completely? For example, pursue a new career, a different major, or develop a new skill. It involves taking what we’ve learned and experienced and moving forward instead of beating ourselves up for how things turned out AND reminding ourselves that we’ve lived through disappointment in the past.
An exercise I do with clients who struggle with perfectionism is to have them list all the “what if’s” they are telling themselves about a situation. (What if I can’t answer any of the questions on the test?) Then I have them list all the “what is true” statements they can. (I took good notes or I was worried before the last test, but I still scored a 95%.) We talk about the odds of the what if’s happening and then after the event, the test in this example, we review both lists. Over time, one starts to see that most of the what if’s never occur, but even when some do, knowing what you know now, you can plan accordingly as well as remind yourself that you were worried before, but things turned out better than your doom and gloom predictions. That is the essence of building resilience.
Girls today have more opportunities than ever and while we still have a ways to go, we can help each other and ourselves by fostering the pursuit of excellence instead of perfectionism. The US women’s soccer team demonstrated that in so many ways with their championship win. Instead of focusing on the prior loss to Japan and what might go wrong again, they implemented new strategies, encouraged each other, and played a game for the history books. They pursued excellence and they succeeded!
Megan Bearce, LMFT
Licensed therapist, speaker, and author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart
Megan Bearce is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes in providing support to overwhelmed women, high-achieving girls, and super commuter couples. She is also the author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart, a Midwest Book Awards silver medalist.
Megan is a sought-after speaker and writer on topics including workplace trends, relationships, gifted girls, and women’s issues. She has contributed to articles in Redbook and Good Housekeeping and been interviewed as an expert on the super commuting phenomenon by various media outlets including the BBC, MarketWatch, Forbes, Huff Post Live, and the CBS Evening News.
She holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, minor in Economics from Minnesota State University-Mankato where she graduated Summa cum Laude and was the 1996 College of Business Student of the Year. She worked as a CPA at 20th Century Fox and Grant Thornton LLP prior to changing careers.