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DBT and Me

When I tell people my current career track is librarianship, they often answer, “Oh, that is so you,” and they’re right.  It is so me.  Unfortunately, some of the things that make me a good librarian don’t always mesh up with the type of person I want to be.

I am a perfectionist, which works really well when organizing, cataloging, and hunting down the proper information.  It doesn’t work so well in cooking dinner, hanging out with people, getting dressed in the morning, etc…

I tend to see things in black and white.  This is good when you’re researching a topic, and there is such a thing as wrong information.  It’s not the best when discussing life topics with friends or just getting along with the populace in general.

Of course I know the wise adage–Everything in Moderation.  I can be a good librarian who is attentive to details and carefully checks the facts without being a black-and-white seeing perfectionist.  So, I am working on it.  Those character traits above are just some of the things I’m working on in my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

DBT is a therapy technique that helps people with, let’s call them “personality flaws,” rewire their brains so that their personality moves toward a healthier place.  The thing is, DBT is all about small steps that take time, and sometimes I really just wish I was re-wired now instead of having to wait on the baby steps.

I want to be calm, loving, completely attuned to and in control of my emotions now.  But it doesn’t work that way.  So, it can get tiring and frustrating.  It’s hard to do small things every day and have to wait a long time to see the big picture results.  Sometimes, I neglect to notice the small ways that I am changing for the better.

Like how in undergrad, I would cry if I didn’t get an A. (We’re talking an A minus would make me cry).  Now I don’t care about my grades as much as I care about making sure I’ve learned something from class.  So I got an A- on that presentation.  Big deal.  I learned a place my presentation techniques can improve.

Or how a couple of years ago a toddler asking me “why” repeatedly would make me frustrated, and now I enjoy doing my best to answer as many “why” questions as I possibly can.

Sometimes people ask me why I’m even trying to change myself.  Aren’t we supposed to accept ourselves for who we are?  Well, I say who I am is who I want to be.  I’m not the personality quirks that I landed with as a result of genetics, brain wiring, and my childhood.  My inner self tells me who I truly am, if I can just get fix the wiring.  So DBT is about accepting myself for who I am.

So, yes, I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am better now than I was then, and if I keep plugging away, someday I’ll be fully realized as the person I want to be looking back and saying, “All those small steps and struggling and work was the real me trying to get out, and here I am, and I’m just as proud of me then as I am of me now.”

In the meantime, I will do or say some things that don’t match up with who I am inside, but taking baby steps means that it won’t happen overnight.  There is no magic pill.  Beating myself up over it is just making it worse.  Mistakes are part of the process.  At least I know there’s less of them now than there used to be, and I will keep progressing until I truly just am who I am.

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  1. April 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    What a great post, really struck a cord with me as I suffer myself from not just perfectionism (yeah I so may be just made that word up) but OCD. Which the only way to combat is baby steps at a time, unfortunately sometimes those steps seem backwards. But looking back like 3 years I am soo mcuh better now than I used to be so we’ll keep at it together Amanda lol 🙂

    • April 22, 2010 at 8:39 am

      Thank you, Jessica. I was unaware you have OCD, and I wish you the best of luck in your recovery. It’s nice to envision a partner working at similar things across the pond. 🙂

  2. April 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Good post. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Change is good, even when it’s bad and hard at first. I am a former perfectionist LOVING imperfection these days. Keep up the good work!

    • April 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

      Thank you for the kind words. 🙂

  3. April 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Wolfshowl, YES. I know what you mean. I think so many of us who are AWARE of ourselves share your journey. I know the kind of person I want to be (kind of like, if I were a kid, would I look up to me? For a kid to look up to you you have to be a balance of good role model and badass.) Sometimes realizing exactly what it means to be the person we really are can be *really* scary and challenging. GOOD FOR YOU! You are awesome. I hope I can meet you one day in person so we can fight library crime together. 🙂

    • April 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

      You are so sweet! Thank you for the supportive words. I bet we will meet in person one day–there are enough conferences providing lots of opportunity, lol.

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