There are a few behaviours that you’d NEVER guess were perfectionism.
We commonly think perfectionism is doing many things very well.
But did you know perfectionism will keep you FROZEN as much as busy? That’s why many people are confused. They don’t realize being frozen is also a sign of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is ALSO marked by:
- No real drive, ambition or goals
- Quitting before starting dream projects
- Chronic goal-quitting
- Chronic lateness
- Never being satisfied with life & accomplishments.
Both overachieving and underachieving have the same stressful effects on our bodies and minds: they make us feel like we’re never enough.
There are so many layers to perfectionism, we can think we’ve peeled off one part, and another shows up. BUT once we know where to recognize it, we can respond to those signs & get ahead of it.
Perfection is also NOT starting goals.
There are 2 different motivations for not starting a goal:
1. You might start a goal and then say:
- This is going to take too long.
- Other people are doing it already; why should I?
- I’m not good enough at this; what am I contributing?
- This is too hard; I don’t have the time for it.
- I thought I knew more about this, but I don’t know what I’m doing; therefore, I shouldn’t bother.
- I can’t handle the pressure of this goal; I bit off more than I can chew.
2. OR you might say:
- This is taking time away from something more important to me.
- This is different than I thought it would be & I’m not that interested, but I’m glad I tried it and found that out.
- This isn’t the right fit for me; now I know what I don’t like because I made a decision & tried it.
The difference between those two sets of reasons is INTENTIONAL PREFERENCE.
- The second list is because you intentionally decided this wasn’t for you & left it cleanly, without regret and with something else to look forward to. You didn’t go for the goal but are left feeling glad you tried.
- The result of the first set of reasons for abandoning a goal leaves you feeling empty, maybe hopeless & a bit like you don’t trust yourself and are disappointed in yourself.
It’s so important to know whether PERFECTION is causing you to:
- leave a goal intentionally OR
- leave a goal because your mind is protecting you from the shame you’ll inflict on yourself if you fail.
HOW to challenge it:
1. Social Reinforcement Addiction:
The Social Response: When we achieve, everyone congratulates us, and so we keep achieving because that feels good. But if you are prone to perfection, this cycle hurts us. Without being aware that this is harming us, we’ll follow the GOOD FEELING from the social response. Try asking these questions to challenge the social response addiction:
1. How do I feel without this social response?
2. Do I feel good when I’m alone?
3. Do I feel good when no one notices what I’m doing?
4. When no one sees my work, do I enjoy it for the process?
2. Make mistakes on purpose.
See that the world doesn’t fall apart when you don’t do things well all of the time. Most people won’t leave you, mention it, or even notice when you make a mistake.
If they do leave, they aren’t for you anyway.
3. Stop giving perfectionism credit for your success:
Take a moment to see what a resilient person you are. If you’ve been living as a perfectionist, I know you’ve survived under a microscope for a long time. That takes grit & determination. You have it.
LIST the qualities you like that make you uniquely you. If you don’t know what they are, ask someone who knows you well; write them down and read them, every day, for a week.
See that performance or “faking it till you make it” weren’t the only things that got you this far; YOU did. Your tenacity, perseverance, creativity & strength of character got you here.
4. Acknowledge Perfectionism isn’t going away.
This sounds depressing at first, but ultimately this will give you hope & relief. You can’t fix this overnight. Let the process be what it is: SLOW. Accept that this is part of our human nature; we ALL have perfectionist thinking. We may be on different parts of the scale, but that’s the only difference.
There will be back and forth. Perfectionism will show up in other areas you didn’t anticipate. If you try to eliminate it, you’ll feel like you are failing when perfectionism shows up again.
Your goal is not to eliminate Perfectionism; it’s to learn how to manage it better.
5. Take a goal/hobby off the back burner.
Remember your interests and get messy with them, not for the outcome but the journey—the courage to be in the Messy Middle.
HOWEVER, make it easy on yourself. Pick an interest you don’t have as much invested in (emotionally or otherwise). Let an EASY place be where you practise new skills to get wins.
6. Share your struggles with perfectionism
As you share, you’ll hear your own story from other people. You’ll realize it’s not something you have to hide.
Get an accountability buddy. Tell them when you push yourself hard, so you don’t get into denial when Perfection is sneaking in again. You can miss it easily without practice.
7. Know the motive behind perfectionism:
A lack of self-worth is perfectionism’s banquet table & it manifests as pride:
PRIDE: If you find yourself regularly setting yourself above others, or you’re often on guard that someone is going to supplant you in the hierarchy, give yourself compassion, not blame!
Reframe the blame. It’s not arrogance; it’s protection. Setting ourselves higher than others means that: “If I’m better, maybe I won’t be vulnerable to the things I’m afraid of: rejection, comparison or loss of connection.” Seen from this perspective, you can appreciate that person needs care, not more pressure in order to grow.
8. Recognize What LOVE IS:
Perfectionist thinking confuses love with being admired…but that’s not love. Being loved is NOT being admired but being accepted.
WHAT YOU WANT IS CONNECTION, NOT ADMIRATION.
Connection will never come from admiration. Just the contrary, you’re always fighting to be “better” to be accepted and connected to others. Thus any connection you get is conditional & depends on your performance.
Performance-based love and connection are not lasting love and relationship. Get really honest about this with yourself.
9. DARE TO KEEP TRYING
Keep trying the tools that build up your self-image. You’ll think you aren’t accomplishing anything, but you are.
Keep challenging the thoughts that: you have to be fit, you have to be tidy, you have to be the best at your career, you have to ____…
10. LEARN TO CLARIFY & NOT EXPLAIN
Avoid the tendency to explain why you are this that or the other thing. Clarify when necessary. Explain never.
11. PRACTICE intentionally
Additional questions to ask yourself:
Why aren’t I allowed to be human?
What do I avoid doing because it won’t be good enough?
Do I ever try for “trying’s sake?”
What is all or nothing thinking to me?
What can I do tomorrow without thinking about how?
Make a list of what I want to do and pick the easiest thing I can do