Part two-Self discipline Module 7
Once you discover your inner beauty as a child of God and allow yourself to be loved for what you are, you will have the inner power to stand up for yourself.
After all the daring decisions to give up everything for Christ, it would be tragic to live your commitment in a lower level of consciousness. It is important to live a life of quality and authenticity, without attempting pharisaic perfection. Higher quality of life lived in ordinary simple ways is typical of holy men and women. Low self-esteem that seeks a boost in performance and perfection can pose serious obstacles for personal growth and free service in mission. Here is another of our fears that paralyzes initiative and action. You know, perfectionism is different from doing things with excellence and quality even in ordinary matters. Explore yourself.
Dealing with Fear of Mediocrity
How often have you considered yourself a perfectionist? Probably quite often. But how often have you looked beyond your perfectionism to try to get a glimpse of what is behind it? If you are like most people, probably never.
But if you took a long look at perfectionism do you know what you would find? You’d discover that perfectionism is the socially acceptable Siamese twin of a subconscious feeling called fear of mediocrity. Because perfectionism is socially touted as a positive personality trait, we consciously accept its existence within us as desirable. But within the hard-core perfectionist, fear of mediocrity stands unseen off stage and pulls the strings. So, even though perfectionism enjoys acceptance, it creates a pattern of self-imposed pressure that we tend to avoid. This avoidance, in turn, leads to procrastination and self-defeat.
An ice skater who once competed in a Winter Olympics spoke about the early days of her figure skating career. She lamented about having been so overwhelmed by the pressure of perfectionism that she had a nervous breakdown and lost most of her hair.
In another case, the pressures of perfectionism prompted writer Dorothy Parker to explain her inability to meet deadlines by saying that for every five words she wrote, she erased seven. Moreover, Parker’s ongoing difficulties with alcohol were probably related to her intense perfectionism. These reactions to perfectionism arenot at all uncommon.
Remember: Perfectionism is really a subconscious fear of appearing mediocre either to ourselves or to others. Attempts to escape our fears often lead us down self-destructive and self-defeating paths.
Fear produces anxiety, and anxiety produces a host of other undesirable physical and psychological conditions, including such reactions as alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression.
When we fear falling short of perfection, our self-discipline power suffers because we subconsciously send ourselves a message that says: “My efforts might turn out to be less than perfect, maybe even mediocre. Better not to even try than to risk that devastating possibility.” In the meantime, while we subconsciously send ourselves that negative message, we’re faced with the reality that perfection is impossible. Our self-discipline, then, suffers a defeat before we even begin our task.
Consequently, regardless of our chosen task, we fight ourselves every step of the way: “If I can’t do it perfectly, then I really don’t want to do it at all.” This inner tug-of-war will shadow our every attempt to exercise self-discipline until we replace our subconscious fear of mediocrity with a realistic, rational point of view: Chasing perfection is like chasing the fountain of youth— it’s a fool’s mission. Immediately divorce your self-esteem from perfectionism.
Remember: None of us is perfect; nothing we do is perfect. We’re all human; perfection is the domain of the Gods.
Exercise #4 – Exploring Fear of Mediocrity
The following exercise is designed to help you discover your hidden concerns and emotions regarding fear of mediocrity. On a sheet of paper you are going to explore three past experiences in which you were held back by a fear of mediocrity. The only rule here requires that in these situations or events, your course of action was based on a fear of not doing something well enough.
Take your three experiences from your earliest memories.
Explore your childhood, but you need to know that this particular fear grows stronger with age. So you might want also to explore your teen years. Be specific. Name names. This will give you an awareness about how, when, and where your attitudes and beliefs about being mediocre originated.
Note: Spend no more than fifteen minutes on this exercise.
Hyde will be peering over your shoulder and giving you a load of reasons to simply think about it rather than write it. Don’t listen to Hyde!
As you write take notice of yourself both physically and emotionally. Physically: Do you clench your teeth? Do any of your muscles tighten? Your stomach muscles? Neck muscles? Do you notice any changes in your breathing rhythm? Faster? Shallower? Emotionally: Do you re-experience the hurt? Do you feel frightened? Angry? Hostile? Embarrassed?
Again, it is important that you take note of your reactions as you complete each of the exercises throughout this self-discipline program. Your reactions will give you valuable insight into how much your current behavior is affected by the past experiences.
Start writing NOW
For prayer and reflection: Is your perfectionism biblically supported? Jesus said, “You, therefore, must be perfect as my Father is perfect” (Mt. 5.48). What kind of perfection does Jesus ask of his disciples? Are the saints perfect humans in the measure of your perfectionism?
Home work to be sent: Write a paragraph of your insights after you have completed this module. You may add your questions or further reflections.