Perfection… it’s a standard many of us strive for.
My whole life, I was considered a perfectionist. No one stopped me once to question how hard I was working. My ability to get things right was impressive, and “getting it right” was the gold standard as far as I was concerned. Isn’t it great if things are perfect? Isn’t it good to work hard? Aren’t hard work and perfectionism the same?
I am here to tell you hell no. I am a recovering perfectionist, and here are the things I had to learn for myself that no one told me (and they didn’t tell me because they didn’t know, either). Now I am here to tell you.
Damn that statement is heavy, but it is so true. Hard work is focused on the process and journey, while perfection is focused on the end result, with the fuel being validation of your worthiness. When one “falls short” of their standards with hard work, it can be mildly and temporarily disappointing, neutral, or even a pleasant surprise to another opportunity! However, if one “falls short” of their standards while in perfectionism, it can be anxiety provoking, painful, and a deeply unpleasant experience that isn’t easily shaken off. You can work hard and hold standards of excellence without perfectionism.
Perfectionism is a behavioral pattern that was learned early on. And just as it was learned, it can be unlearned. People often have a difficult time letting go of their perfectionism persona, because they believe it’s who they are and how they’ve been able to achieve such success.
Hard work, motivation, excellence, and determination are virtues, or qualities, that people have within themselves. Perfectionism = behavioral pattern used to validate your worthiness. Hard work, motivation, excellence, and determination = qualities.
The sooner people realize they are in a pattern of behavior that is unhealthy, the quicker they can heal from it and free themselves from its grips. Perfectionism is a pattern, and you are not a pattern of behavior.
I can tell you from my own personal experience that this is true. My life for 30 years was completely enmeshed in perfectionistic behaviors. I thought I had a good relationship with myself. But when things got quiet or didn’t go right, the inner critic crept in and started to tell me things. I didn’t necessarily “hear” the words, “It wasn’t good enough, you’re not good enough, try to be prettier, get an ‘A’ next time because that’s what makes you smart.” However, my actions and emotions demonstrated that those were exactly what I was hearing deep down.
And instead of giving myself love, grace, and empathy when I fell short of my extremely high standards, I gave myself:
almost a punishment of working harder
tears of frustration and angst
Perfectionism is the boyfriend or girlfriend that is always looking for what’s wrong with you and makes sure to bring attention to it. It’s never good enough, never quite right. Except, instead of someone else doing it, you’re doing that to yourself.
I know when I started to heal from perfectionism, my chronic stress and anxiety rates went to almost nothing. My clients experience the same phenomenon when they start to let go of perfectionism patterns, too.
This study here by the American Psychological Association confirmed that perfectionism does indeed lead to increased rates of anxiety and depression. How could it not? If you’re constantly in a relationship with a critical girlfriend or boyfriend (and that bf or gf is you, with yourself) it’s a full time job working hard to matter. It creates stress, fear, worry, disconnect and loss of self worth. It’s a lose/lose all the way around.
You can work hard, have excellence and great success without this pesky pattern. You can fail and not feel like the world is going to collapse in on you. You can have a relationship with yourself that doesn’t get by, but thrives! A view of yourself where you truly feel good enough.
Is it possible to actually feel good enough? YES! I do, and when my clients do the work they do, too.
Every pattern stops by the person making the choice to stop it. If you find yourself in perfectionism, be aware. Awareness is always the first step.
Be the kind, loving, person to yourself you’ve always wanted. Stop being the critical bf or gf to yourself. If you notice you’re starting to go down that rabbit hole of criticism, turn it around to something kind and compassionate.
Enjoy the journey instead of the destination. Fuel the creativity unfolding more so than the energy of “doing it right.” Maintain your excellence without tying it to your worth. This will free you in so so many ways.
If you’re looking to heal perfectionism, I now have an online course that you can access called, “The Perfection Prescription: Your RX to Freedom.” You can learn more here .
Know it’s possible for you to be free, happy, and love yourself!