The Intelligent Divorce

And further unorthodox advice on relationships, marriage and parenting

The Swiss Cheese Personality

We all have holes; it just depends on where and how big.

The Perfection Trap:

Do you worry too much about being perfect?

Do you compare yourself incessantly to others?

Does some flaw like procrastination, prevent you from getting unstuck?

If you think your personality has some holes, welcome to the club. Most of us see our personal weaknesses each day. It's normal. Now let's make it motivating.

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  • You look in the mirror and chastise yourself for eating too much.
  • You look at your career and "know" that you could have done better.
  • You look at your tendency for depression and feel like damaged goods.
  • You look at your relationships and only see what’s annoying.
  • Or, you look at your parenting and feel dissappointed.

The good beckons, but you're just not happy with yourself.

Life is filled with holes, it’s just a matter of where they are and how big. And, each of us has a personality that is like Swiss Cheese. It looks great, until you fall into one of those holes.

There are no exceptions.

Surely others have it together. Look at your neighbor, Megan.  She has a great boyfriend, a great job and actually gets along with her parents. Or, maybe it’s your older brother, Charles, with his obvious intelligence and personality. Hee seems to be flying high.

Maybe, yes. Probably, no.

When patients first come to my office, I’ll ask them about their strengths. Some people are modest, but most have a list. I’ll then ask them for their weaknesses, or what they're self critical about. Some hold back. But, most talk of a myriad of problems. Megan, for instance, may speak about her bulimia, or that she is so narcissistic, that she forgets to reach out to friends. Now, she is worried that her boyfriend is going to dump her.

Charles is intelligent and has great personality, but he’s frightened of intimacy. He just can’t commit to anyone. No one is good enough and he knows it’s a problem. People see him as unapproachable. Charles, on the other hand, knows full well that he’s far from perfect.

The Swiss Cheese Personality:

Everyone has a Swiss Cheese personality; it just depends on where the holes are and how big.

People feel relief from this image, which is why I’m sharing it here on Psychology Today. It makes sense and eases their minds. After all, perfection is a creation of the mind. It does not exist in the real world.

What we can do in life is acknowledge our weaknesses, which is not always easy. Once you know that you are in poor health, or struggle with your temper, or can’t get past your anger at a demanding parent, or get anxious about just about everything, or you avoid parenting because you want your kids to like you….whatever…then, you can do something.

Denial and avoidance are brain based defense mechanisms that are designed to keep us from feeling bad, or allow us to continue destructive behavior, even when we know it’s not right.

You deny a problem and it never has a chance of being dealt with.

You avoid dealing with a problem, and tomorrow becomes another tomorrow. Same result.

When we understand that we each have holes, and sometimes these holes are in important places, we can forgive ourselves for being human and step up to a better life.

After all, making tomorrow a little better than today is a big thing.

It starts with owning flaws, including the flaw of being too perfectionist.

The Swiss Cheese personality; own the truth and you can move on.

It is a subtle form of greatness.

 

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Mark Banschick, M.D., is a psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series.

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