Meet Joni … A Doctor Whose Perfectionism Almost Paralyzed Her

Fears create obstacles and often stop you from moving forward in life.

Sometimes, change can be made without having a sledgehammer fall on you. For many, just a few minutes can alter the way you think, feel, even act. Taking the first step requires the clarity and focus of what you desire woven with the courage to implement it. The result: confidence in self and what you do that can last a lifetime.

Joni was in the last quarter of her fourth and final year of optometry school when she became an “extern” in my office. Her externship emphasized how to examine and treat young children.

It was apparent that Joni loved kids and had a special gift when she worked with them. After several weeks with us, she still had difficulty completing her vision examinations on my patients. Perfection was her Achilles heel. Repeatedly, she would redo tests to make sure she got “perfect” testing results. The time it took was crushing for our office’s schedule.

As my mentee, I needed to deal with it. For my sake … as well as her work life going forward. When we sat down, Joni revealed that this was a common problem for her. I quickly learned that her fear of not being perfect manifested in many other areas of her life: school, jobs … even her relationships with family and friends.

I asked, “Would you be willing to spend a few minutes working with me on this, utilizing the See It. Say It. Do It! process?”

She agreed.

I had Joni start with relaxing, her body … tightening and letting go of different parts of her body. Immediately she said, “I had no idea how tight my neck was. Already, I could feel my shoulders dropping down.”

Next, I described to her what belly breathing was. As I spoke, I instructed her to place her hands on her belly and just breathe into her hands.

“Watch and feel your belly gently going up and down.”

As she did, she continued with belly breathing, allowing her breath to go into her tight neck and shoulders. “The tightness and tension continues to fall away as I breathe and relax, Dr. H.”

Finally, I suggested, “Visualize what your very safe, private place is. Think of it as a place where you are the most comfortable, truly yourself—a place where you feel safe, strong, and confident. It can be a place you’ve been before, or a new place. It really doesn’t matter what you choose. It’s your place.”

After she went through the modified three steps I do with all my meditations, I asked her, “What were you aware of now?”

“I saw a beautiful place in nature where the sun was shining bright, and I could smell the flowers. I am standing tall with a huge smile on my face.”

What I saw was a young woman who was now relaxed, calm, and safe. And it was in this safe place that Joni saw herself as strong and confident. Joni saw, felt, and said that she was a powerful, confident woman—all six feet of her!

This short 15-minute experience had great impact on her. She now was aware of how tight her body became under stressful conditions, conditions that she sometimes created. Joni also realized that she now had an extremely useful resource of visualizing, through breathing and relaxing … See It! One of her takeaways was that she knew that at any time or any place, she could go back to her safe place, a place that she has created where she is empowered and safe. Joni declared her power and became committed to transforming how she approaches her life situations … Say It! Joni knew that she just needed to take several relaxing breaths to get back to her safe place. “I can do this,” she said.

At work the next day, she shared with me how impactful the experience had been. That evening, she called her mother and had a discussion regarding some personal issues that had concerned her for quite some time … Do It! Joni revealed that she was relieved and excited after talking with her mother.

I don’t know the particulars of Joni’s personal issues, and it was not my job as her clinical supervisor to delve into that. My job was to inspire and empower her to perform as an excellent optometric clinician. The See It. Say It. Do It! process was the perfect resource in accomplishing that goal. Joni’s work performance at our office greatly improved. Her courage in taking on new tasks and speed in finishing her work was remarkably different from the Joni who first came to my office.

A week after our conversation, I was delighted to open my morning mail and discover a letter from her:

Thanks so much for taking the time to help me with antianxiety/perfectionism techniques. Within one week of the fifteen-minute session, I have seen vast improvements in my self-esteem and level of anxiety. In the past, I have felt extremely anxious and stressed out when I have had to participate in various tasks. Yet, when I use the techniques that I have learned, through strategies like relaxing, breathing, visualizing a safe place, and not judging myself and others, the stress level decreases tremendously. It’s amazing how much my own thoughts can impact my day and my perception of myself. I know that the results that I have recently experienced are just the beginning of great things to come.

The relief I feel today will increase by next week, by next month, and so on, and I am grateful for it! I sincerely hope that you will continue to help others learn how to better themselves and live happier lives. The world needs more people who are willing to take it upon themselves to help others.

Fears create obstacles and often stop you from moving forward in life. These behaviors and avoidances are seen with children of all ages, as well as adults.

For more stories like this, check out my new book Expand Your Vision: How to Gain Clarity, Courage & Confidence. 

Dr. Hellerstein is available for lectures, trainings, workshops and interviews. If you are interested in reaching Dr. Hellerstein or booking an engagement click HERE

Lynn Fishman Hellerstein, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO
303-850-9499

Lynn Hellerstein
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