“Hi, I’m Amy and I’m a recovering perfectionist.”
I really wish we had meetings for us recovering perfectionists! The daily battle to accept my imperfections and mistakes is often isolating and I’d love time and space to talk about it with the many who can relate. I know some would be my fellow SLPs.
SLP programs are among the most rigorous master’s degrees. When I was completing mine at the University of New Mexico our department dean had a PhD in psychology and he said the SLP’s degrees were the most difficult master’s programs he’d seen. Many of us were able to complete these programs only because of our perfectionism.
I began my recovery from perfectionism in 2015 when I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder. At the time I was working 40+ hours each week at what I considered and called “my dream job” and I spent up to 8 hours driving in a day while traveling around New Mexico to coach parents who had young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. My first question for the second sleep doctor to diagnose me (I didn’t want the first one to be right) was, “Can I keep practicing as an SLP?”
I was assured that since my disorder is mild it wouldn’t affect my career “as long as (I didn’t) let it.” This meant disciplined lifestyle changes, including driving less, working less, strict sleep and wake times, daily naps, and meticulous care for my allergies (which, combined with the push for SLPs to switch appointments from 1-hour to 30-minutes, ultimately motivated me to become self-employed).
7 years and lots of trial-and-error later my career is alive and well and I believe a part of that is hard work, a part is luck, but a lot was the incredibly difficult task of accepting my imperfections so that I could work around them.
Brene Brown’s books helped me immensely. Her balance between research (it’s all evidence-based!) and anecdotal experience struck all sorts of chords with me. I’ve found that adopting her guidelines has helped me lead a more peaceful life, a more fulfilling career, and a more effective practice as I’m able to help my patients work through their own struggles with imperfection.
I’ve really been reminded of all Brene Brown’s teaching lately as I struggle with the imperfections of my personal life. With all this considered, I’m cutting back on the number of posts I make reach month, adding monthly self-care tips for my fellow SLPs (and as reminders for myself), and rebranding my blog and social media presence to be “The Imperfect SLP.”
That’s my first self-care tip: Reframe imperfections. They’re not flaws, but the traits that make us relatable to each other.
Her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” was the next step on my recovery.
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