Do you know what tasty tid bit is perfect for an abusive person to exploit? The perfectionist.
If an abusive person can get their manipulative minds a wrapped ’round a perfectionist, they don’t have to be a genius to keep a hold on them. All that is really required is to hold the fear of failure dangling precariously over their solid heads and they will hold themselves in place. Simply imply, let alone boldly state, that a perfectionist is not “enough”, and they will be the Little Engine That Could until they permanently derail.
There is an assumption that this abusive dynamic exists only in romantic relationships but the reality is that it can exist in any relationship. It can be with a boss that says their employee doesn’t work hard enough. The parent that tells the child they don’t try hard enough. The needy friend that says to their BFF they aren’t loyal enough. A worker that says to their co-worker they aren’t supportive enough. A person that tells themselves they aren’t good enough. If there is a relationship, failure to produce enough of anything can be exploited.
The fear of failure can be as debilitating as much as it can be destructive. It can also be a looming specter in the process of healing after the trauma of abuse.
Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University spoke quite comprehensively on the stunting mindset of failure. For someone who is in the process of changing their thinking or mindset after Domestic Violence or Abuse, changing the thought of failure is one of the biggest hurdles. It is also one of the most limiting mind sets for personal growth. Anyone who has worked with survivors or been a survivor knows that the key to a successful future lies in personal growth.
Dweck’s solution to the failure mind set is the power of “not yet”. “Not yet” leaves a to a path of possibilities that failure does not. Failure is absolute and finite. One has failed at a task. For those of us who define ourselves by finite accomplishments instead of by our ability to cope with change and the courage to work through a process, failure can mean a serious blow to self-esteem and personal growth.
After having listened to Dweck’s talk, something else that can be concluded, is that “not yet” can give a person permission to take their time. Too often we can feel pressured to make decisions and take action prematurely, ignoring our intuition, in an effort not to fail. What if we adopted the “not yet” mindset instead? I am “not yet” ready to answer your question. I am “not yet” ready to take action. Then, after we have checked in with ourselves, take action. If it doesn’t yield the desired results it okay, it is just information. Perhaps we need a little more practice, a little more self-evaluation. Try again.
I think this “not yet” mindset being experimented with in our education system could be a fantastic tool when employed in other areas in our life. It does more to build the self-esteem and self-empowerment through personal permission while acknowledging temporary limitations than the restricting thoughts of failure. There is a saying about failing forward to success. Or, in other words, working through the process until we reach our goal. Which reminds me of another saying, life is about the journey…not the destination.
Live your life…don’t just survive it.