Hey friends, this is going to be a long one, so grab a cuppa and set 10 aside to really get stuck in to taking action over perfection.
I’m going to tell you my story of living with the perfectionism personality trait and then I’m going to kick off with an actionable and simple way to start combating the effect of perfectionism in our lives.
My Perfection Story
I’m an expert in perfectionism. I’ve let perfectionism hold me back my entire life and when I look back to my childhood I can see when perfectionism really came into its own.
When I was 8 we moved from a small pretty town, to a not so pretty much bigger town with a bad rep. They could not have been more different.
Our lives changed literally overnight and I was devastated to be wrenched from a lovely school and friends who I loved. I realise now that I entered into the stages of grief, I felt lost and didn’t know who I was in this new place.
I made friends with everyone I could at my new school, tried to impress my new teachers and made friends with some who did not deserve my unreserved friendship. I made friends with the school bully, the girl who ran out every lunch break and some pretty lovely people too. I changed who I was depending on who I was with. I spread myself too thin and became a people pleaser to try and make these new kids like me. It was exhausting and I started having anxiety attacks, although I didn’t know that at the time.
As an 8 year old thrust into the unknown I did all I knew how to, control everything I could and give up on everything I couldn’t.
I would start new hobbies, realise they were too hard or weren’t what I thought they were and gave up on them one after one. I tried singing, tap, ballet, lace making, quilling, watercolour, trumpet, clarinet, skate boarding, ice skating, my parents were very patient people! (Still are.)
I would pretend that I understood all of my school work, because to get a bad mark or disappointed look from a teacher or my parents would destroy me. I would learn what I needed to know for that test or that season and then my mind would dump it when I’d had the affirmation I needed and craved.
I started playing games like ‘mind the cracks in the pavement’, suffered with unexplained bouts of muteness and I shut myself down. I hid my light away for a long, long time.
Periods of trying so hard and periods of giving up left me feeling useless.
There have been happy times of course, I come from a beautiful family. It’s just that perfectionism shuns gratitude and can’t deal with any negative emotions. At all.
So, what changed?
Two years ago I found out I have perfectionism as a personality trait during a CBT session and it was like a lightbulb moment. For two years I’ve been working hard on the inside to work out what I am good at, being ok with my flaws, sitting with negative emotions for awhile, getting curious about why I feel the way I felt about things, practicing gratitude and it’s changed my outlook, my attitude and my life.
My aim is to share what I’ve learnt through my own tears, frustration and journey to joy. I want to share the strategies I’ve put in place in the hope that they may help you too.
What actually is ‘perfectionism’?
Never heard of perfectionism? It’s defined as ‘refusal to accept any standard short of perfection’. In my opinion it’s so much more complex than that. It’s setting your own picture of what is perfect and trying to manipulate everyone and everything to fit that mould. It and they have to be perfect too.
Anything short of that brings about disappointment, a feeling of being unloved and unworthy, a blame culture, anger and good old self-doubt and self loathing.
As you probably know, this world is not perfect and funnily enough people don’t really respond that well to being manipulated and so we have a little problem. Perfectionism simply doesn’t work in a wholehearted life.
It robs us of the beauty of ‘real life’, we’re sold a lie that everything has to look like this or that and we place people, situations, and events into boxes and place unrealistic expectations on them until the very life in them is suffocated. They have no chance to show us their love in their own way.
The beauty of life is that we’re all unique!
How can perfectionism harm us?
A wholehearted life takes us with it’s peaks and flows like a waterfall. Perfectionism suffocates the natural rhythm, builds a damn and stops the water getting through. It stops us from being the person we were born to be.
Severe perfectionism can leave us feeling a failure, prone to procrastination and self loathing. It can affect our self confidence, self worth, relationships, work and mind. At worst it can have devastating effects from depression, anxiety and even suicide.
The outcome is we’re not living the life we love, not by a long shot.
What can you do to take action over perfection?
So now you know that perfectionism is not just a trend word I’m jumping on the bandwagon with, this is something I’ve had to live with every day of my life for as long as I can remember.
There is good news! Things can change. I want you to know that you CAN and will live a wholehearted life.
There are strategies and tips we can put in place to set us free from perfectionism RIGHT NOW.
I’m going to kick this off with an actionable tip you can implement easily straight away to start saying NO TO PERFECTIONISM and saying YES TO A JOY FILLED AND SUCCESSFUL LIFE.
Action over perfection Tip #1
TIP #1: NO GUILT
FRIEND, if you take nothing else away from this article take this one tip and hold onto it. Put it in your pocket, pop it in your tool belt. It’s my number one golden rule.
I’m talking about GRACE.
Giving ourselves a break when something doesn’t turn out quite right (or no-where near!) know that this will happen. No-one gets to get it 100% right every time.
No doubt when this post goes out there will be spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, too many paragraphs, it’s probably far too long. If I waited for a post to be perfect I would never post anything!
Saying ‘no guilt’ is not saying you couldn’t have done better, the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ comes into play, or in this case ACTION OVER PERFECTION we need to LEARN from our mistakes rather than hold on to them. If you need to say sorry because you messed up then say sorry!
‘No guilt’ lets us move on.
When someone else does something to disappoint you, it’s ok to feel disappointed!
Personally I think disappointment is at the root of most perfectionism guilt, disappointment in ourselves and others. Are you going to hold on to it? ‘No guilt’ for feeling the way you do, and LET IT GO.
Breathe in – feel the feels, breath out – name it ‘I’m disappointed because….’ breathe in – ‘NO GUILT’ breathe out – blow it away.
And then leave it there, do not revisit it. Move on. I promise that practising this gets easier over time.
MY #1 ACTION OVER PERFECTION TIP ARE THE WORDS ‘NO GUILT’
Look at the most successful people in the world and in your own lives. Chances are they mess up all the time (we’re all human after all) the difference being they don’t let GUILT hold them back, they LEARN from their mistakes and they MOVE ON.
This is absolutely key to success in your personal and working life.
Giving yourself the GRACE to make a mistake, or be late or forget someone’s birthday card on time without it paralysing you from TRYING again. Saying the words ‘no guilt’ gives you the freedom to learn from your mistakes and move forwards towards your goals and most importantly to try again next time.
No-one is perfect, and that’s the truth. Not even you.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be covering more facets of perfectionism:
- IT HAS TO (LOOK LIKE THIS)
- WHEN OTHERS TRY TO MAKE YOU FEEL ‘LESS THAN’
- WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
- SELF CARE
- GIVING BACK
I hope you’ll join me in positive change towards living a wholehearted life.
Do you have perfectionism as a personality trait? What do you do to make positive change, to take action over perfection?
Tell me your story in the comments below.
P.S. Read Part 2 in the series here!