You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 158. In this episode I got to hang out with Dr. Jean Chang, a psychologist out of Singapore and we are diving in to overcoming perfectionism. We break down what it really is and what it stems from and consequently, like, what do you do from there? Where do you go from there? I don't know about you, but this was something that has come up in my life a lot and something I've had to do a lot of work around. It's something we talk about on the seed team a whole bunch that we couldn't put work out into the world and support you and walk alongside you on this journey if we were waiting until it was perfect and how we would leave every single day feeling like a failure if perfection was our goal. This episode has so many practical tips for you to start implementing right away. I'm so jazzed to share it with you. Before we dive in I wanted to let you know that today is the last day of the membership being open. The cart closes tonight at midnight and then the membership will be closed. If you want to come join us, if you want support and structure on how to do this work you get access to Tiny Humans Big Emotions and our re-parenting class and then you get ongoing support every single week. We are walking you through the how of this work with real life everyday tips. It's also the space where you can ask your questions and get support from our team. As the village has grown, it's become too hard for us to answer everything in DMS. And so we created this membership as a space where we can pour into you and serve you. We will also be bringing guest workshops into the membership so you can learn from other folks doing this work as well. They will all be Q&A style. You can show up live or submit your questions ahead of time and you will continue to have access to those as a member every month. We will do different giveaways and bonuses for our members as well really pouring into the village and walking alongside you in this work head on over to seedandsew.org/membership to join today. Cart closes tonight at midnight. Seedandsew.org/membership. Folks, let's Dive In.
Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one and other on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combine decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, sleep consultant, Child Development specialist and passionate feminist, Alyssa Blask Campbell.
In this episode, you will hear the word mother mentioned. You can feel free to replace that term with whatever term you identify with as a parent or as a caregiver. We were talking to each other as a couple of moms and I want you to know that that is not limited to Mom's and you might identify as a parent or Caregiver with a different term and feel free to pop that in there.
Hey everyone, welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today, I get to hang out with Dr. Jean Chang who's joining us all the way from Singapore. Thank you for hanging out with us and carving out time to be with us.
00:04:01 Dr. Jean Chang
Thank you for having me, it's a pleasure to be here.
Yeah, it's so nice to get to meet you. But I've been following your Instagram for a while and I love the content you put out. It's been about a year that you've been on Instagram.
00:04:13 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes. Yes. Just slightly over a year. Yes. It's it's such a great learning platform for myself as well because there's information from people from all kinds and all perspectives. So it's like as I'm putting out content, I'm learning so much from everybody's content as well. And it's so great to just be connected with so many different people here.
Totally. It's such a nice place to find Community. Can you share with our village a bit about your background and kind of what brings you into this work?
00:04:43 Dr. Jean Chang
Yeah, I did Clinical Psychology, I did my masters and PhD in Melbourne, University of Melbourne in Australia. And how I got into this? Well, I've always been interested in how human behavior works and I think the truth is that there's always a bit of trying to understand yourself as well. So I was trying to understand myself as well and like why I was feeling the way I was feeling and it was very interesting to understand what motivates people what would motivate me as well. So I think that drew my interest in this field and then as the more I did it, the more I just, I just loved it and I found it very meaningful and for me having a meaningful job is important for me to feel inspired and a privilege that I'm able to have a job where I can actually meet that need. So yeah, and that's a little bit about my studies and background and I practice a little bit in Australia as I did my internship there and then I came back to Singapore and I've been working here.
Just personally curious, how did your work shift or your, like, personal work shift when you had your little girl?
00:05:57 Dr. Jean Chang
Oh good question. It changed a lot. I actually took a break for from therapy, as in being a therapist, for about a year and a half and having a little girl was like really giving the platform to do my own therapy in that sense. Children I think I heard a quote or something like "children will really present so many opportunities to press into your trigger points so that you can grow if you're willing to take that invitation and you have the support to know what to do to grow." So she really whipped me up.
I'm sure. I'm sure she continues to.
00:06:50 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes, she does. And yeah, I think parenting her really, I mean, a lot of therapy is parenting our clients as well because a lot of people come into therapy with with their own trauma with a lot of unmanned needs not just necessarily because of abuse although sometimes it is but just the nature of life that our parents can't always be there all the time. So a lot of people come in with their wounds as well and there's a lot of parenting that's actually happening in therapy sessions. We call it limited parenting because it's only for that time period but yeah that's happening as well. So I think when I actually had to parent my daughter full time, then it was really, it took it to a different level and like you really have to practice; I had to practice all my therapy skills. I had to go like hang on, this challenges me to relook at some things as well. And then it also changes how I look at my clients sometimes now as well because you see the inner challenge them a lot more when you see a physical manifestation of a little girl of your own
Totally. Yeah, totally it's so interesting. I was in a conversation with someone the other day and she was in a triggered space and a good friend of mine and she said, at that point she was like, I feel like I am not 32 year-old me right now and I was like, I don't think so either. You could like see that inner child part come forward. We have a course on re-parenting and Re parenting is a phrase, a term, that our Village is quite familiar with; aware that we are made up of different parts that all form in childhood, but one thing that I think can be challenging that I love that you address over on your page is that it can feel like we are insulting our parents if we are navigating the re-parenting work, right and can you speak to that a little bit?
00:08:47 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes. Yes, so I've have had quite a few clients when I talk to them about re-parenting they kind of look at me they give me a look first and they keep quiet almost like a child already like, you know in the sense like tentative, hesitant almost like they don't want to upset me as well, right? Because that comes up as well and they are like and so I see that and then I kind of try to break the ice a little bit because I know that it's confronting so I'll say, "See how does this sound to you?" Like, "What does it feel for me to talk to you about re-parenting" like to make it safe a time to talk about it and they often tell me, like, "feels like I'm doing something bad, feels like I'm speaking poorly behind my parents back and I don't feel like it's fair to my parents. You know that I'm talking about them behind their back." I mean and they, you know, it's so spontaneous and so natural for so many people that I've seen to actually immediately jump to protect their parents and jump to the parents defense even before people have said anything even before we've even talked about anything. You know, "it's like no my parents are fine they're great", you know, so that feels loyalty that we are naturally born with I think like we naturally are born to bond with our caregivers and I think that's part of evolution so that still plays up even as we're adults and I think that comes from of course that younger part of us as well. So talking about it can feel very unsafe as in re-parenting ourselves can feel very unsafe and I think we need to actually, when I talk to my clients about it, I break it down it as in I just speak about it very openly I'm like this, "this must feel very uncomfortable because you love your parents, you know, and you know, they've done the best" and they have a lot as I said, you know, a lot of our parents have really done their best. Just that what can we do for example with we don't have enough finances so we can't be around and then some of us some of the children then feel a bit more neglected for example. What can we do that our parents have their own intergenerational wounds, you know, that they were and they are not aware of that and they don't have the same education and resources that we do to actually look at that. For example, so yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you, I think one of the things that can be hard to kind of wrap our heads around is that it doesn't necessarily mean we have, like, capital T trauma that you had a very traumatic, as you might describe a childhood, but that there are all these parts that form just as an everyday part of life, right? It's that it's okay to examine them, right? Like that permission to say well, I'm going to take a look at what's coming up for me here and where that might be coming from and it's interesting because I think you know when we look at for instance car seats, I think it's more comfortable for us to say, "Yeah, I'm putting my child in a different car seat than I was in as a kid because we have different car seats." We have different standards. We've learned about car seat safety in a way that we didn't know decades ago. And so now we use a different car seat and that like tangible component of safety. It feels different than saying I'm going to choose a different approach to this. From a parenting perspective where I'm going to navigate this in a different way from a social emotional perspective can feel like a betrayal whereas, like, the car seat might not
00:12:28 Dr. Jean Chang
00:12:30 Dr. Jean Chang
Somehow. Yeah. Yeah. I love the way you put that yeah, you're right like we treat it so personally, our parents take it so personally or we are afraid they take it so personally, yes where as car seat is like, oh, yeah sure upgrades.
00:12:46 Dr. Jean Chang
Somehow this is not seen as an upgrade.
Yeah, it's so interesting to me. But today one of the things I really want to chat about that kept coming up in our village, we consistently, it's like in my bio on Instagram, over and over say progress over perfection that you aren't going-- I've never left a day with a kid and been like I was perfect today, I handled everything perfectly right. It's not the goal to be perfect or to get to a place where we're perfect. But I think that's easier said than examined and when it's coming up in the moment, you know that like desire for perfectionism or that drive for perfectionism. I want to take a look today at like what is the root of perfectionism, and if we tend toward perfectionism what insight does that give us about our inner child?
00:13:41 Dr. Jean Chang
So perfectionism is very often a trauma response and what I mean by that is, trauma not necessarily in a big T way, so it's more like even a small t at the sense that I felt a little bit less loved and my sister in this instance. That couldn't itself kind of form like a message in myself that I'm less noble than someone else and you know, if that is rooted a bit more then that can feel like a trauma in that sense, you know in the sense that we are not living in the actual truth of what's actually happening, but with feeling someone's inside us. So perfectionism is-- a very secure child wouldn't become a perfectionist a very secure child can become very driven, can become very confident can approach a lot of things but they wouldn't feel, like, the compulsion to make sure that everything is done to this exact standard and perfectionism is so exact, isn't it? Is so precise and it's also very variable for each person but within ourselves is that sweet spot that so high up there, so secure children wouldn't feel the need to just hit this, there's more flexibility in them, there's more this sense of "yeah I'm growing and and huh what is this spot that I'm supposed to hit?" Like, like it wouldn't come to them that way but for a lot of us who develop perfectionism it, it usually comes from a sense of I would like to say that a lot of our childhood wounds come from a sense of a reduced sense of being loved. A lot of it has to do with love and it's not not necessarily that all parents didn't love us because a lot of our parents do and I know that I love my daughter a lot as well for example, but who knows, she might end up in therapy one day right? Because the way I love her she might still she might not feel it. I might not be able to tend to her the way she needs. It's no matter how hard I try so she end up in therapy and I think that's one of the things that as parents, we cannot take it so personally as well. So anyways back to that; so when a child feels less loved, then because children are designed biologically and evolutionarily for their own survival to be in connection with their caregiver, then it's like, "If I feel less loved usually it's because I feel less connected like somehow, somehow you know, you're not really tuning in to me. You're not giving me the attention that I need. I'm not getting the warmth the nurturing the human the I'm not having you attuned to my emotions", then I will also just notice when you do and because our parents and maybe even ourselves, you know, when our children are behaving in a way that makes our lives easier we tend to praise them, right? Because it's like, oh great, you know, so oh, you're helping out with the dishes. You're such a good girl, you're so considerate and we built that you know, and you're doing your homework. You know, that's wonderful. You're so studious. We praise these behaviors where they are kind of striving more. So then it's like oh when I'm doing these things mommy and daddy seem to be very happy with me. They smile at me more, they look at me more I get that connection in that sense. Whereas when I make a mess, they put me in time out. They turn away from me. They look angry with me. They disconnect from me. And that is very terrifying for children as adults. It can sometimes even be very terrifying for adults probably because of a wound in a child, but let alone for a young child whose whole entire survival is actually quite emotionally, it's very dependent on their parents physically as well. So just a parent kind of withdrawing from a child can feel almost like life and death to a child. So then if they have experienced that before and they have also experienced the converse where, oh, but when I do this I get that connection, or when I do this mom and dad are happy with me then okay, I'm going to do more of that and then the more we do that the more we get praise so it's really like positive reinforcement as well. Isn't it?
00:18:13 Dr. Jean Chang
And and then we built that up and it's like, okay, I'm going to keep them myself in this very specific way to cater to my parents happiness and then I feel happy because I will feel happy when my parents are in connection with me. So I'm not doing this task because I actually like it but I might think I like it because at the start it was paired with my parents connection to me. So I think one of the roots of perfectionism stems a lot from that as well.
Yeah, like looking for that connection and as I was listening I was wondering like man, what would this look like if we acknowledged and I don't know if praised is the word I'm looking for a but connected with kids when they were having a hard time to write like when they were upset when they were sad when they were disappointed when they were frustrated if we build to attune to them in those moments, right? Like I don't want to do away with the like, wow, you're such a kind sibling. Thanks for getting that toy or sharing that with your sibling or whatever. Thanks for doing the dishes and helping us as a family, I love that and how do we bring that in then with those hard moments that like, I love that you feel safe enough to share your sadness with me, you know, like being able to tune in in those moments and connect so that kiddos know it's okay for me to be sad and frustrated and it's okay for me to work hard in school, right? Like both of these you know?
00:19:51 Dr. Jean Chang
Absolutely, if we don't tie the connection that we give to our children based on their behaviors then children also wouldn't associate it this way and it would be safe to be either way and they would still be helping out because it's like it pleases you but but they don't feel like it's a threat to their survival because they know that even in my tough moments, Mommy and Daddy are still here, they still are connected to me. They love me still, right?
Yeah, that's it. I think that's so powerful. I was thinking we were at our cousin's house this summer, and they have a five-year-old and she was really disappointed about something and I was on the other side of the yard and she came and she found me and she just broke down and she started crying and was sharing like what had happened and she was so disappointed and I was able to just like be present in hold space and support her through that and she ended up coming back later and said thanks for helping me when I was feeling sad. And it was just like one of those there are those moments of kids where like, oh, yes like that. That was-- I did it today and it doesn't happen all the time, but it was one of those where I was like, yes, like she when she was having the hard moment. She felt we were able to connect, she felt safe to do that and that she knows that I'm there. She feels disappointed and she won't be in trouble and we can talk about it and hold space for and then we can also be excited and jumping on the trampoline and those moments as well. I think the hard part is, you know, that inner child does get triggered for us, right? So when they come over and they're having that hard emotion or they're making a mess in the house or they hit their younger sibling, we're going to be triggered too
00:21:41 Dr. Jean Chang
and it's so hard to like regulate and then be present, hold space all cause it happened so fast
00:21:50 Dr. Jean Chang
it's how do we like as as folks are tuning in and are like yeah, I want to do this like I do want my kiddo to know that it's okay to feel hard stuff and I'm here and we can connect and we can also connect on these things that maybe come more easily to me how as we are reparenting ourselves too we create new habits and boundaries that support us in moving away from perfectionism and really holding space for all of it. The big questions.
00:22:20 Dr. Jean Chang
Yeah, the big question. It's almost like how do we--it's like when I am regulated I can do that, isn't it? Like totally so when we're fully regulated we feel like the queen like everything is graceful and it's beautiful and like how lovely but they hit a spot for us and when we are dysregulated and as he said very often with dysregulation when we're feeling more frustrated and we're not our best selves it often comes up when we when something hits our wounds and sometimes we don't even know what exactly is that trigger? We just know we're very frustrated were very tense. And so it's a very good question. How do we then connect in those moments? And I thought I might mmm, I thought I might just share a maybe a personal anecdote for myself on this. So when I noticed there was a period of time when my daughter was younger when she was 2, 2 plus, that I just found myself kind of wanting to only spend like five minutes with her? Five minutes was the max that I could give her my well 'best self'. And then after that I wanted to leave and I didn't understand; I felt so guilty about that when that was happening because I was like what kind of a mother am I that I can only give five minutes to my daughter. How can I be so calculating and you know, all these things are playing up in my head and I was beating myself up for it, but I didn't know how to make sense of it and then of course, because I'm a therapist that does my own therapy work as well, so I was bringing this up in my therapy sessions, right? So yeah, so then I kind of identified that okay, some others is when my daughter was she's 2+ So this she was activating something in my own inner child that was probably 2ish years old as well because when she was 1, when she was a baby, I never had those feelings like I wanted to run in the same way. I was treated at times because I'm human but I was and that triggered like I wasn't so like I can't stand this time with her and given that it was such a young age, I couldn't make sense of what could have happened right? Because because we don't have it, Uh, no memory at all. So it's like, how do I tend to that like what's going on? I don't get it. But I notice as well that it tended to happen when she was whining. So I used that word "whining" which my therapist is like hang on "whining" like, you know, like language? What do you mean whining And I'm like oh, okay,
I think everyone here tuning in is like yeah, we know what you are saying
00:25:02 Dr. Jean Chang
but yeah, so I was like I get so triggered when she whines and and I can't like, I can't take it. I need to run and so one day it's as she was going through that moment, I knew I had to be human and I knew that being around her I would just be I would just probably say like stop it and and scold her out of her whining in that sense. Tell me like how whining but so I decided I said to my husband like look, this is a lot for me right now. I need some space. Could you deal with her at the moment; he was okay moving in. So I went to the room and I kind of breathe and I was like what's going on like clearly something? My inner child was triggered and what's going on and I just I just kind of sit there for a while and I just felt so tense in my chest and then I kind of heard a quiet voice saying something like "it's not fair." and I was like, huh? What is that? "It's not fair." What is that? I didn't understand but then I started to think about it more across a few days. So it's not immediately that we kind of connect the dots. Sometimes it's months. Sometimes it's years, but just thought about it a little bit more and then I realized that as I tried to dig my memory a little bit like when I was younger, I was not allowed to get angry and I was not a lot to just make those, you know sounds right and so I actually felt proud of her for being able to express her anger assert herself, like the adult self in me would be like yes, like she is her own person. She's doing the things that I wasn't allowed to do. I'm so proud of you, like, yes, tell me what you don't like-- I can hold space with it, but a part of me was like screaming like stop it. It's not fair. I don't like this and and I really That that was the part of me that wasn't allowed to do this. I wasn't allowed to do it, you know, so when she was doing it and by the way knowing this knowledge does not mean that I don't get triggered.
00:27:13 Dr. Jean Chang
I still get triggered. So when every time she goes into that sounds it's my trigger and I would kind of have to be like pause brief at least knowing that knowing that she's going to do that sounds I kind of can anticipate okay, I'm going to be a bit triggered so I can tell myself, "Okay, breathe breathe" and so I ended up saying to myself like, "you know what you're right. It's not fair. It's not fair that she gets to do this and no it's actually a great as she gets to do this, but it's not fair that you didn't get to do this." And and so you can grieve that, you're allowed to cry about that. I'm sorry. Like I said to my inner child, and I'm sorry that you weren't even allowed to be a child and express your full emotions. And then I felt myself calm a little in my daughter's presence because I was doing this inside my head as I was with her and she was whining. I'm just going to use that word for now. All right ahead, but that people understand as she was whining. I just kind of was--I just kind of looked at her and I said to my daughter. "Yes. I know you're really upset." I was kind of doing a multitasking. It's almost like you're talking to two. And in my head I was kind of like yes, I see you and I'm not going to ask you to shut up just so that just so that I attend to her. I'm also going to pay attention to you, you know, and I felt myself calm down. So I think sometimes us knowing that we're going to get triggered and if in that moment we know that what's going to happen is therefore I'm going to lash out on my child or I really cannot tolerate it. I think it takes a lot of compassion to ourselves and to our child that we kind of step away if we can, if we can and if we really can't then it's also a matter of you know, kind of just sometimes if I really can't I would just hold her quietly and as best as I can, I don't want to say anything because if I say anything I know that something unpleasant might come out so I'll just hold her and sometimes unpleasant things come out as well. And then it's really like, all right, I need to forgive myself. I need to just try again and repair that with my child maybe later on when I'm feeling a bit more regulated.
Yeah, I think repair is the greatest gift right? That like you're saying as you're sharing this story and thank you for sharing your anecdote that it you were able to help that two-year-old in you feel seen right and feel cared for and receive something that she didn't receive as a child and probably for you know, the decades after being two has been wanting to feel seen and has lived inside and I think it's so empowering to know that we can tend to those wounds and heal and just as you were saying like when that child felt seen you started to feel calm, right? Like that inner child was like, okay she gets it. Thank you for validating, I can calm now and now you can tend to your daughter
00:30:28 Dr. Jean Chang
and I think that's so powerful and empowering when we realize that we have the ability to do that and that it's not like well once there's a rupture that then we just have this inner child wound that lives there forever. And there's nothing we can do but rather that like there are things that we can do to hold space for and support that wound. And that same thing for your daughter then write like then when you aren't a perfect parent and when you do react instead of responding with intention, you know that I can navigate repair, right? Like it doesn't have to end there.
00:31:12 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes. Yes. Absolutely.
It's so powerful.
00:31:18 Dr. Jean Chang
I think one of the most important things that I've also had to learn on this in terms of re- parenting my inner child in the moment, especially because as women we are kind of-- I think there is also a gender conditioning that we need to sacrifice ourselves for everybody else. And this is passed down generations, right? So one of the most important things I've also had to learn Is you know what? Like my needs don't come last and just because my child is crying doesn't mean that that's all that matters. And I don't get to tell my inner child like shut up, stop it, stop being selfish, stop kicking like because we might not even know what's our inner child right? But we were just thinking to ourselves, oh such a selfish mother. I find my child so annoying what's wrong with me? Why can't I just be more generous? And what we're doing when we talk to ourselves like that is where actually in essence we are we're doing to ourselves what our parents might have done to us or what our wounds are about what our traumas are about which is to abandon ourselves further or to just shun ourselves further and to kind of just say be quiet just be the good girl and same thing with kind of doing that here. We're kind of saying to ourselves in adult terms. We are saying to ourselves be a better mother, but actually it's almost like be a good girl, you know, just do the right thing. Just just just be there for other people. It's not about you. And that is re-traumatizing in a child. So one of the things I've kind of had to realize and learn is you know what? I need to pay attention to myself. So I often say to my inner child, like, my daughter is very important to me and I'll be like, you know what I need to tend to her, but you're important too and in this moment, depending on a circumstance, in this moment. It could be just give me a moment. I'll be with you in 10 minutes time like when I go to the washroom and I just get a breather there and then I would tend to you when my husband comes back and there's somebody else comes home I'll tend to you, I'll check in with you later. Or in a moment if I can I could be taking care of my child but in my head I will be synced in my own inner child like no you know what? The fact that you're frustrated, the fact that you're tired, the fact that you feel like it's not fair as you said, you know, I see that that makes sense as opposed to, like, stop it, like I don't see your pain what do you have to cry about? Having to validate ourselves is highly highly healing.
Yeah oh I love all of that and that connection between like the gender connection I think is huge and I think when we can shift that narrative from like I'm being selfish by taking care of myself in this moment to I can best show up with my child because even if in that moment you don't yell or react, are you really able to connect with the whining child if inside you're saying like, why is she whining this is so annoying? If that's what's happening inside. Are you really able to connect with the child in front of you?
00:34:33 Dr. Jean Chang
versus when you can tend to that inner child and hold space and connect to there, it's much easier to connect to the child in front of you.
00:34:43 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes, exactly. Exactly. It's it's not a competition. It's not a one win one lose. It's actually a win-win or a lose lose. So if we take ourselves out of the equation, we give a small part of ourselves to our children as well, but we show up for ourselves fully we shot for our children fully.
Love it. I think a lot of us, you know, we carry shame and guilt around imperfection right? That like maybe you know, I was thinking of parts of my childhood and I was thinking about coming into this interview and just like taking a moment to be like what did this look like for me growing up and this idea of perfection. There was very much an acceptance of failure of making mistakes in my house and I grew up in a family of athletes and the expectation is not that you win every game or you make every basket or whatever. There's like an acceptance of yeah, you're going to miss, your going to lose, we're going to move forward and so I do have--and I think I feel fortunate to have grown up in a space where mistakes were welcomed in some spaces and thing is the only way you can be an entrepreneur and start a business is if you're like, yeah, I'm gonna fail a million times and keep going or even, you know, with kids. I've spent my whole life with kids and it does feel okay for me to be like man, I dropped the ball like where did the wheels come off the bus today, and how do I navigate that going forward whether it's repair or taking care of myself in another way tomorrow or whatever that feels comfortable for me. There are, however, things were like if I set a goal for myself and I don't reach it then it's really really hard for me. There's like perfectionism in that and I was thinking about it was like where does that come from and realize like even in this house where I didn't feel like perfectionism was a focus there were still a lot of commentary around like wow that person so smart or that person so whatever and it was when they were exceeding, like academically or they had a hundred on the test or they did make more shots in basketball whatever they were praised or they were put on a pedestal and when that wasn't me that was what I was striving toward. Yeah, you know, so it wasn't necessarily comments about me as much as like commentary that I thought I was supposed to.
00:37:16 Dr. Jean Chang
Absolutely. Yes. Yes, the way we as parents talked about people our children learn so much about that. We don't necessarily have to do that to our child, but I mean as children, we naturally just want to belong to be accepted to please as well. Right? So hearing your parents talk about these things. You naturally want to be that so that you can be praised as well.
Absolutely and I think we see this in siblings, you know where like I can hear my mom saying this where she would like give my brother a compliment or would praise him for something and I would be like, well I did this too and she would say just because I complimented your brother doesn't mean I'm saying something bad about you. But as a kid in that moment, that's how it feels right because I'm like, but I'm not getting that and I think that so often it's so common with siblings where we'll see like ooh, but what about me? You're connecting with my sibling right now, and I don't feel connected, right now.
00:38:17 Dr. Jean Chang
Exactly exactly. It's we don't think of it in those terms but it really boils down to connection, isn't it? Yeah. Yes. It's like it's not so much about that we want the exact as our sibling but we definitely want that connection. We want to be seen. We want to be thought of we want to be remembered by our parents. Yeah. We want that connection so much. Yes.
Yeah, and I think even just to be able to acknowledge that in the moment as a parent like or you feeling disconnected from me right now? Or are you trying to connect with me too because I was talking to your brother? Like you just bringing that awareness that we don't necessarily have to solve it. You don't necessarily--it doesn't have to be like equal a compliment here and a complement here or because that might not actually feel like connection and
00:39:06 Dr. Jean Chang
no absolutely yes, even just acknowledging like, oh, you're not feeling very connected to me and you'd like to be connected to me that in itself is connecting.
Yes, right. I see you.
00:39:23 Dr. Jean Chang
Exactly and that's what we all want it. That's all what we all want to experience that to be seen. Yes.
Totally. I think that's so powerful. This has been coming up to around like we had a question about birthdays and celebrating a child's birthday. If there's a sibling like do we get them a present too or whatever and I was like, I'm in team no, that it's okay for Jack to have a birthday celebration and Sam doesn't get a present and how can we let Sam know that he's loved and included and a part of the family when we are also paying attention to Jack, like, what does that look like for them to feel connected? And it was really cool one person reached out and said when she was growing up they she would be a part of the like the birthday celebration creation for her sibling, right? So they would like create decorations together. She and her mom get ready to celebrate her sibling was like, that's so fun. Like they got to connect in celebrating Jack.
00:40:25 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes. Yes. That's beautiful.
Isn't it cool?
00:40:29 Dr. Jean Chang
So as we're noticing that shame and that guilt that comes up right that so many of us are like, I feel guilty that I yelled last night, or that my inner child showed up today, which is always going to if there's anything we know about inner children, they were very good at showing up and we'll stay and as you said just because you're aware of it doesn't mean the trigger doesn't happen and then we'll isn't that we lose our triggers right? like that inner child still going to say "do you see me now", do you think the same way that the three year old says, is this the boundary now, do you see me now? The inner child will as well and so what does this look like when that shame and that guilt is coming up around, like I wasn't perfect today. How do we move through that?
00:41:29 Dr. Jean Chang
So when our child has done something and we've kind of shamed them and how do we kind of--
or if we've just yelled or reacted or even just had the thought in my head like gosh this is annoying because that's gonna come up sometimes right?
00:41:46 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes. Yes, yes because being a mother doesn't mean we all like hundred percent always in love with our child. No. Yeah, a large part of it will have to do with allowing ourselves to just be present to that emotion first. So for example, if let's say I've shouted at my daughter and I feel very guilty about that. I feel a lot of shame. I feel like hey, I'm a psychologist. You know, I should know better. Like, how could I shout at my daughter? Then with recognizing that I feel shame because I've kind of broken a connection with my daughter shame is often comes up when we have broken connection of some someone that we love so recognizing that I'm feeling that shame and knowing that I'm human too and human means that I can't do it 100% perfect. I am a conditioned perfectionist and I'm trying to unlearn that conditioning, right? So and I used to I used to think that being perfectionist was a good thing by the way, so that's how deep my conditioning went so I have to unpack that and unlearn that but now my new focus is I want to be human like I want to be compassionate and be a human and and it softens me. Whereas when we were a hundred percent perfectionist, we become very tense and you might be doing a lot of things like the houses meet getting things done, but people don't exactly like being around you because you get pretty tense and you're actually very disconnected when you're in perfectionistic mode. So coming back to the shame when I'm feeling that shame then, it's often my perfectionism kicking in and kind of thing like you're not perfect. Therefore, terrible, terrible that you're not you're not hitting the mark and given that I now know that perfectionism isn't my goal but my inner child would still say but we're supposed to be perfect. You know, she would cry she would actually cry and say I want to be perfect. I'm like perfectionism isn't a goal I'm telling myself, but I can hear something inside me cry and say but I want to be perfect, like I love being perfect and I love myself more when I'm perfect, you know.
Oh, yes, I'm sorry. I love myself more when I'm perfect is like, oh, I feel like that captures it so much.
00:44:35 Dr. Jean Chang
Yeah because we have these rules right about all of this conditional base. I'm not perfect. We are on this continuum. So I hear that and then I kind of--I kind of pause and sometimes I do a bit of imagery with myself I do this with clients. As well, but for myself then what I would do that is our kind of just close my eyes. I just kind of ask and I'll just kind of sense and go inside myself this pain that I'm feeling and sometimes I'll close my eyes and I would just go how old does this feel and I don't think about it too much because if we think about it, we're controlling the process and a child doesn't speak when it's being controlled. It needs to be free. So I kind of just close my eyes and I'm just like don't think too hard what number comes up. And for me very often, it's that two, three-year-old kind of each that comes up for me. So I'll just try and imagine how I look like when I was two to three years old and if I can't then what helps also is just looking up old photographs of myself and just looking at that so that I can get a better image of that and then I just see that little girl saying "I love myself more when I'm perfect" and suddenly it's easier to then re-parent hard because I have a visual of her and it's a child now. It's not just abstract. It's actually a human being that I'm seeing in a young innocent child crying and it and being a mother. It taps into our, you know, being a mother is a real resource as well because we want to feel the love. I think a lot of your listeners here would be what be on this podcast this because they want to love their children so we can tap into that resource and once I see a child in front of me, although it's myself, but it's a child and I find myself softening and I say to her. "Yeah, I know. I know. I know. I know honey. I know you want to be, I know you feel that you can love yourself more when you're perfect. And I'm so sorry that that that's the way that you feel you can only be loved and you might not believe me right now because this is still new to you. But we're gonna learn to love you, even when you're not perfect and I'm going to tell you right now that I love you, even when you're not perfect" and sometimes I kind of feel that calms my inner child, but sometimes my inner child still goes into like "no no!" almost like "how can it be?" You know, like what I've been lied to this whole time, you know, it's something else and you're changing it, you know, it's like, how could you take this away from me? And so sometimes she kind of shouts even more and I would just a bit like what we do for our children. So I'll just be like, "you know what honey? Like it's fine. I know you don't like to hear this. So I'm just going to sit here and wait for you" and I kind of say that in my head imagining her running around kind of just letting my imagery go with it. And then I just sit down like I'm here. I'm waiting for you just like what we'll do for our own children, and I'm not going anywhere and then eventually sometimes she comes into my life and just collapses there and yeah, I say "okay. I'm here, I've got you"
Thank you for providing that visual too I think it is really helpful for folks to understand like the concept of the inner child can feel abstract and hard to connect with and I think having that visual is really really helpful.
00:48:12 Dr. Jean Chang
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yeah.
I feel like I can talk to you about this forever. But I want to respect your time. I know it's late in Singapore, and I'm so grateful that you shared your time with me-- where can folks connect with you and learn more about your work and follow along.
00:48:32 Dr. Jean Chang
So I'm on Instagram and my Instagram name is @jeanpsychologist one word. And I also have a website that I'm I'm re-parenting myself not to be a perfectionist about it because It's been under construction for the longest time.
00:48:50 Dr. Jean Chang
Every time I see an under-construction website. I'm like, oh, I recognize that perfectionist.
00:48:59 Dr. Jean Chang
So but hopefully in time to come it will be up and the website is www.talithakoumpsychology.com
Okay and will you have that linked in your Instagram bio too?
I do so. Yes. It's in my bio there.
Yeah, right. We will link to all of that in the transcript for this episode and thank you so much for hanging out with me and just shedding light on kind of what this journey looks like and I love that you noted too that it is a journey and sometimes you're hanging out with your inner child for a few minutes and they feel seen and sometimes it's days, it's weeks, it's months or years as they will often be very guarded and protected and it takes a lot of trust for an inner child to really be ready to listen to what we're saying, right and even at the end with that visual that you were saying, sometimes that calms me and sometimes they're not ready just like the two-year-old that's yelling "no" to coping strategies because they're not ready to feel calm yet. I love that. Thank you so much.
00:50:10 Dr. Jean Chang
You're most welcome. Thank you for having me.
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