Is Perfectionism Robbing You Of Connection And Progress?
So… I am a perfectionist… You would never guess, because I am doing lots of things imperfectly. Once this “diagnosis” has been confirmed, I was on a mission to free myself from it. It’s not about doing things well. It’s about…
“Perfectionism is NOT about striving to be your best. It’s NOT about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we’ll escape the pain of criticism, ridicule, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield.” – Brene Brown
Below are 5 most common signs of perfectionism.
(This is just what I observed in my life and around me. If you want to add something or comment how you freed yourself from perfectionism, please comment below.)
- You explain and criticize yourself
- It takes you forever to complete a project
- You are scared of learning something new.
- You want people to know you are perfect or you will die.
- You care too much about people who don’t care about you.
1. You explain yourself. When you happen to do things slightly below your standards, you explain yourself to everybody around. Why? Because a perfectionist cares too much about what others will think about her. She is subconsciously afraid of rejection, punishment, criticism, people talking behind her back. Do you recall where you learned this pattern? I certainly do. I learned it at home and outside of home, in my first 20 years of life.
Solution: a potential solution lies in playing with doing things imperfectly and falling in love with the freedom: I have done this so bad and now I can just look at it, without any word of criticism. Afterwards , after trying this method so many times you no longer fear the critique, you may go back to doing things well
2. It takes you forever to complete a job; project, article, spreadsheet; whatever you work on. You waste precious time revising, reviewing, asking for feedback and obsessing what else can you do. To make sure it is perfect.
The truth is – objective “perfect” doesn’t exist. It will never be perfect for everyone- it just has to feel good for you, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. And there always will be people that will love it. For them it will be perfect.
Example: go to art galleries and you will immediately notice: people are making crap and they are proud of it. The gallery owner looks at the crap and agrees to display it. Then a customer walks in and thinks “hmm that is a great crap, I want it, here is 5k” So in the essence, you can as well be happy with your work much faster – and save yourself a lot of time. Being a perfectionist is not making you to create better things. It is making you stress more. The only thing you need to do is to stand behind your work 100%. Not 120, not 1000. (Being too ambitious is close to perfection.) Just 100%
3. You are scared of learning new things. You are pressing gas and a brake at the same time. You are immobilized…. I recall when I wanted to start painting after a long time of not creating and I wanted it to be perfect the first time. Now isn’t that interesting? We master things by rehearsal, by practice… Yesterday I heard someone saying “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough”. Since when do we first win a prize and then go to school to learn the craft? Many people think this way or make it an excuse to not do anything. In my case I wanted the satisfaction now, and the guarantee that my efforts will be rewarded, that I don’t waste time.
Have patience with yourself and be realistic: all worthwhile things require learning, study, practice and most of that is effing work, sweat and frustration. On the other hand why put the work into something that we do for all the wrong reasons? If something holds us back from pushing forward, maybe it’s only a fear of failing. Or maybe it’s a sign to change a direction.
4. “They” need to know you are perfect. You put so much effort into appearing perfect that you lose connection with your inner self. Instead of dealing with your insecurities, you push them down in the effort to appear ideal. This sweeping dirt under the carpet will sooner or later be discovered, so why not deal with the mess when it is small.
It may be time to face it: what we see as imperfect, is authentic, appealing and irresistible. And we love people that are authentic. People who are not afraid to admit their weakness, because they accept it as part of themselves. People who at least don’t pretend.
If you feel, you have been putting up a facade of perfectionism, it may be time to do some inner work, and practice a bit of self-love: self acceptance, self respect and self compassion.
It may be also true, that our imperfections make our life harder. Or make us difficult to be around. Listen to the feedback, given in between the lines… open your eyes to the clues. It may be hard, but everyone had to go thru this. Look at the annoying habit you have, accept it and work on changing it. This level of honesty with yourself will be liberating. And soon you will be rewarded with deeper connection with more people.
5. You care too much about people who don’t care about you. Basically: about the judges, the critics. If you think about it – your perfectionism must have started somehow. Either from too strict and demanding parents, kids that were picking on you, or even abusive boss or an ex. Those people and their judgment may still be alive in your memory.
Possible solution: It takes time, but if you mindfully catch the moments when judgement appears – notice where does it come from and whose voice is really talking in your head. Change focus: bring to mind someone in whose presence you always feel good (if that needs to be your dog, it’s fine). Imagine what would this person say. Or would your mistakes matter to them? Believe this image.
And I think it’s worth to repeat the words of Brene Brown “Perfectionism is NOT about striving to be your best. It’s NOT about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we’ll escape the pain of criticism, ridicule, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield.” – Brene Brown
What I am getting from these words is also that, if I really do my best and the people around still offer the criticism, judgement, and shaming – I won’t waste much time in that environment. Go where the love is.
I was on a phone with my friend, Julie, and we talked about strict house rules some people have.
– You are an empty kitchen sink person, aren’t you? – Julie asked suspiciously.
– Actually… am looking at the sink now, and it is full. – My answer was unemotional
– Great!! I am proud of you! – She exclaimed.
You just never know where the acceptance will come from….