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2 Steps To Stop Being A Perfectionist

Wellbeing
2 steps to stop being a perfectionist

I don’t even know how to start this piece because ironically I’m trying to find the perfect way to start it.

And this, as we all know it, is what it feels like to be a perfectionist.

I never thought about my feelings towards perfection until I started getting into blogging and seeing so many people talk about it. I used to be proud to say to my boss “I’m a perfectionist”.

About a year ago now, I made a huge mistake.

 

I forgot to put an order in for a product that was supposed to be a blue glittery, best seller.

And the words I said to my manager when she said “mistakes happen”

“Not me. I don’t make those kind of mistakes”.

Andddd claps to me for being an unnecessary and unrealistic perfectionist 👏

In The Gifts of Imperfection Brene Brown defines perfectionism as:

 

“a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” 1

 

Nothing feels better than thinking we’ve done something perfectly – when in reality perfection doesn’t exist. It’s relative to perspective.

Our need for perfection also comes from needing to feel right, better, accepted (which minimizes the feelings of shame, judgement and blame that Brene describes).

But what is also does is stump our growth. We’re too busy trying to be perfect and avoid the feelings we think we’ll have when something isn’t. But we miss out on the learning curve.

I’m guessing I don’t need to go into detail about perfectionism. Because if you’re reading this, the chances are you are a perfectionist. You already know what it feels like.

During my reading and learning I found some interesting work on how to stop perfectionism.

To say we’re never going to feel the pressure of needing to be perfect is a far off statement to make.

But having the strategies to deal with it means you can beat it every time it comes up.

So what are you scared of?

 

“To overcome perfectionism, we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion” 2

 

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene talks about fear.

It’s worth asking yourself – when you’re trying to be perfect, what fears are you trying to avoid?

And as Brene discovered in her research, it usually relates back to avoiding shame, judgement and blame 3

But when I think about it personally – I always feel like it comes down to two things.

Not feeling good enough and wanting to be accepted by others.

It’s like if we make a mistake, we’ve proven ourselves right. We’re the fraud we think we are. Typical imposter syndrome. Now they will know we don’t deserve to be here.

So the next time you feel your perfectionism creeping in on you, sit with it.

Ask yourself what feelings are you trying to avoid by seeking perfection?

 

Are you being rude… to yourself?

 

It’s all well and good to say “hey I’m scared shitless about not feeling good enough” but it’s also what we say after ourselves that matter.

Because we all know no matter how much we say that, we’re in washing machine of thoughts. We go round and round with the same thoughts. Which means we also stay in the same place as before.

No one can here the voice inside your head but you. Which would usually be a good thing… but in this case it’s not.

Because if people heard what we say to ourselves, they would tell us to just stop being plain, old rude.

Who am I to tell myself I don’t “make mistakes like this”.

If I said that to someone else, would that be rude? Definitely.

Half the battle of perfectionism is what we say to ourselves. And changing that dialogue is important. 4

Brene gives a good example of that dialogue in this excerpt from her book.
 

“Like most women, I struggle with body image, self-confidence, and the always-complicated relationship between food and emotions. Here’s the difference between perfectionism diets and healthy goals.

Perfectionism self-talk: “Ugh. Nothing fits. I’m fat and ugly. I’m ashamed of how I look. I need to be different than I am right now to be worthy of love and belonging.”

Healthy-striving self-talk: “I want this for me. I want to feel better and be healthier. The scale doesn’t dictate if I’m loved and accepted. If I believe that I’m worthy of love and respect now, I will invite courage, compassion, and connection into my life. I want to figure this out for me. I can do this.” 5

 

And there we have it guys – the conversation most of us have, albeit it in different words.

So what are the perfectionists doing differently to the healthy-striving self talkers.

Lucky for us, this was also part of Brenes years of research. This is what she found from the healthy-striving part of town

 

“First, they spoke about their imperfections in a tender and honest way, and without shame and fear. Second, they were slow to judge themselves and others. They appeared to operate from a place of “We’re all doing the best we can.” Their courage, compassion, and connection seemed rooted in the way they treated themselves” 6

 

She refers a lot to the work of Dr. Kristin Neff who runs the Self-Compassion Research Lab in Austin Texas.

Kristin says there are 3 parts of self compassion 7

  • Self kindness – Being nice to yourself and conscious of how you speak to yourself when you don’t feel like your enough, when you’ve failed or when you’ve messed up instead of getting stuck in the washing machine of criticism 8
  • Common humanity – That all the feelings we feel (not feeling good enough, feeling like a failure) are all part of our humane experience. Everyone has these feelings. Not just us. 9
  • Mindfulness – That we don’t “overidentify” 10

These are great points to remember when you’re trying to change your internal voice.

 

I’m going to leave you with this

 

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
―Pema Chodron When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

 

I genuinely hope this helps. And as usual, if you have any things you tell yourself or any advice you have for controlling perfectionism I’d love to hear it! Comment below!

 

Being a perfectionist is never without its problems. Recovering from the voice of perfection can be tiring and testing! These are 2 simple steps that have helped me learn the truths about being a perfectionist in life and how to overcome it.

 

Notes:

  1. Excerpt From: Brown, Brene. “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” iBooks.
  2. Excerpt From: Brown, Brene. “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” iBooks.
  3. Brown, B., & Fortgang, L. (2015). The gifts of imperfection. Tullamarine, Victoria: Bolinda Audio.
  4. Brown, B., & Fortgang, L. (2015). The gifts of imperfection. Tullamarine, Victoria: Bolinda Audio.
  5. Excerpt From: Brown, Brene. “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” iBooks.
  6. Excerpt From: Brown, Brene. “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” iBooks.
  7. Brown, B., & Fortgang, L. (2015). The gifts of imperfection. Tullamarine, Victoria: Bolinda Audio.
  8. Brown, B., & Fortgang, L. (2015). The gifts of imperfection. Tullamarine, Victoria: Bolinda Audio.
  9. Brown, B., & Fortgang, L. (2015). The gifts of imperfection. Tullamarine, Victoria: Bolinda Audio.
  10. with our thoughts. Just because something hasn’t worked doesn’t make us a “failure”. It simply means it didn’t work.  11Brown, B., & Fortgang, L. (2015). The gifts of imperfection. Tullamarine, Victoria: Bolinda Audio.

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