Posts Tagged: perfectionistic

The Down Side of Responsibility

Hello to the Best Steady Eddies, the Most Consistent and Persistent, and the Earth’s Saltiest people. I love ya! Today, I’m talking to the Ever Readies. The Go Bot Girls. The Over Achievers. And the Over Functioning Super Heros. 

Have you ever felt so overly responsible for something, that it stressed you out? Maybe you were leading a team, or facilitating a bible study or parenting a screaming toddler. Whatever it was, you felt like the thing began and ended with you, and you were the one responsible for its success or failure. 

Feeling responsible isn’t bad. It’s actually a good motivator. However, feeling OVERLY responsible can be bad for you and bad for the people around you.

What Is Over Responsibility?

Feeling overly responsible means that you think it’s your job to take care of other people’s jobs. You think it’s your job to make others perform, make others happy, make others behave, make others conform, and make others pleased with you. You feel a compulsion to live up to unattainable standards of perfection. You feel like it’s all up to you or it won’t get done. You often feel in a lose-lose battle. What should feel like a privilege, turns into a burden. You feel like you are working harder than the rest of your group, family, or team, and that they just don’t understand the amount of pressure you’re under. You absorb and take on others’ feelings and expectations.

The Danger of Over Responsibility is…

People start to sense that you are stressed and angry all the time. They feel a bit demeaned and belittled that you don’t trust them to make good choices. People feel less than important to you. You end up doing your job, and other people’s jobs too. You end up frazzled, stressed out, sick and burned out. Your every action to over-function is met with others’ equal reaction to under-function. Your over-responsibility results in others’ under-responsibility. 

What Over Responsibility Looks Like on the Outside…

You feel unappreciated, over worked, and underpaid. You feel like no one else works as hard as you. You feel bitter at the others’ carefree attitudes, and they get to enjoy the fruits of your labors. You feel self-pity. You may say to yourself, “I have to do everything around here” or “Leaders get the short end of the stick,” or “People are selfish!” You may feel angry that other people are “ruining” your efforts.

What Over Responsibility Feels Like on the Inside…

For me, I start to feel panicky inside. I start to sense that things are spinning ever so slightly out of my control, and that if I let go of my tight grip, a crash is sure to happen. If I were to sum it up with a couple of words of what Over Responsibility feels like to me, it would be sheer terror. terror that this good thing will slip away. Terror that I’ll be blamed for a failure. Terror that the shame of my mistakes my overwhelm me and leave me abandoned. Terror that God will be disappointed in me.

Rationally, I know the things that frighten me will not come true, but terror is irrational, and before I can act according to rationality, I’ve already succumbed to my terror.

What to do When you find yourself in the VORTEX of Over Responsibility

  • Breath and realize you are over-functioning
  • Realize you are over functioning because you care. That’s good. But, turn that care toward yourself. Care enough about yourself to step back, let others have their feelings, do their part, and make their choices.
  • Apologize quickly to the people you barked at, snarked at, or tried to control.
  • Let go. Let go. Let go. Let the hell go. It’s going to be fine without your iron grip.
  • Don’t rehearse in your head 100 times what you did or said wrong.  Remember, you feel over-responsible for being overly responsible, so forgive yourself and move on quickly. All great people make mistakes, and they learn how to recover from them quickly.
  • Tell somebody how you feel and get some support. You’ll feel better when you realize that a lot of people just like you get it,


You are a high achiever, a high performing leader, a Go-Bot, Ever Ready, Risk Taker. You’re the kid who sits in the front row. You’re the one with the high goals and big dreams. The activities you engage in are important. You are called by God to lead that team, to facilitate that bible study, to parent that child and to lead that organization. But you don’t have to run yourself in the ground to get it done.  When you sense yourself feeling overly responsible, know that you’ve just stepped outside of God’s rest. Step right back into God’s rest by letting go of the things that ARE and SHOULD be out of your control. Those things are for God to handle, and not for you.

Cheers to you, and all your relationships!




But Will You Still Love Me If…

Do your kids know you love them? I mean, KNOW you love them? What communicates love even louder than words? 

Let’s take the story of Shane. Once a content kid, now his mood was darkening, and he spent more time in his room than usual. He wasn’t in the mood to eat. He didn’t go over to friends’ houses to hang out. He spent all his time sketching disturbing pictures. About death. 

Not good.

This boy was a talented baseball player. His team was so good, they won the regional Little League Championship. He was very skilled and hard working, but something was “off.” His worried parents took him to a counselor to check it out.  The boy reported liking baseball, his coaches, and his team mates. 

So what was up? Why was this kid unhappy? It seemed like so much was going for him? After spending some time with him, and talking over the pictures he was drawing, the counselor asked him what his parents thought about his baseball playing.

He said his dad was really glad about him being such a good player, and that he got really into the games. He said that his mom tried to calm his dad down sometimes, espeically if he was getting too mad or too loud.

Hmmm. The counselor asked, “So, do you feel a lot of pressure to play well? To make your dad happy?” The boy went silent. Hmmm. It was time to bring the parents in.

The counselor said to the parents, “I have this hunch that your son wonders if your love for him has to do with how well he plays on the baseball field.” Both parents were quiet. They were visibly concerned for their son. They looked at each other and quietly said, “Shane, is that true? Do you feel like that?” 

Shane looked down at his sketch book and nodded avoiding their eyes. Dad teared up and put his head in his hands. Mom reached out to hug her son. They were dismayed that their boy only felt lovable when he played well. They assured the counselor that they told him they loved him every day. Dad said, “My father never told me he loved me so I make sure I tell Shane all the time.”

But, “I love you if…” was communicated louder than, “I love you. Period.”

How could this happen to well-meaning, loving parents?

The counselor brainstormed why this could be. Maybe it was the way mom and dad fought over how much money baseball cost. Maybe it was because dad talked too much about how Shane could play better. Maybe it was because mom didn’t teach her husband what she intuitively knew, that boys need affection from their fathers as much as guidance.

Maybe all these things and more communicated conditional love to Shane- a type of love that was earned. These parents were good and loving parents that had their true message of love crowded out by other stuff.


After they shook off their inital shock, both parents affirmed their unconditional love for their son and said, “It doesn’t matter if you play good or bad, or if you hit a home run or strike out, you’re our son and we love you. Do you know that, Shane? Do you know that we love you even if you quit baseball right now?

Shane looked up to see his dad’s face, and Dad’s face was earnest. It gave Shane the courage to tell him how he felt.

“But, it’s like you don’t even care about how I feel. It’s just ”do better, play harder, practice more. It’s like you don’t even like me for me anymore. You just like baseball. No, you love baseball more than me. That’s how I feel.”

More silence. Then Dad said something the counselor didn’t expect, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Shane. I never felt like my dad loved me either.” More silence. With tears in his eyes, Dad said,  “I never want you to feel that way. What can I do to make it better?”

The counselor helped them establish cues that Shane could give his dad when he felt bad about himself, or when he was afraid of Dad’s disappointment. They brainstormed ways they could communicate with baseball signs how they were feeling. Shane’s demeanor brightened.

Dad said he would try to be “less animated” at the games.  Shane laughed, and said, “Yeah, right!” Then mom laughed. And then Dad laughed too. Dad said with a sheepish grin, “Ok, Ok! I get it, I can get carried away.” Then Mom and Shane ribbed Dad about the way he acted at games. Dad swallowed hard and showed the necessary humility to say, “Even though I want you to play hard at your games, I don’t want you to feel like I love baseball more than you. I’m sorry for making you think that.”

Unconditional Love? This family totally nailed it.

To be accepted unconditionally is to be loved; to be received willingly, given favor and to have the best believed of you. Unconditional acceptance is not based on performance, obedience or perfection.  

Shane’s depression didn’t go away over night, but his parents willingness to communicate, understand and do things differently was a huge step in the right direction.


  1. THEY SOUGHT HELP  They didn’t let embarrassment or shame keep them from asking for help. Counseling was not taboo for them, they invited the help they needed.
  2. THEY READ THE SIGNS They were right to be concerned about their son, who’s mood and behavior showed classic signs of depression. Mom and Dad knew that the morbid sketches, isolation and mood change was not normal or ok.
  3. THEY REACHED OUT Instead of pulling away and pulling inward, they responded to their son’s pain with understanding and comfort. Mom reached out to hug their son, and Dad responded with gestures of authentic grief.
  4. THEY EMPATHIZED Dad normalized Shane’s feelings by empathizing. Dad said he knew what it felt like to feel unloved, and he understood the pain Shane was feeling. He got it.
  5. THEY TOOK A STEP Dad coupled the apology with action. Not only did Dad express grief for Shane’s pain, he also took action to make some changes.
  6. THEY DIDN’T SHAME Neither parent was defensive saying shaming comments like, “Well, he shouldn’t feel that way,” or “How could he think that? We always say we love him, ” or “That’s just silly, he needs to get over it!”
  7. THEY KNEW HOW TO LAUGH AT THEMSELVES  Both parents knew how to laugh at themselves. Their laughing communicated that Dad knows he get’s too riled up at the games, and that he sometimes can be a tad rediculous. By all of them laughing together, they deflated the shame of dad’s over-doing it.

YOU NEED UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE TOO! Don’t offer yourself love IF you lose that weight, or IF you get that promotion, or IF that first date calls for a second date. Love yourself with the unconditional love that God offers you-

unmerited, unearned, and unconditional.

Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. You will feel the same way Shane did- depressed, lonely, and powerless. When you feel down on yourself because you just can’t get life “right,” take the steps that Shane’s parents did. Get help, Reach out, nurture yourself, refuse to shame yourself, and get in the habit of not taking yourself so seriously.

When have you experienced unconditional love before? When have you found yourself offering love with conidtions like these parents? How did you take your next right step to make it better?

How to be Good Enough: the Perfectionist’s Guide to Happiness

Do you know an overworked, under-appreciated, bitter employee- one that may get paid well, but is never happy? I’d like to suggest that overworked, under-appreciated, bitter employee is the Inner Critic taking up residence in your head. If you’re a perfectionist, you know this to be true. Your Inner Critic, let’s call her Madge, is never satisfied and continually believes you should do more, produce more, be respected more, be paid more, and above all be more perfect. She sits in the passenger seat of your car and tells you how others should know better, and do better. She yammers away at the side of your bed reminding you of the blunders you made earlier that day. She whispers in your ear at social functions that the people in the corner are avoiding you and can’t wait for you to leave. She sulks and stamps, whining, “it will never be good enough! No matter how hard you try, it will. Never. Be. Good. Enough!” When she’s at her worst, she’ll substitute “You” for “it,” and then her attacks become personal. Madge is duplicitous, suffering with black and white thinking. If you’re not the most successful, then you’re nothing. If you’re not the highest paid, then you’re a failure. If you’re not the most sought after, then you’re a loser. If you’re not the perfect mother, then you’re mommy dearest. If you’re not the most beautiful, then you’re ugly. If you aren’t the best, then you’re the worst. How could you? What were you thinking? Why are always so impossible?

Madge procrastinates. She convinces you to put things off until they become overwhelming and overdue- mostly because the prospect of getting it up to perfectionist standards seems impossible. And if you do it imperfectly, it will be a complete flop. And you’ll be the flop too.

Madge is a split personality- either Pollyanna with childish wishful thinking, or doomsday Drazilla pessimistic to the core.  Ne’er the two shall meet!

Madge is judgmental. She judges others and their motives harshly because she judges you harshly too.

Madge is stuck in the emotionally immature valley of duplicity, unable to integrate the good sides of self and the bad sides of self.

Madge is a victim, mad at people and society and authority who keep her down, but powerless to do anything about them.

Madge is sad. And afraid. And hiding.

How to Reform Madge into Magic

  • Madge needs a new role. Instead of being bitter and disapproving, Madge’s new assignment is to be a realist.  She needs to see the reality that you are human and humans aren’t perfect. To expect perfection is delusional and very un-clever. Madge doesn’t want to be un-clever. She just wants to be loved. So be careful not to fire Madge all together. Just put her on probation until she can grow up a bit, have a more realistic view of herself and the world.
  • Offer yourself plenty of UPR- Unconditional Positive Regard. Don’t love yourself in spite of the mistakes, love yourself inside of the mistakes. When you’re at your lowest, your worst, your least presentable, give yourself an emotional hug and say, “You’re alright, you’re just being human.” Madge will protest this way of thinking because she’s afraid of rejection and shame. She’ll freak out and threaten doom, “Something terrible will happen if you fail!” Tell her, “thank you for your concern, I’ve noted it. Now please calm yourself down and tend to your new job- reality.”
  • Integrate your Yin and your Yang, your good and your bad, your head and your hiney. As long as you’re human, you’re going to make choices that lead to amazing results, and choices that lack the results for which you were hoping. Then, there are times you’ll just make a hiney of yourself. Welcome to the world of being human. Accept it, integrate it and move on. Madge wants you to stay split in the “all or nothing,” but you know now that only emotional children believe in the “all or nothing.” And you’re not an emotional child anymore, are you?
  • Accept yourself as GOOD ENOUGH. Here’s the memo you want to send Madge, “I’m a good enough _______________ to get the job done God has asked me to do.”

Perfectionism can stop innovation, creativity and the ability to take risks. The essence of faith is found in dreaming, in hoping, in trying- not in results. Achievement and results are great, but it is in the faith effort of the actions that lend personal growth. Reassigning perfection to God alone, letting Madge off the perfectionism hook, and accepting yourself with heavy doses of UPR will make you a much happier person.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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