How To Be Compassionate Toward Yourself And Overcome Perfectionism

Breaking news, friends. 

We are not robots; we are humans.

And do you know what that means?

It means that sometimes we won’t stick to our schedule.

It means that sometimes we experience negative emotions.

And it means sometimes things don’t go perfectly as planned.

And it’s not because we’ve messed something up.

It’s not because we’re not good enough.

It’s because we’re humans and not a robots.

I know. It came as a bit of a shock to me, too.

But guess what.

This is incredible and empowering news.

And in episode 79 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, I explain why.

So if you find yourself spinning in negative self-talk for not “doing it right.”

Or if perfectionism gets the best of you more often than you’d like.

Make sure you check it out below or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • The breaking news that you are not a robot.
  • Why this is a reminder you need to hear.
  • 5 powerful lessons to help you drop perfectionism and embrace your humanity.

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #79: (Transcript) How To Be Compassionate Toward Yourself And Overcome Perfectionism

Hey, Everybody. Welcome to episode 79 of the podcast. How are ya? I hope you’re having a beautiful week.

I want to take a second and give a shout out to a podcast listener whose username I am not 100% sure how to pronounce. It’s either Jenn Amanoo or Jenna Manoo… I don’t know. iTunes usernames are always a bit of a mystery to me.

Quick Shout Out

But what I do know, is this person left an awesome review that speaks to what we’re exploring on the podcast today. She writes, Paula’s energetic and light-hearted approach to coaching feels like receiving a pep talk from your best friend or big sister. As someone who has struggled with focusing and negative self-talk, I have found hope and reassurance from Paula’s own experiences. She has reminded me that I’m a human going through a human experience!

First of all, thank you so much for being a rockstar and leaving this review. I so appreciate it, and you’re helping me reach more listeners because of it. And if you’re a regular listener and you enjoy the podcast, will you take a quick moment to pop over to your podcast player and leave me a review? That would be awesome.

Second of all, I love this review because it speaks to two really important messages that I want to share as often as possible on this podcast. First of all, so many of these episodes come from my own experiences, meaning it was an area I struggled with at one point. I dove in and did the work, and once I found things that worked for me, I then share them with you. So in other words, we are all just figuring it out. We all have mind drama. We all have trouble focusing at times. And we all deal with negative self-talk. We’ve all been there. 

This doesn’t mean anything’s gone wrong. It doesn’t mean we need to fix ourselves because we’re not broken. Sure, there may be some skills we want to strengthen or tools we want to add to our toolbelt. And there may be some new thoughts we want to think on purpose. But that’s all part of the experience. It’s because we are – indeed –  humans with human brains having a human experience. We are right on track. 

You Are Not A Robot

And that brings me to today’s podcast topic, which – if you looked at your podcast player before hitting play today – you may have noticed is titled “You are not a robot.”

I know. It was news to me, too.

In fact, this is a lesson I’ve been working on with my own coach and been coaching myself for months. Because I tend to forget this important detail that I am, indeed, a human, and not a robot. And I’ve noticed this topic come up over and over in my coaching sessions with my clients, too. And, as Plato reminded us way back in 390 BC: like tends toward like. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I have awesome clients who deal with the same mind drama that I did at one point or another. 

So I thought I would use this podcast to remind you that you, my friend, are also a human and not a robot. And before you skip ahead to the next episode because you think I’ve lost my mind, stick with me. Because this episode is for all of my high achievers, ADHDers, perfectionists, and recovering perfectionists. This episode is for the person who thinks to themselves, “I never get enough done.” “I should be more efficient.” “It’s never good enough.” and “I can never seem to have my act together.” ”There’s always more to do.”

This episode is for all of you listeners who put such high expectations on yourself that a robot version of you would struggle to keep up. Yet nevertheless, you beat yourself up when things don’t go perfectly. When you don’t check everything off the list. Or maybe you DO get everything done, and then your brain offers the thought, “I probably could have done more.” “I should have been more efficient than that.”

Your Thoughts Are Optional

Now like I said, I get it. I know these thoughts. And I know they don’t even feel like thoughts. I know they feel like truth. Like you could prove them in a court of law. Just as 2+2 is 4 and there are seven days in the week, it’s also true that I can never get enough done. All true. All factual. 

But it’s just not true. That criticism your brain offers you of not getting enough done, never working fast enough, needing to be more efficient. Those are all thoughts. And they are all optional. 

Today I want to share with you what I’ve learned doing this work, and the mindset shifts that I’ve made, in hopes that some of my takeaways resonate with you, too. And I want to start with where I was at before I really dove into the work of rewiring my thought patterns and shifting my beliefs.

Time Blocking

So I used to get really hard on myself when I didn’t get everything done on my to-do list. And when I first started this work, I realized that my daily to-do list had enough work on it to occupy an entire month, yet I’d expect myself to get it done in a day.

That’s when I learned to start timing out my tasks and blocking them into my calendar so I had a better idea of what I could actually accomplish within a day. And I’ve talked about this process in previous episodes, namely way back in episode 3 and 11. So I created my ideal schedule. And I blocked out which hours I would work on different tasks. On paper, everything added up.

And what I’d find is that some days things went well and other days they didn’t. On the days that went well, I’d question whether I should have been more efficient and gotten more done. And on the days that I didn’t get it all done, I’d have all the negative self talk about why I couldn’t just follow a schedule. I should know better. It all adds up on paper, so what’s the problem?

Procrastination and Procrastiworking 

Other times I might just totally slip back into my old programming and find myself fighting procrastination, getting lost down the rabbit hole of Instagram stories, or procrastiworking with every piece of busywork I could find. Or I would just completely sidestep the fact that I do have ADHD and tell myself I should be an exception and shouldn’t have to deal with the stuff that comes with ADHD. 

And as a side note, I have had some people asking that I do a podcast episode dedicated to ADHD specifically, so stay tuned for that in the next few episodes, too.

Where I Was

So this is where I was at. I had figured out a schedule that worked for me. I had gotten control over my focus and follow-through. And I was managing my time. But on the days that anything didn’t go as planned, I would use that as evidence that I didn’t have it all together. And that I should know better by now. 

I’d think so myself, “I thought I was over this!” I thought I fixed that bug in my coding and that I shouldn’t ever struggle in that area again. Something has gone wrong. And this, my friends, is when I realized that I am not a robot. Instead, I am a human with all the beautiful imperfections that come with humanity and a human brain, and that’s okay.

And as I dug into this – at the time seemingly bizarre concept that I was not a computer – I started realizing how much our humanity comes into play. And simply recognizing these areas helped me drop the judgment of myself, drop the perfectionist expectations, and start embracing what it means to be human.

So let’s talk about this. I have five areas that I want to explore with you that provided a big wakeup for me as I started opening up to the entire human experience, which – spoiler alert – ultimately makes things so much more fun

We Get Tired

Reminder number one. As humans, we get tired. We have times of the day when we’re focused and productive and nailing it. And we have other parts of the day where we’re…less so. What’s more, we have this annoying burden of needing to sleep. 

And somewhere along the way, whether it’s in our jobs or as parents, we start believing we shouldn’t need sleep. We shouldn’t need rest. And we simply shouldn’t get tired. We should just be “on” all the time. Whenever we decide to work, we should have total and complete focus. We should be excited to get started and dive into big projects at the flip of a switch. And it shouldn’t matter whether we got 4 hours of sleep the night before, or whether we’ve had a demanding day the previous day, we should be robots. 

Doctors Don’t Sleep

I have three different clients right now who are doctors, and two of them over the past week have made comments about the unspoken and sometimes spoken expectations that doctors just shouldn’t need sleep. It’s just part of the job description. So whether you’re tired or not it doesn’t really matter, you should be able to show up on your A-game no matter what. 

I Should Need Rest

Coming from a different angle, I would do this with my schedule. I would pack my day full of super brain-intensive high-focus activities with zero breaks or transition time in between, and while it technically fit within the hours allotted, I did not have the mental stamina required to maintain that kind of schedule every day. So when my brain would finally give in to its humanness and force me to take a break, I would get super hard on myself. 

And this is when I started realizing, oh wait. I’m not a robot. Maybe this whole “rest thing” is part of being human. 

Creating A “Kind” Schedule

So now when I create my schedule for the week, I pause and I ask myself, am I being kind to myself with this schedule? Is this a schedule that Paula on Friday afternoon after a long week will stick with? Or has perfectionist Paula come out to play and created a schedule that only robots can follow?

Another question I like to ask myself is, would I feel comfortable handing this schedule over to my best friend or my sister? Would this be a schedule I would give to someone I love because I know confidently that they could get it done? If the answer is no, then it’s time to reconsider. 

So yes, my friends. We do get tired. We do need sleep. And that’s okay. When you take care of your humanness, you will find everything goes so much more smoothly overall. And as an added – perhaps unexpected bonus – you usually get more done in the process. 

We Have Emotions

And that leads me to my next lesson/realization. As humans, we also have emotions. Darn it. We have to feel stuff. And what’s more, sometimes we’re going to act on those emotions in ways we wish we wouldn’t – especially with negative emotions.

Now, sometimes we can just sit back and observe our negative emotions. Maybe we are really frustrated but we’re able to separate ourselves from the situation. We’re able to pause and realize “I notice I’m thinking that this should be working faster and it’s not.” And it’s because I’m thinking this way that I feel frustrated.

But other times, we don’t have that separation. Other times we just get frustrated. We blame our feelings on the circumstance. And we make rash decisions or we say something we wish we hadn’t and we don’t show up exactly as we’d like in a perfect world.

Again. I know I sound like a broken record here. But I really don’t think I can stress this point enough. Nothing’s gone wrong. We are having a human experience. Not a robotic experience. Not a programmed, perfectly planned experience. A HUMAN experience. And that’s okay. And when we can drop that extra layer of judgment of ourselves for reacting to an emotion and instead feel curiosity and compassion. If we can instead open up to learning from the experience, we once again propel ourselves forward so much faster.

We Care About What Other People Think

Another realization I had as I really dove into this concept is that as humans, we’re going to care about what other people think at least some of the time. Not all of the time. And we can absolutely care less about what others think when we learn to coach ourselves and question our thoughts and build up our own self-confidence in who we are. 

But your lower brain, or your toddler brain, or your lizard brain that’s developed over thousands and thousands of years still fears judgment. It still fears whether people like you. It still wants to be included and part of the group. And this is because it still thinks that in 2021, negative opinions from other people means being banished from the cave and left to fend for yourself in the jungle. Our brain still equates rejection from a group with death. So of course it’s on our radar at least some of the time. Especially when we’re not managing our mind.

But our prefrontal cortex – our executive brain – knows better. So we can absolutely check-in and question these negative thoughts when they come up. We can absolutely coach ourselves and have our own backs and embrace who we are. But that immediate knee jerk reaction of “what will people think” will still show up sometimes when you’re doing something that’s stepping out of your comfort zone. 

Expect Your Brain To Care

I’d be lying if I said my toddler brain doesn’t make its opinion known when I release a podcast. The difference is that I expect it to come. I expect it to make its opinion known. I expect it to say things like, “everyone is probably going to hate this.” “You know that nobody wants to hear this idea, right?” 

And then I say with love, “your opinion is noted, brain. but we’re not believing this anymore.” To borrow Elizabeth Gilbert’s analogy from Big Magic, “hey fear. You can come along on for the drive, but you have to sit in the back. You can’t drive. And you can’t touch the radio station. I appreciate your opinion, but I’m good here. 

Another way to say this is that you see the thoughts for what they are – just thoughts. They don’t mean anything about you or your value or who you are as a person. They’re just practiced thoughts your brain has offered you. 

And unfortunately, we can’t just quickly change the coding in our programming like we might be able to in a computer or a robot. It’s not just a bug in our coding we need to fix. Instead, we have the practice of experiencing the thought, noticing it for what it is, and choosing intentionally what you want to believe instead.

Stay Safe

Now the fourth area that I’ve learned to embrace is that as humans, we are hardwired to stay safe. We are conditioned to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Just as our toddler brain wants to get approval for survival, it also wants to use as little energy as possible. It wants to face as little danger as possible. And it simply wants to feel good all the time. And it thinks this can happen by sitting on the couch watching Netflix and eating snacks all day long because it doesn’t get challenged. 

You know what? Sometimes that toddler brain might win out. Even today, despite my best efforts to be a robot, I will occasionally find myself procrastiworking or lost on social media.

But the difference is that I don’t make it mean anything about me. I don’t beat myself up for being a human. Instead, I get curious. I ask myself, “Hm, I wonder what’s going on?” I ask myself with compassion, “what is it you need right now?”

Because I know that a well-rested, well-taken care of Paula WANTS to show up and do the things. She WANTS to do an amazing job. She WANTS to stick to her calendar. So the reality is that she’s probably just missing something.

Find The Answer

So I ask, and I listen for that answer. 

Sometimes it’s the toddler brain throwing a fit saying “I don’t want to do this, it’s too hard.” And when that happens, I usually find that I haven’t broken down my projects into small enough steps to make it manageable. So my brain gets overwhelmed thinking, “I don’t know where to start. This is too hard.” 

Or it might say something like, “I’m so tired. I just need a break” And I’ll look at my calendar and realize that the day before I had 8 client calls – true story. So then I gave myself some space to rest AND I learned how to set limits in my scheduling app on how many people can schedule meetings in a day, which is an important tip to know. 

So yes. We’re human. Yes, we are hard-wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And yes. Sometimes our toddler brain will have a tantrum so loud that the executive brain just gives in and gives it the candy. But the real power is in getting curious about the situation. It’s in figuring out what you need to set yourself up for success. And doing this without the judgment of being a human…as frustrating as that may seem sometimes. 

We Don’t Run On Programs

And that leads me to my last lesson, which is that as humans, we don’t run on programs. We don’t have it all figured out the first time. And we do have learning curves. While I would love it if we could simply download a program into our brain and have the ability to stay focused all the time, or write an article without distraction, or learn a new skill by installing a new app in our brain, that’s not the case. 

The reality is that we need to practice. That’s part of being human. 

And while this might seem frustrating on the surface because we think we should do everything perfectly the first time, it’s actually really good news. Because again, nothing has gone wrong when we don’t have all of our ducks in a row when we’re just getting started. It’s all part of the process. It’s all part of the learning curve. 

So when your brain tells you it should be going faster or you should be better or you should be farther ahead than you are, that’s all just part of being human, too. What’s more, every person’s brain is saying a different variation of the exact same thing. So good news; you’re right on track. You are on your path. And you’re doing exactly what you need to do to figure it out.

How To Move Forward

And what I hope you take away from this podcast episode – aside from the groundbreaking news that we are not robots – is a little more compassion and understanding for yourself. I hope you can release some of those unrealistic expectations – or at least question them – and give yourself a little more breathing room. And when your human brain makes itself known or your toddler brain throws a fit, I hope you can observe it with a little less judgment and a little more curiosity and love. 

Ask yourself questions like, “what do I need right now? How can I help? What can I do to make this process more enjoyable?” Because for me anyway, not only does it make things easier it makes this whole human experience so much more fun. 

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