Perfectionists Don’t Get Sick

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I don’t do sick well. Luckily I am generally quite a healthy person and don’t get sick too often. I don’t think anyone really likes being sick, but as a recovering perfectionist, I have found that I strongly dislike admitting that I am sick. It is as if somehow I am admitting defeat. Today I am waiving the white flag; I am writing today’s blog post in bed, with a cold.

My perfectionist brain seems to thinks it can outsmart the colds and flu running around. While I do believe in the power of positive thinking in health, there is also a point where I have to let go of the false notion that I don’t get sick. Everyone gets sick, and I am no different. So, why is it so hard to admit to being sick? And once I have admitted that yes I am sick, why is it so hard to take the time to rest?

  • It feels like defeat. I must be a failure for catching that cold going around…riiight? Here come the shame gremlins. Shame tells me there must be something inherently wrong with me if I get sick. I failed. It’s my fault. Then if I ADMIT that I am sick, more shame comes creeping out – who am I do take time out for self care? I must be pretty selfish. It is amazing that a simple cold can bring up shame and put my worthiness on the line.
  • It was never modeled to me. This is not to say that my parents didn’t get sick. They did. But I have memories of my mom being sick with a cold and powering-though – running the errands, cleaning the house, shuttling my sister and I around. Rest seemed like it was for lazy people, and I would not consider my family lazy. As a kid, when I was sick I was never told it was wrong, but I also rarely saw my parents take a break for themselves. The message was clear: being sick shouldn’t stop you, just keep going like nothing is wrong.
  • Asking for help is HARD. I have made a commitment to practice self-care, and within that I practice asking for what I need. This can be a deceptive challenge. On one hand it sounds so easy, but on the other it requires that 1) I have the self-awareness to know what I need and 2) I am willing to be vulnerable to ask for it. Today I cancelled appointments and asked a colleague to step in to a cover a class. That process feels exposing. I am saying to someone else, I need something right now that I can’t do for myself.
  • The “tough-it-out” workplace culture in the US. In the US I have seen a workplace culture where taking time off is associated with being weak. I often hear people talk about feeling guilty for taking time off when they are sick. Well guess what? There is no glory in pushing through; no one wins a medal at the end of the day for working when sick. I know that when I am healthy I certainly don’t appreciate people coming in sick. Yet at the same time I fall into this trap time and time again. I feel like I can’t let work down…yet most of my clients would rather not have me around them spreading germs, getting them sick, and likely not doing as good a job as I would do if I were otherwise rested and healthy.
  • I fear lack and scarcity. If I am sick and I admit I need a day off, then I often feel like I am missing out. This plays upon my fears of not having enough (lack) and there being a limited amount of things (scarcity). For example, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid, I lack money. If I miss a meeting, I might miss an opportunity, and (in a scarcity mindset) I fear there will not be another opportunity. It becomes a mindset barrier. In reality I know that the universe provides, and when I take care of myself I show the universe that I am serious being good to myself, and the universe is in turn is good to me.

When I am sick I have this nagging feeling that I am neglecting something.

  • I fall into the trap of using productivity as a measure of my self-worth. When I am sick I have this nagging feeling that I am neglecting something. Who is going to take care of all those little day-to-day tasks? I know this comes from my ego, because how can the world keep spinning if I take a day off? That thought is full of self-importance! Then when I do take time off for being sick, I find myself trying to stay busy around the house so that I can still feel like I am “getting things done.” Brené Brown talks about this in her “10 Guideposts for Whole Hearted Living.” Guidepost number 7 is “Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth.” Maybe that nagging feeling is really my body telling me that I am neglecting rest.

With all of these factors it is easy to see why being sick is a struggle for many of us. What comes up for you when you are feeling under the weather?

Looking back at the title of this post (“Perfectionists don’t get sick”) I am grateful that I am an Imperfectionista, because I am sick and today I am giving myself permission to rest and practice self care!

Imperfectly yours, Katie

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    Hey, thanks for the fantastic post. I feel better after having read this.

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