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My Self-Care Wheel Is Broken

Updated: May 2, 2020

"Here's a self-care wheel for you to look at so you can develop your own self-care plan." These were the last words my therapist spoke at the end of our session. It seemed easy enough to look at the wheel and pick things that would help me on my journey of hope. However, I spent the next two weeks staring at the wheel and wondering what the "perfect plan" would be for my self-care. It evaded me and when I came back to my next session, I told her I was avoiding the wheel. It felt overwhelming and frustrating. During the session, we discussed the inner critic and the inner coach and what I could do to start listening to my coach. I've built my career on coaching students and professionals on establishing realistic goals, but the idea of coaching myself seemed impossible. Our session ended with her saying these words, "Did you know perfectionism a form of anxiety?"

In my summer blog, "Perfectionism and the Perfect Pie," I share my moment of realization that I am a perfectionist. This realization came to me somewhat like when I discovered I was a child of an alcoholic 20 years ago. I didn't know for 23 years that I was a child of an alcoholic because it was so deeply ingrained in my life- ways of functioning in dysfunction- I couldn't see how it affected my life. When my therapist said perfectionism was a form of anxiety, it brought me back to the first book I read about children of alcoholics, Perfect Daughters, by Robert Ackerman. "Dr. Ackerman identifies behavior patterns, thoughts, feelings, and experiences shared by adult daughters of alcoholics. These perfect daughters operate from a base of harsh and limiting views of themselves and the world. Having learned that they must function perfectly in order to avoid unpleasant situations, these women often assume responsibility for the failures of others. They are drawn to chemically dependent men and are more likely to become addicted themselves." This book was my saving grace and gave clarity to my hurtful relationship with myself and my father.

Perfect. That word has caused me years of anxiety and fear of rejection. Perfect (adj): "having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be...absolute; complete." Yup, that sums up my desire for the perfect self-care plan and the thought of coming up with the perfect self-care plan was summed up with me closing my journal and waiting to see my therapist a week later. I realized that I was criticizing my inner critic and staying frozen. I went back to my favorite book and found the most interesting thing about perfect daughters; their primary purpose in perfection is self-protection! Protective factors... Interesting wording. My resilience wasn’t motivated by love, rather it was motivated by a need to feel safe. It’s the difference between wanting and needing to feel safe and whole. Knowing how to feel protected is not secure. It’s an expression of insecurity.

My self-care wheel is in development, and it's certainly nowhere near perfect, but neither am I. I have taken time to reflect on what self-care means to me. Prior to my recent session with my therapist, I defined it in my own words. "Confidence to function productively in life without the fear of disapproval from others or motivated by the need to protect myself." I can make mindful decisions that are balanced, loving, realistic, and personal. My inner coach and inner critic can't hurt me unless I hurt myself because the person responsible for me, is me. As a child, I sought safety, security, and protection by learning to make others comfortable, playing smarter than my opponent, and negotiating my freedom. Today, as an adult, I keep myself safe, secure and protected by remembering I am confident, a hard worker, intelligent, and free to be myself. That is the best way to remember that hope rises again.

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