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Entries categorized "Perfectionism"

Whispers and Roars - The Voices of Ambivalence

December, 2006

Welcome to the second issue of 'Tips from The Queen of Rejection.'

1. Whispers and Roars - The Voices of Ambivalence
2. A Few Words About Ambivalence and Gift-giving Dilemmas
3. Tools for Taming Ambivalence
4. Contacting Elayne
5. Privacy Notice and Subscription Information

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    By Elayne Savage, PhD

I wrote about my Fears and my Ambivalence in my struggle to
produce my first e-letter last month.

I talked about how The Fear of Rejection was the leader of the
Fear Team: Fear of Visibility, The Fear of Failure, The Fear of
Success and The Fear of Disappointment. Fear of Judgment and
Criticism were on the sidelines as well.

I described the warring voices of my ambivalence: The
disconcerting "You can!," "You can't!" The clash between the 
voice of confidence and the voice of doubt.

When I finally finished writing it, I hit the 'send' button.

There's More to the Story

I was also struggling with another quandary: How was I going to
present myself in the e-letter?

I studied other e-newsletters. Oh my, they were so 
'professional,' 'businesslike' and 'practical.' That's
how I wanted mine to look.

In my first draft I found myself imitating them. In a 
'professional' and 'businesslike' way I presented an overview
of my struggles. Then in a 'practical' way, I jumped to a list
of 'how-to's for dealing with ambivalence.'

Something was Missing

Informative, sure, but something was missing.

A small voice was trying to get my attention. "Listen to me,"
it pleaded. I ignored it. I was determined to put out a
'professional' newsletter.

Then something allowed me to trust my intuition. I made a
decision to share that early draft with a consultation client
who was dealing with some of the same issues. Perhaps a word
or phrase would jump out at him. It did. He thanked me.

And then he asked, "Would you like some feedback?" Sure.
Why not. He knows my presenting style. He's heard me speak
professionally in various venues.

"This newsletter isn't you. It's too formal. Your strength
is in telling your story. When I hear you speak I find
myself being drawn in. But not this time. Something is
missing from your writing."

I listened. He was absolutely right.

Somehow I'd misplaced my essence.

What happened to my voice? Where were my feelings hiding? Under
a rock? In a closet? In the basement?

I found myself too concerned about what others might think. I
lost my voice. It was drowned out by my anxiety and tendency
to compare myself.

I was rejecting my Self.

The Tag-along Template

I got caught up in trying to make my e-letter fit every one
else's template. I let myself be influenced by those very
impressive professional e-zines.

I was trying to compete.

I lost ME.

I wanted to find myself again. To accept and respect myself.
To honor and enhance my strengths. I made a choice to tell
my story exactly as I was experiencing it.

As I looked at my fears and faced them, I began to move
through  them. The moment I hit the "send" button, I
realized something was  different about me. I had just
developed a new relationship - with my Self.

Many of you wrote to say how you recognized the fears I
described - Fear of Visibility was a popular one.

Some of you told me you are starting or finishing a
project that's been a gleam in your eye for a long time.

And you wrote that you are beginning to understand your
ambivalence a little better.

Those Whispers and Roars

For some folks the word 'ambivalence' means 'love and hate'
or 'good and bad.' But there are many kinds of ambivalent
feelings and thoughts.

Ambivalence is natural to all of us. It's the presence of
simultaneously conflicting feelings, ideas or wishes which
compete with each other. It can lead to an inability to make
a decision.

We Deal with Ambivalence by:

  • Avoidance –Avoiding the pain of another rejection
  • Self-Sabotage - How might you sabotage yourself?
  • Procrastination – A great example of how fear of rejection leads to self-rejection
  • Perfectionism – If we do it ‘perfectly” no one can find fault.
  • Second-guessing ­– Self-doubt about decisions
  • Excuses/Rationalizations – What you tell yourself

It's a tip off you're ambivalent when you experience
uncomfortable inner conflict and can’t make a decision.
You feel stuck, like you’re straddling a fence.

You may find yourself experiencing a wide-range of
ambivalent personal and professional situations:

—Having trouble deciding which mail (or papers or files or clothes)
to keep and which to toss out

—Wanting to spend time with someone, and at the same time
wanting time for yourself

—Wanting a romantic relationship, yet not being quite ready
to make a commitment

—Wanting connectedness but needing separateness

—Wanting a promotion, yet dreading the added work hours
it would require

—AND related to this Holiday Season: Having trouble making
up your mind about which gift or card to buy.


It's amazing how much anxiety comes from trying to pick out a
gift or greeting card. Fear of Rejection, Judgment and
Criticism run rampant.

Have you ever had this experience of looking for a gift or card?
You see something in one shop but you're not quite sure it's the
right thing. So you go to the shop across the way. There you see
something else you like.

You get really confused. You may even go back and forth between
shops a few times. You still can't make up your mind.

You may become anxious and upset because you don't know what
to do. You might even leave without buying anything. (Tips on
handling gift-giving dilemmas and in a future issue.)

When two internal voices start skirmishing with one another,
this conflict leads to uncertainty and confusion.

The confusion creates anxiety. The anxiety causes us
to freeze up and become immobilized. This degree  of
ambivalence surely isn't productive.

It takes a lot of energy to deal with these conflicting voices.
Wouldn't you rather put your energy in some other activity?

By moving past the ambivalence, it's possible to leave space
for making  choices. Here's how.


1- Give BOTH voices a chance to be heard. When you're only 
listening to one voice you are, in effect, rejecting the other.

You might even encourage the voices to talk to each other. Out loud.
Writing to each other works too.

In other words, you'll be giving voice to both sides of the
ambivalence. You'll be honoring both voices.

One way to do this is to make two lists: a 'What
I Have to Gain' list and a 'What I Have to Lose' list.

2- It's probably some type of Fear immobilizing you. You can
begin to move forward by naming it.Is it Fear of Rejection?
Of Failure? Of Success? Of being Visible? Of Disappointment?
Of Judgment?

Try naming the Fear to yourself. Next, write it down. Then say 
it out loud. Hearing yourself say it allows you to see it differently
and recognize possible options.

(By the way, these fears are not only attached to YOUR early
experiences but also to family messages which are passed down
from generation to generation.)

3- Next approach the Fear with some detachment. I call it
'walking alongside yourself.' This means stepping back enough
to recognize when you may be starting down that old path of
doubt and fear. It means taking enough distance from your emotional
tug-of-war to create choices.

4- Then, ask yourself, "Do I really want to continue down
this path? I could retrace my steps and make the choice to
take the other fork. I can go down a different road."

5- You can learn more about your own early messages by asking
yourself these questions:

If I put myself "out there" it would mean  ___________________.
If I fail, it would mean  _________________________________.
If I succeed, it would mean  _____________________________.
Might I feel disloyal to someone? _____________.
Who would that be?  __________________________________.
If I feel too visible what might happen? _____________________.

These are all ways we hold ourselves back from our goals and our dreams. Check in with yourself: Am I procrastinating?  Second-guessing myself? Being too perfectionistic? Making excuses? Rationalizing? Avoiding?

This clash between the voice of confidence and the voice of doubt is ambivalence!

And to avoid anxiety from the clash we too often self-sabotage.

Talking Out Loud to Yourself

Hearing yourself think out loud allows the space you need to
recognize your options.

Sometimes it's helpful to have someone else to talk to — especially
someone who is professionally skilled in guiding you through this

Putting your confusion into words gives it a container and
definition. This allows enough space for choices to emerge.

And it allows you the space to move forward.

© Elayne Savage, PhD

Elayne Savage is the author of relationship books published in 9 languages.


A COUPLE from Amazon:


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The attribution should include this information:
Elayne Savage, Ph.D. is a communication coach, professional
speaker, practicing psychotherapist and author. To find out
more about her programs, and services visit

or call 510-540-6230.

6. Contacting Elayne

I welcome your feedback as well as suggestions for topics you'd
like to see addressed in this e-letter.

Here's how you can reach me:

Elayne Savage
[email protected]
510-540-6230, 2607 Alcatraz Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94708

7. Privacy Notice and Subscription Information

PRIVACY POLICY:  Your name and email address are confidential.
I will not rent, trade or sell your contact information to anyone.

August 31, 2022

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