Archive for the ‘ feeling ’ Category

The Paradox of Perfectionism

I struggle with perfectionism, and I give myself no room to not be perfect. If I am not perfect, then I am a failure. Clearly, this black-and-white thinking does not work to my benefit when I am inevitably not perfect. At times like that, I can be so hard on myself.

I expect myself to be perfect, yet at times I do not have a clear definition of what that is, or the definition is clear but impossible to attain. I have a lot of unconscious rules for myself, things I tell myself that I “should” do or be. When I break those rules, I feel like a failure. I have noticed two such rules that are impossible to live up to, given the constraints of human nature. Yet it is very difficult for me to have grace for myself when these issues arise.

Rule #1: I do not allow myself to feel insecure.

When insecurities arise, and of course they naturally will come up, I judge myself. I tell myself that I should never feel insecure, that insecurities are a sign of weakness, and that there is something wrong with me for feeling insecure. Of course, the truth is that everyone feels insecure at times, and many times there are legitimate reasons for feeling insecure.

Rule #2: I do not allow myself to feel emotions.

When I feel emotional, I immediately block my feelings by telling myself I should not be emotional, and/or I intellectualize my feelings and try to cognitively understand them. I do not see my own emotions as being valid, but it gives me a little relief to have a logical explanation for any emotion I feel. The truth is that emotions are normal and healthy.

The irony is that I would never judge someone else for feeling insecure or feeling emotion. These are normal human reactions, and paradoxically, I often admire people who can open up about their insecurities and emotions.

Yet I have a very difficult time giving myself permission to be or express insecurity and emotion. Doing so makes me feel weak. A lot of times in past dating relationships, I have been unable to express my feelings to the person I am with. I would rather be someone’s fantasy (in other words, the “perfect,” idealized version of me that I feel I need to be) than his reality (the messy, sometimes “weak” and emotional version of myself).

I have noticed that in my relationship with Smith, though it is challenging to do so, I always express everything I am thinking and feeling to him. This is very difficult for me because of my internal rules; I fear that he will judge me as harshly as I judge myself. Yet, Smith has been such a safe person to me. He listens patiently. He validates what I say, he can relate to my perfectionism, and no matter what insecurities and emotions I have expressed to him, he still loves me.

Yesterday, I was talking to Smith, and I was looking for some reassurance. I said, with some irony but some seriousness, “Are you sure you want to spend the rest of your life with me? That means I won’t be a distant but idealized “perfect” person. Do you really want to get to know me, get close to me, and see all my messiness?” Smith easily reassured me that he does want to see my imperfections and weaknesses.

I do know that I have a lot to offer, that the perceived “bad” comes with a lot of positive characteristics. But at times, my perfectionism limits me to seeing only my inadequacies.


Rational Emotions

I tend to make decisions based on logic and reasoning, rather than on feelings and a desire for harmony. I think in very rational, intellectual terms. I approach situations asking the question, “Does it make sense?”

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test measures four dichotomies. One of those dichotomies is a pair of judging, or decision-making, functions: thinking and feeling. The thinking and feeling functions influence how we make decisions. Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things based on logic, reason, causal relationships, and consistency. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by empathizing with the situation, and attempting to achieve the greatest level of harmony and consensus. Everyone has both thinking and feeling functions to some extent, but the question is which function is more dominant.

My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ (introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging), and being a thinker, I tend to make decisions based on logic. I think objectively, and I weigh the pros and cons when making a decision. I often check my motives so as not to make a decision based unfairly on some emotionally weighted issue.

My friends know that I can be very empathic and understanding. While I do not have the natural empathy that a feeler has, I am able to logically conclude how someone may be feeling based on similar situations I have experienced. In addition, my intuitive function enables me to be sensitive to non-verbal forms of communication, which increases my sensitivity towards others’ emotional state. Having such an internal personality, I feel things deeply, and I can understand those feelings in other people. And I have learned how to be compassionate and understanding by listening to my friends and asking what they need. Finally, as everyone has both feeling and thinking functions to some extent, I have a fairly well-developed feeling function, particularly in comparison to other INTJs.

While I can easily appreciate emotions in other people, my bent toward intellectual analysis creates a lot of cognitive dissonance when I experience emotions myself. Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort created when a person has two conflicting ideas, feelings, or beliefs. For instance, if a woman is staunchly pro-life and then a dear friend has an abortion, the woman may feel very conflicted over how to best support her friend.

Because my analytical thinking is so strong, I tend to have the belief that my emotions are not valid, especially when my emotions conflict with what I rationally believe to be true. For instance, if I experience loss, I expect to feel grief and sadness, and that is okay. But if I feel jealous or sad and I cannot pinpoint a logical reason for it, I think that I do not have a right to those emotions. Paradoxically, I often reassure friends that their emotions are totally valid, and I speak truthfully; yet, at times I do not have patience with my own emotional reactions. We are our own worst critics, and it is very hard to be gentle with myself when I have emotions that I cannot rationally explain.

A related struggle for me is that at times it takes me awhile to figure out how I feel about something. This is frustrating to feelers, who are more in tune with how they are feeling, and especially to extraverted feelers who tend to process their feelings externally. I need to process through an event or situation internally and understand it before I can access and understand the related emotion. Again, this processing time is especially important when my emotions do not match the logic. It is very stressful for me to be pressured into discussing how I feel before I have time to process it, as I may not really understand how I feel.

God has brought me a long way in learning about myself and growing in my areas of weakness, as well as in my strengths. As I place myself in His hands, I have faith that He will continue to grow and sanctify me. I trust that He has given me my unique personality for a reason, for His ultimate glory. I struggle with my emotional reactions to experiences. But if you need someone to help you see things objectively, I’ve got your back.