Owning Your Imperfections

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Owning Your Imperfections

Post by DoubtfulGuest on Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:56 pm

So, I really struggle with organization, short-term memory, and long-term motivation, and this, I think, is where a lot of my anxiety and self-esteem issues come from. I have such a hard time keeping track of time, making quick decisions in a stimulating environment, and multi-tasking...to a degree that, I feel, is unusual. Had some issues at work recently where I was supposed to do stuff that I've done a bunch of times, only with some additional steps (including remembering to bring a certain piece of unfamiliar paperwork with me) that I, of course, forgot about (had to have somebody else stop what they were doing and bring me me the paperwork-basically, it led to someone else having to do extra work for me). I already had to write all my instructions down and have my supervisor repeat them for me (I feel like I should be able to just remember stuff like other people seem to be able to do. I'm often astonished by others' ability to remember a sequence of numbers right off the bat, or to meet, say, four or more people, hear their names spoken once, and then remember their names, correctly. That feels like asking me to hear a Beethoven symphony once and then be able to sit down at a piano and replicate it flawlessly-okay, that's obviously an exaggeration, but that's what it feels like. At the same time, I can remember specific scenes from a Dexter's Laboratory episode I last saw when I was 10. I have no idea why my brain prioritizes certain information over other information). *Sigh*

For me, it's no so much the disorganization and lack of motivation (although those certainly are problems), it's the guilt I feel about struggling with that stuff. I traditionally have felt like being self-motivated, efficient, precise, and accomplished is correct, and that coming up short in those areas over and over makes me a bad person who is just being immature or lazy (but how can it be laziness if I put so much energy into feeling guilty about it, or into unsuccessful efforts to improve?). I can work on ways to compensate for my struggles, and there are lots of ways I'm already doing that, which has led to me being better at Typical Adult Tasks than in the past, but this hasn't completely banished the notion that I shouldn't have a hard time with this stuff, that I should just "get it" like other people seem to (any self-help advice that focuses on sort of "tough love" about organization and accomplishing more makes me feel worse, whereas it seems to have the opposite effect on a more organized person).

I've been working on acknowledging other "good" traits and strengths that I already have that aren't related to competence or self-discipline-for instance, I'm honest and trustworthy (and I've gotten feedback on this at work); I'm reliable in the sense that I won't intentionally not do something I said I would do. I really don't want to sound pretentious, but I'm also very intellectually curious and am constantly reexamining and challenging my beliefs and ways of looking at the world in response to new information (such as others' perspectives). I think this is a solid trait to have. Now, being interested in tons of different things at once makes it hard to be consistently passionate about one thing (which is one of those traits I wish I had-I have passions but not one thing that's central to my identity), but I think it has its advantages, too (I'm a little more well-rounded than some). I'm also just a decent person in general-I want to get over this idea that being decent is less valuable than being the "smartest and most talented person in the room"-I mean, of course, I feel that being smart and talented without being a decent person isn't a good thing, and that being a decent person is more important than technical skill, but I also don't want to be perceived as the "nice, but kind of dopey guy who makes a lot of little mistakes" who others don't take seriously. To be fair, nobody has ever given me any indication that they see me that way.

I'm scheduled to see a doctor about a potential ADHD diagnosis-I think it would explain a lot, and part of it would be a relief, because...I know these deficits aren't going to go away permanently, probably, but at least I wouldn't feel as much guilt about it being "my fault" (and medication may be an option).

How do others deal with the whole "commit to self-improvement while forgiving yourself and realizing you're never going to be perfect/may struggle with tasks others seem to struggle with less" thing?


Last edited by DoubtfulGuest on Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:59 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : sounded pretentious)
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Re: Owning Your Imperfections

Post by Werel on Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:52 pm

Hmm, struggling with a brain that’s not performing the way you want/need it to is a particularly infuriating battle, so sympathy to you there. I’ve been having memory/focus/decision-making issues for the last few years, so I feel you on those. I’m also very much an absent-minded professor type who makes lots of little mistakes (to the extent that the running joke is that I’m the doofy husband in my relationship). All that is to say, I get where you’re coming from, and know how easy it is to kick yourself for it.

Buuut I think you might be allowing yourself to ignore some contradictions in your thinking just because they make it easier for you to beat yourself up. For example, you say that you’re not a very competent guy. But then you say that you’ve successfully challenged and adjusted a lot of your beliefs since adolescence, through deliberate exposure to others’ perspectives. And you know that’s a kind of competence, because you’re aware that some people can’t do it—but you’re still calling yourself incompetent in a general sense? Something doesn’t line up there. Same thing with “self-discipline.” When you say you’ll do a thing, you do it. That’s… the definition of discipline. Even if it takes another person’s involvement to force you to do a thing, you still do it. And that’s not a given/Grimes test baseline. There are many perfectly decent people who are mentally inflexible and also flakey.

So why do you think the things you’re not so good at are more important than the (equally valuable, equally uncommon) things you are good at? Why does it make you more of a bad person to have trouble with fast-paced executive functions than to be closed-minded or unreliable? Or is it just that you think that if you work hard enough, you’ll someday have all the strengths available to humans with none of the weak points? That last concept is obviously pretty silly, but maybe it’s what your jerkbrain is still holding onto and whipping you with.

An ADHD diagnosis might be useful in helping you shake the idea that the way your brain works is somehow your fault, but even if what’s up with you isn’t something found in the DSM, you should still try and shake the "fault" idea. I’m no neurologist, but everybody seems to have a different set of cognitive strengths (hence the multiple intelligences idea, yeah?), and it doesn’t seem like something you can change by force. You don’t feel bad that you can’t change your eye color, right? So quit feeling bad that you’re bad at quick decisions and remembering stuff in the moment. Use that energy to cultivate and apply your strengths instead.

PS. I haven’t read it, so YMMV, but Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is supposed to touch on the different ways people make decisions and how to make your own style work for you. Might be worth checking out?
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Re: Owning Your Imperfections

Post by Enail on Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:30 pm

Werel says very smart things, especially that bit about the impossibility of having all the strengths/none of the weaknesses. Another thing that would maybe help is remembering that you probably can't see where other people struggle, and other people likely aren't interpreting you as harshly as you think.

I'm generally considered a very fast learner, and I have a great memory for things I read, but I always have to take notes, in excruciating detail, when being shown or told how to do something, to the point of having to tell the person teaching me "wait so I can write this down in excruciating detail." Because I don't learn things by being talked through how to do things, especially not the things I think are so obvious I'll definitely remember them, and the little receptionist in my brain that sorts all the information that comes in files most of what people say immediately into the shredder. Remembering names is right out.

But if I do insist on taking in information in a way that actually allows me to use it, and refer to my notes, all other people take in from that is "I taught it to her and now she does it, okay, she's competent."  And they'll generally keep assuming that even if sometimes I make a dumb mistake or forget something and have to ask again. Though they might think of me as a bit chaotic for walking into things and forgetting simple words and instead using "you know, that thing" for multiple different things in the same sentence. Wink   Er, anyway...my point was that the ways you compensate for weaknesses aren't inherently worse than just not having those weaknesses, and sometimes they can even make you better at things because you're more aware there's something to watch out for that others might be careless about. And that lots of people have a hard time with some aspect of Typical Adult Tasks or another. And having a hard time with something's not the same as being lazy or not smart.
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Re: Owning Your Imperfections

Post by DoubtfulGuest on Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:40 pm

Werel wrote:Buuut I think you might be allowing yourself to ignore some contradictions in your thinking just because they make it easier for you to beat yourself up. For example, you say that you’re not a very competent guy. But then you say that you’ve successfully challenged and adjusted a lot of your beliefs since adolescence, through deliberate exposure to others’ perspectives. And you know that’s a kind of competence, because you’re aware that some people can’t do it—but you’re still calling yourself incompetent in a general sense? Something doesn’t line up there. Same thing with “self-discipline.” When you say you’ll do a thing, you do it. That’s… the definition of discipline. Even if it takes another person’s involvement to force you to do a thing, you still do it. And that’s not a given/Grimes test baseline. There are many perfectly decent people who are mentally inflexible and also flakey.

So why do you think the things you’re not so good at are more important than the (equally valuable, equally uncommon) things you are good at? Why does it make you more of a bad person to have trouble with fast-paced executive functions than to be closed-minded or unreliable? Or is it just that you think that if you work hard enough, you’ll someday have all the strengths available to humans with none of the weak points? That last concept is obviously pretty silly, but maybe it’s what your jerkbrain is still holding onto and whipping you with.

Yeah, I think a lot of it comes from black-and-white thinking, which I mostly apply to myself, I've noticed (and some extreme cases. I mean, I think there are some people who are mostly-bad to the point where they may as well be completely-bad, but they're fairly rare, and this is bad mainly in terms of their deliberate actions, stuff they have control over). This is coupled with fear of being rejected by others. I probably overestimate how much other people value competence in one area over competence in another area.

Werel wrote:An ADHD diagnosis might be useful in helping you shake the idea that the way your brain works is somehow your fault, but even if what’s up with you isn’t something found in the DSM, you should still try and shake the "fault" idea. I’m no neurologist, but everybody seems to have a different set of cognitive strengths (hence the multiple intelligences idea, yeah?), and it doesn’t seem like something you can change by force. You don’t feel bad that you can’t change your eye color, right? So quit feeling bad that you’re bad at quick decisions and remembering stuff in the moment. Use that energy to cultivate and apply your strengths instead.

Right. That's what I'm working on keeping in mind, after years or not letting myself do that. I guess being able to put a label on it would legitimize for me, to some degree. Also, I've been reading advice aimed at people with an ADHD diagnosis on specific day-to-day stuff, like...okay, so, example:

Healthy, budget-conscious meal planning and preparation is something I sometimes struggle with (I have to mentally force myself to do it, even though it seems like an easy, responsible task), and a lot of folks with ADHD have the same problem (although plenty of others do as well). Reading advice like "don't be hesitant to rely on frozen vegetables", which is something I already do, feels really reassuring to me because I had this whole set of anxieties in my head about how I should be buying all this fresh, local produce from farmers markets or wherever, even though, when I did that, I was wasting a bunch of it (I have a bunch of hangups revolving around food and food preparation. It's very strange. I turned feeding myself into this complicated affair. Part of it is this feeling like it's simple and should be easy for me, but isn't). And even stuff like buying "mostly prepared" meals (I'm not talking about Hungry Man dinners-more like frozen stir fry vegetables that are already mixed and chopped up for you)...yes, it's probably better to make everything from scratch, you end up saving money, or whatever, but this is still more budget-conscious than eating at restaurants often. Also, planning what you're going to eat a couple hours in advance isn't that much "worse" than doing it days in advance.

It's okay to compromise and not live the most health-conscious, budget-conscious life within your power, all the time. It's the same with the gym-I recently joined a new gym and I'm probably not doing the most efficient, specifically-targeted workout I could be doing. Right now all I do is the elliptical and treadmill for...40 minutes, combined, maybe? That's not perfect, but last month I wasn't even going, whereas now I'm there 2 or 3 times a week, which has to count for something.

That's probably too much information about vegetables, but it's an example of the kind of black-and-white thinking I have gotten used to and some of what feel like successes in terms of making compromises.

Werel wrote:PS. I haven’t read it, so YMMV, but Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is supposed to touch on the different ways people make decisions and how to make your own style work for you. Might be worth checking out?

Cool, thanks. I'm heading to the library soon, so I'll see if they have it.

Enail wrote:Another thing that would maybe help is remembering that you probably can't see where other people struggle, and other people likely aren't interpreting you as harshly as you think.


Comparing my behind-the-scenes to others' highlight reels? Totally! And they're often struggling with the same stuff I am. I'm also much better at handling these thoughts than I used to be-I used to go into these sort of irritable rants about what I perceived as expectations of me (usually with just certain people I was close to, but not always). I'm not proud of the fact that I had those kinds of reactions to stress, but I very rarely do it now. That's positive growth.
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