People are wondering: Who do I want to be during COVID-19?

Pandemic of perfectionism

Competitiveness and perfectionism are alive and well, even in the middle of the trauma caused by this pandemic.

Not only do we have a pandemic; we have an info-demic. Information abounds on the best way to, not only survive, but to thrive with what’s happening.

This column is no different. Each week, I’m trying to offer some helpful insights to support readers. 

I hear a lot of self-criticism, self-judgment, and self-shaming as people struggle with difficult emotions and feel unmotivated.

We hold ourselves to such high standards, expecting we’re going to achieve pandemic perfection.

Excuse me, but we’ve never lived through something like this, and it’s not always going to look pretty, tied up with a bow. It can be a messy process, bringing up uncomfortable emotions. 

In our isolation, it’s so easy to feel alone, and feel like the odd-person-out.

I’m in connection with people who feel they’re the only one experiencing a huge range of emotions, often changing at the drop of a hat. So many people feel exhausted, even though they’re not doing much.

Many people are experiencing the same thing. It’s normal and human, given the massive changes and uncertainty we’re experiencing. 

One diagram making the rounds via social media is titled, “Who do I want to be during COVID-19?” It shows the various zones people experience, and lists the associated actions, emotions, and behaviours of each zone; Fear Zone, Learning Zone, and Growth Zone.

I quite like this diagram when it’s used to enhance our understanding of what’s happening with ourselves and others, as we navigate uncertain waters. It offers insight into behaviours associated with the various zones.

Of course, most people want to be in the top zone of growth, having risen above fear and learning, and having mastered this whole pandemic thing. 

The competitive nature and desire to be perfect sees so many wanting to just ‘do’ the pandemic with modern ease and perfection, tied up with a nice red bow.

That’s not how it works!

I am concerned when I hear people interpreting this diagram as a standard for their behaviour, endeavouring to abide only in the Growth Zone, and feeling like a failure when they experience fear, irritation, or anger.

When we do this, we’re holding ourselves to an unrealistic standard of being ‘so-called perfect’ during a global challenge.

This sudden change to our lives has created trauma and grief for many people. Self-abuse and criticism only add to the trauma, when we hold ourselves to unrealistic standards.

It’s normal to experience a variety of emotions, and it’s OK to not feel like tackling every home project.

This is normal when we’re experiencing trauma and grief.

We may move from feeling fine, to suddenly feeling sad, or irritated, or afraid. Our tears may start flowing for no particular reason. 

People wonder what’s wrong with them when this happens. What’s wrong is that you’re normal and you’re human.

Another idea that’s making the rounds is there’s something wrong with you if you don’t come out of this having learned a new skill, created a new discipline, or something of the like. 

People lament, “I have all of this time on my hands. I could be learning something or getting to all of those things I haven’t had time for, but I have no energy. I’m undisciplined and lazy.” 

This is not true.

Grief is exhausting and requires a huge amount of our physical and mental energy. 

This is a time to develop self-compassion and understanding instead of adding to the trauma of what’s already happening by shaming and ‘shoulding’ on ourselves, and holding ourselves to an unrealistic standard of perfection.

Please be gentle, patient, and kind with yourself. Be as kind and understanding with yourself as you would be with a beloved other who is going through a rough time. 

Be sure to reach out to friends to offer and receive support. If needed, reach out to a professional.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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