Resentment and Perfectionism: Why You Need To Stop “Shoulding” On Yourself

Episode 33 May 03, 2024 00:30:34
Resentment and Perfectionism: Why You Need To Stop “Shoulding” On Yourself
Purposeful Planning Podcast
Resentment and Perfectionism: Why You Need To Stop “Shoulding” On Yourself

May 03 2024 | 00:30:34

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Show Notes

Join us for an insightful exploration into the damaging effects of resentment and perfectionism. In this episode, we delve into the realities of life's imperfections and how the "should" mindset breeds resentment and self-doubt. Discover how resentment acts as a barrier to living a fulfilling life and learn practical strategies for clearing out these negative emotions. Through embracing reality, you'll unlock the key to liberation from perfectionism and resentment, allowing for deeper connections and enhanced well-being in all areas of life.

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Episode Transcript

KRISTEN: Today I'm joined by Dr. Corey Hirsch, a licensed clinical social worker and former criminal defense lawyer. She has been an adjunct professor in the master's program at Pepperdine University, and has been practicing psychotherapy for 12 years currently with a private practice serving clients in California and Colorado. In addition, she is a proud single mother of three amazing adult daughters. Welcome, Corey. COREY: Thank you so much. KRISTEN: Now you have a personal story that ties into our topic today, which is Resentment and Perfectionism: why you need to stop shooting on yourself. So if you could share with us a little bit about your personal story that ties into this topic that has a little something to do with your career path? Can you share a bit of that? COREY: Absolutely. So I grew up in Los Angeles, I went to a prestigious college, all-girls college prep, high school, and without my parents saying anything specifically, I got the message that performing at high levels was a way to gain acceptance and positive attention. So I went on to college and when it came time for me to graduate from college, I was talking to my parents about how I wanted to be a therapist. And they really discouraged me because they suggested that I didn't want to sit around listening to people's problems all day. Instead, they encouraged me to go to law school, my mom was a prosecutor in the LA District Attorney's Office, and they suggested that it would be a good education. And the worst thing would happen if I didn't want to practice law, it was always a good foundation. So I went on to law school, I became a criminal defense lawyer. And I lasted a very short time, because being a lawyer was not what I really wanted to do. And I was putting forth this false self, to gain appreciation from other people and to satisfy other people's needs. And my body just wasn't having it. I felt like I was walking around in a gorilla costume, a big clunky costume all day. And I developed severe anxiety as a result of not listening to myself and trying to push myself to continue on in a profession and in a path that wasn't really for me. So I stopped practicing law after about two years, and about 20 years later, I went back to school. I still had this burning desire to be a therapist, and when I was 40, I went back to school, to USC to get a master's in social work. And it was the best decision I ever made because I love my work and I feel so much more at peace and content with what I'm doing on a daily basis, and also making a contribution to the community. So I would encourage parents to have that look at their children for who they really are, and think about that when providing guidance about a career path. KRISTEN: That reminds me of how, as a young adult, many people are fighting this notion of there's a path that's sort of laid out in front of me, for whatever reason, the influence of the community, the influence of of parents or their mentors, but then finding what is the path that is meant for you based on your talents and passions and interests. So that's a big tension to navigate through as a young adult, but then you layer on this notion of perfectionism and [inaudible] this to achieve, Can you talk about how those interplay together and reinforce one another? COREY: Yes, so part of putting forth a false self is working to gain attention or appreciation or feelings of worthiness, by achieving high goals or by high achievement levels. And what happens is when your value and your sense of self-worth is dependent upon external validation, perfectionism can kick in, and what happens is we feel like we should be doing better, we should be kind of reaching these goals, we should be meeting expectations of the community, and we start to have an understanding that we're not good enough just being ourselves and that we strive for perfection, which is impossible. And so anything less than perfection becomes unbearable or not okay. And so it's a lose-lose situation and it leads to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. KRISTEN: And it seems like, at least what the media is telling us right now, that there's huge challenges related to mental health in, especially in the young adult population, would you say that this is a contributing factor? COREY: Absolutely. Especially in affluent communities, even if parents don't outwardly say that this, there's this expectation of high achievement, that the message from the community, from the coaches, from the teachers from the college prep schools, even if you go to the nail salon, we're talking about where's your kid going to college. And so that idea of having an expectation for success is out there and it's pervasive and so it's sort of inescapable. KRISTEN: And that, of course, is inflated so much more for the community of Purposeful Planning professionals who are commonly working with business-owning families, financially successful families. And so can you speak to how when you add this layer on top again, so we've got to find your own path amidst the path that's been laid before you, then this tendency towards perfectionism in our success oriented culture? Maybe we'll have a person who's coming from a successful family, and there are giants in front of you that you're standing in the shadow of. Can you add that layer on and speak to them? COREY: I think what you're speaking about is, when we come out, when we decide to have a profession, and we started an entry level, there's sort of this expectation that we'll be able to live and it can maintain the lifestyle that we've grown accustomed to, from our primary household. But when you're starting at an entry level position, you don't get paid enough to be able to maintain that level of lifestyle on your own. And so there becomes a perpetuates a dependence on the inheritance or on the family money, in order to keep up with the community and keep up that maintain that lifestyle. And so it can create this, and when we feel dependent, we don't have a feeling of self-efficaciousness. And that can be really, really debilitating. So a lot of it's common, and it might not be commonly understood this way. But it's very common, what I see in my practice is people who feel disabled, because they're not able to earn enough when they first start out to maintain their lifestyle, and so they feel less than they don't feel independent and it's really problematic. KRISTEN: And it's such a common dynamic, actually, in the client families that we serve. That many of them are sort of chronically through their adult years, they might never be financially independent and that they're relying only on their own income, and they're not relying on family wealth. So I almost want to draw the distinction between financial independence and financial adulting. And how might feel different from the user to the individual and how they're viewing their own sense of self-efficacy as you were speaking about. COREY: Okay, so I'm not quite sure. Can you clarify for me? KRISTEN: Yeah, I was thinking about the difference between if I feel that I'm financially dependent on my parents, I'm really reinforcing this notion of, “I can't do this on my own, I'm dependent on others,” versus, “I feel like a financial adult, I might be getting distributions of X amount a month from family wealth from a trust from my parents in order to make ends meet.” But I could have a different mindset about it, where I would say, “I have competent personal financial skills and an approach to managing my own financial world, that is financial, that in my mind is financial adulting, even if I'm financially always going to be dependent upon my family members. COREY: Okay, so you're talking about responsible handling of money. And so it sounds to me like what you're talking about is somebody who maybe has a great career, and is making a healthy amount of money and maybe is able to sustain a lifestyle on their own. But they depend on family money to live a higher lifestyle than they would be able to live on their own. Is that what you're talking about? KRISTEN: Yeah. Go ahead. COREY: It’s definitely a healthier place to have that idea that we can take care of ourselves and I don't want to cause any shame or anything, but you're not dependent on someone else for your ability to take care of yourself. I think that's the key when we feel like we're not able to take care of ourselves on our own, it can cause feelings of being disabled or not good enough. But for somebody who has found a career that they enjoy and that they can be successful at, to earn a healthy living where they could sustain themselves, maybe not at the level that they want to but I think that that's a much healthier approach. And I think those people find success and meaning. So really part of part of this ties into finding meaning making in your life, if you have a career that you feel very successful in and that you're making a difference, that's very different from somebody who is not doing that, it may be working at a job that they don't like, or working in a job because that they're not necessarily meeting their potential or co-potential, there's a very different feeling and end-result for the individual in those two experiences. KRISTEN: So for those listening, we know that it can be a common pitfall in parenting, especially in families where there's this strong history of extraordinary success. Though parents have the best intentions to encourage kids to strive and be the best they can be — I know I'm a parent myself, I feel all of that — that can easily end up unintentionally reinforcing perfectionism. So can you highlight some of the common places where we fall into these pitfalls in parenting? COREY: So it's important, this all goes back to adulting and being able to be independent and take care of yourself. And so I think, learning some life skills, some regular old life skills, like how to do your own laundry, for some people, when they go to college doing, that might be the first time that they actually do their own laundry, or maybe they send it out because they don't know how to do it. But those little life skills, cooking basic meals for yourself, having a spending plan, to use the word spending plan, as opposed to a budget, but having a spending plan and being intentional clear about how you spend your money, is really has a lot to do with clarity and, again, being able to have that feeling of self-efficacy, and ability to take care of yourself. If you had to, and we all do, it's that feeling of having a place in the world, that we can function as an adult. It's really troublesome and very dangerous when people don't know how to take care of themselves. It's very debilitating. And having some of those life skills are really important, even traveling, even being able to get around a foreign country on your own, it's super important, and it gives you this feeling of being able to take care of yourself that is so healthy. KRISTEN: I'm thinking of the juxtaposition that you've cited. We sort of have an anti-vision for what we definitely don't want to reinforce intentionally or unintentionally, most of the time in young people, which is this notion of needing things to be perfect and having to work so hard to find success after success. So that's kind of anti-vision. But then we have this other vision that you're creating on the other side of, “Okay, what are we after? Then what are we trying to promote?” And it seems very simple what you're prescribing is this notion of confidence building. COREY: Through trial and error. Because there's this whole praising phenomena that's been around for the last decade or two, where we're praising our children for everything that they do. And that does not build confidence. So this goes back to the perfectionist piece. If we have this expectation that things have to be perfect, that things have to be a certain way, again, there's no perfection. And so anything less than that is going to be bad. The people who are perfectionists have this very black and white kind of way of thinking, and either you're perfect or you're not. And again, it becomes a lose-lose situation. And in fact, there's a term at University of Pennsylvania, they have this term called ‘pen-face’ where the kids walk around looking totally at ease, relaxed, not caring about the world and inside. They're just struggling and things are worrying about or at Stanford, they have something called the ‘Stanford duck’ that actually is a better metaphor, where the students look like a duck who's floating on the pond so gracefully and relaxed, again, looking at ease, but underneath their webbed feet are flapping wildly, wildly wildly. And so I think there's a lot of pressure for kids who are in communities where success is the barometer for happiness. There's this, “Anything less than that is just not good enough.” And it leads to a lot of mental health issues. If you can't stack up, if you're not getting into an Ivy League college, then you're a failure. And that's super dangerous. KRISTEN: And what would you say to the parents of those students who are at Stanford, or at Penn, who clearly are working to achieve success, to help counter some of those pressures that they're walking around with? What are some of the messages that parents can get across? COREY: There was a recent book that came out by a woman named Jennifer Wallace called Never Enough, and she talks a lot about this concept of mattering. And really, it goes back to the attachment to long standing attachment theory where people need to have this biological need to feel seen, heard, and understood just the way they are with all of their perfections. And so having that acknowledgement and ongoing acknowledgement of each individual as having unique qualities, even its quirkiness, its silliness, what their interests are, what their natural interests are, not what they've become interested in an effort to resume built but their own quirkiness. If we can give our children that feeling that they're important, just the way they are, that they matter, no matter what, that they're unique. That's what people really need to feel like they have a place of their own in the community. And so that their value is not dependent on achievement of being, “I'm the best soccer player or going to the Ivy League school.” And that goes a long way towards cutting through perfectionistic tendencies. Remember, perfectionism has everything to do with what I should be doing, what people should say and do. And we really don't want that word to play a part in our children's lives, because whatever they're doing is what they should be doing, not what other people think is important. KRISTEN: And that sounds like a real reinforcing of the notion that you mentioned earlier, which is this idea of hoping that they'll grow and mature to be internally motivated, versus always looking for the external kudos and praise that are coming from the grade or the parents. Honestly, I'd like to shift the conversation now to, sometimes, advisors can reinforce these messages again, unwittingly, out of the best of intentions. There can be a lot of fear of and desire to avoid entitlement, especially for rising generation family members. And so sometimes failures or challenges in the lives of these family members can bring some anxiety into the whole system, including advisors. So what thoughts would you have to share with advisors who are listening in about how they can avoid falling into reinforcing some of these achievement mentalities? COREY: Yeah. So there's a bunch of literature about grit and about growth mindset and the importance of falling down and getting back up. That's a major, major life skill. Life is bumpy and if you don't know how to bend your knees, when you're going over the bumps, it's going to be really, really hard not to cave and not to. When we don't have those failures, it's sort of an anti resilience bill builder. If you never fail, you don't know how to get back up and resilience is all about getting back up. So I would encourage advisors or anybody to embrace failures, they're not failures. Think about all the entrepreneurs who started businesses that didn't work out but they learned a ton that they took with them to the next business and that didn't work out. Well, there's this concept, if you're not failing, you're not doing enough. And so failure is actually really, really helpful. It also grows determination, it grows grit, it reinforces a growth mindset that it's about the journey, not the destination, and it goes a lot towards, again, building that sense of self-efficacy. And being able to face any challenge that comes your way if you don't have any practice with failure when there's any little bump, the tendency is to fall apart. KRISTEN: And I can see the, I don't know the typical I'm thinking about the typical relationship between a family member you know, say a leading generation family member and their advisor risers, right? So if I had to go to one of my family's advisors, and you know, I had a child who had failed out of college or who had, you know, been fired from the first job that she had, it might be very embarrassing for me, I would probably go seeking solutions not to sit down alongside my child who has just fallen on the, on the path. I love that metaphor that you used. And maybe that's exactly what advisors can do is to help sort of be a container for some of that emotion that parents are having. Can you speak about what that meant? Yeah, absolutely. COREY: Let's embrace the failures, let's teach children, young adults, or full blown adults how to navigate challenges, because that's all a failure is: the challenge. So you dropout of school, not school is not for everybody. How many successful people are out there who have made amazing, amazing lives for themselves, fully well-balanced, huge lives for themselves, who never went to college. College is not the end all. Having a life that feels fulfilling is what is really, really important. There's a whole movement for living a life that's fulfilling, and not loaded with one achievement after another. The problem with perfectionism and achievement is that it's never enough. Once you master one achievement, it's just on to the next, on to the next, onto the next, on to the next. So that there's never a feeling of satisfaction. And do we really want our kids to be constantly feeling like they're not good enough, because they haven't achieved the next thing or do we want them to be able to see life as a journey as an adventure, as an exciting path to go on and grow, grow, grow, grow, grow. One of our basic needs is to have growth and contribution. And if we're always just looking to build our resume to achieve the next thing, we miss out on that opportunity for personal growth and making contribution to the community just by being ourselves. KRISTEN: So we talked about how advisors can serve in a role of reinforcing to a parent to support them some of these concepts. But I think there's also an interesting dynamic that an advisor has, as they have their own relationship with young adult clients. And I've had clients where they might be in their 40s or 50s and they still feel very intimidated in a meeting with their family advisors. And they've even described it sort of as always feeling a chronic juvenile. So I'm thinking about the capacity for relationship building that can happen with advisors who are able to have these conversations with their young adult clients, to help them understand that they're not sitting here and a judgment seat, or counting achievements in order for them to earn their respect. COREY: Yeah, I think it's really, really important. It's very disabling not to have the language to understand and talk about financial issues. And I think one of the things that is really problematic about the schools is we don't teach this stuff in the schools. These life skills are not valued in schools. So I think an advisor who is willing to sit down with an open mind and some empathy, these kids have never learnt about financial literacy. And so having some empathy and lowering the bar for these young adults, and really sitting down and explaining to them that they've never had to learn this before, but now's the time. And so going through and maybe giving them a financial literacy 101 course, might be part of the advisor's responsibility at this point, so that that child or that young adult feels competent. We want to develop a sense of competence in these kids so that as they get older, some people get to the age of 50, and they've never even had a spending plan. They've never had to deal with taxes, they've never had to prepare for life events. And I think that my understanding is that young adults want to understand that but they're sort of ashamed that they haven't learned about it yet. And so, sometimes it's mistaken for entitlement, but it's not necessarily entitlement. In a lot of cases, it's really just not having exposure to these kinds of conversations because it's been handled for them. And that is not entitlement. That's ignorance and not ignorance in a bad way. It's ignorance because they've never seen it before. And so, there's a very big difference between entitlement and not knowing. KRISTEN: And definitely what I've seen in my work, and I would love to hear you just offer your experience is that it's not just I think the first thing that the certainly the financial industry, but in general, the technical world thinks of doing when you have a young adult rising generation family member is. Let's teach them financial literacy. That's sometimes we move into things like, what teaches them a little bit about the markets or asset allocation. And many times not recognizing the very important side of empowerment in leadership development in what people commonly refer to as like the softer skills side of things, which I found to be an essential part and almost additive to, or synergistic with the technical learning. So can you speak to them? COREY: Yes, it's kind of what I was talking about before learning how to do your own laundry and do your own cooking, and how to negotiate. It's wonderful now in the education world. They are doing so many more team projects and group projects, and also putting on presentations, but any of those life skills that everyone depends on. Like I said, preparing for taxes, preparing for vacations, preparing for getting yourself around, having the ability to take care of yourself, goes a long way towards building confidence. A lot of times people think that we get confidence, and then we do big things. But the reality is, the way that we develop confidence is by doing big things, and then we get confidence. And so if we can encourage these kids to maybe take on challenges and risk failure, and learn that they can build confidence by putting challenges in front of them. They will learn a lot of those which are called soft skills and develop greater resilience. That's what we're really looking for is resilience and resilience is the ability to meet a challenge and be excited about meeting a challenge. Be curious about meeting a challenge and be curious about growth in the journey. And if it doesn't work out, being able to get back up and try again, or try something new. But I think what happens a lot is if people are thinking that life is not going to be full of challenges. They almost get into a fawn position where they give up. And sometimes I think also in this community, when you're talking about financial literacy, and talking about the markets and all of that, that it might feel overwhelming. And so there might be a tendency to just back away because it feels like too much. So I think having kind of a soft voice taught and teaching these young adults at a pace that's comfortable for them so that they feel empowered and not ashamed, for not knowing is really important, again, that goes to that perfectionist thing. There's this expectation that because they grew up in a family that's has a very strong vernacular around money. There's this sense that they're imperfect, or there's something wrong with them, because it doesn't come naturally. And what is really important is if they can learn other people in their family have to learn too. They didn't just come out knowing all of this stuff, I think it's really important to kind of lower the bar and meet these young adults where they are, and build from that. KRISTEN: So important. Cory, thank you so much for joining us. You've given us so much to think about, regarding how we can not become a part of the community that's reinforcing this perfectionism, and really calling us to the opportunity wherever we're finding it. For those who are listening who are parents themselves, or when we're working with our client families, how can we be part of the community that really reinforces this idea of the opportunity to learn and fail and grow just as we do in life? Any final comments you want to share with our community? COREY: Now, I just encourage those that are interested in learning about how to support the mental health aspect and kind of this growth mindset. It's so important, and I'm hoping that more people will embrace this kind of mindset of it's the journey, not the destination. That's really important so that these kids don't feel like their self-worth is dependent upon being perfect. So setting them up to have more of a growth mindset than having to strive for all these achievements. KRISTEN: Thanks so much for sharing your your insights and perspectives with us today COREY: Thank you so much for having me.

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