Learn to practice mindfulness, a practice rooted in acceptance. The technique is used as a therapeutic practice by counselors and therapists in New York City, New York (NY).
Winter is finally giving us New Yorkers a reprieve and we are welcoming spring with open arms. Spring not only brings warmer weather, but also signifies new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s a time to take action in our lives and many do so by focusing on spring-cleaning. Feeling comfortable in your space is key, especially in New York, where space is limited and organizing our environments can have positive impacts, both physically and mentally. According to Marie Kondo, the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” tidying up is an essential and life-changing endeavor. Here are three tips from her book to help you start your spring-cleaning off right:
Don’t clean to avoid, “tidy up with intent” – Cleaning is often thought of as a chore that we begrudgingly do. It is frequently a means of procrastination, such that we clean instead of studying for that upcoming exam or sending that important email. Rather than being a focus of its own, tidying has become a placeholder for anxiety. Kondo sheds a different light on tidying up; highlighting that if we tidy with intent the process feels differently and becomes a special event. Kondo touches on the connection between our thoughts and actions, and is essentially emphasizing that mindfully cleaning alters the experience. Being present and aware while tidying versus mindlessly going about it changes out relationship to the activity. Additionally, when we engage in behaviors with intent we take on more agency and build mastery. Not only are we “doing what needs to get done,” we are also deliberately making the choice to create a goal and work towards it. By seeing spring-cleaning as a means of freeing up space, both internally and externally, it morphs from a nuisance to a practice.
Don’t clean half-heartedly, “tidy up with determination” – Kondo encourages her clients to visualize their destination prior to starting their tidying journey. She asks them what they want their space to look like and how they want to feel when there. Our living spaces affect our bodies and minds, thus it is important to be thoughtful about how we shape them. Rather than tidying up a little bit each day, Kondo recommends using the “destination” as motivation to set a designated amount of time in which to achieve this. Doing so in an allotted timeframe and with a clear goal aids people in seeing it through to the end. Additionally, the more concrete and specific we make our goals, the more measurable and more likely they are to be accomplished. Identifying what your goal in tidying up is and creating a timeline will help you fully achieve it and keep it tidy long-term.
Don’t clean without first discarding, “tidy up with two simple steps” –Kondo notes that while organizing the items one owns is the second step in the art of tidying, an important and even more integral step is first discarding items from your space. Her advice - focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to remove. Assess each item based on the pleasure and joy it brings so that in the end your space is filled with items you love. Letting go of items can be both challenging and cathartic, and concentrating on keeping the items that fit into the predetermined idea of what you want your space to be can facilitate this process. Discarding will leave you with less clutter and more items that you truly value creating more simplicity in your space and mind.
We hope these tips motivate you to create a space that brings you joy!
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Are you ready to move on from a life that’s exhausting and driven by thoughts such as “What will other people think?” We would like that for you as well. In contrast to healthier types of striving, which are motivated internally by your own set of goals and values, perfectionism is motivated and maintained by worries about what others will think. “Am I smart enough?” “Am I good enough?” “I must look pulled together today or others will know that I’m struggling.”
According to research and clinical work done by Dr. Brené Brown, at its’ core, perfectionism is a way of defending against that toughie of an emotion, shame. If you can be perfect enough (!), you might envision that you could be immune to shame, blame, or even criticism from others. Unfortunately, by disowning parts of ourselves that we don’t want others to see (particularly when we feel shame about them), we isolate, we judge ourselves, and we worry even more about what others might think. Now that we are aware that perfectionism often begins with shame, follow these steps as a primer on how to learn to decrease your perfectionistic behavior.
#1 Know your own triggers for shame. These are different for each of us and are often the first stop on the road to perfectionism and unhealthy striving. To find out what your shame triggers are, ask yourself these questions- How do I want to be perceived? How do I NOT want to be perceived? How do I feel when I imagine that others perceive me as I don’t want to be seen?
#2 Connect your thoughts about how you DON’T want people to think of you with your perfectionstic behavior. For example, if I don’t want to be perceived as “lazy,” I might be the first one up in the morning, striving to have coffee and breakfast made before the rest of the house is up, at the gym before work, and at work by 9:01 AM. In this example, I am using these unhealthy striving behaviors to try to manage the shame I feel around potentially being perceived as “lazy.”
#3 Ask yourself, am I ready to try to let this cycle of behavior go and consider letting others in to see the real me? Based on my example, this might look like, “Can I allow others to know that I get an average amount of work done everyday and that I do not have superwoman-level efficiency?” Ask yourself what the pros and cons are of doing so. Know that it is scary to put the real you out there and also know that not doing so can result in shame and additional anxiety.
#4 Learn to hang with shame. Take it to dinner and a movie and get to know it a bit. Ask it questions, take note when it pops by to visit you, and see what tends to come up when it’s around. Once we learn to identify and feel shame, it’s often not such a scary experience anymore and it no longer gets to drive our perfectionistic behavior.
#5 When you notice the urge to manage your behavior or are working to manage the perceptions of others, take a break and do something kind for yourself. You’ll be making the compassionate decision to put perfectionism away for a short period of time and instead, showing up for yourself, which can also help put shame to rest.
We hope these steps get you started on the path to decreasing shame and perfectionism. We are here to help if you’d like to continue this work.