Being proud of attaining a perfect result is a good feeling, however, the constant need to always and only achieve perfection in everything you do will cause more bad feelings than good.
Most humans have a desire to do good work and receive praise for it – that praise can be outward from others or just a positive knowing within that it’s a task done well. However, individuals with perfectionistic tendencies take this aim for perfection to a rather strict level, where each and every task that is done NEEDS to be perfect – not just good, but precise and excellent.
Have you ever set such high standards for yourself that you missed out on things?
Maybe you needed the 4.0 in school so you missed out on fun with friends.
Maybe had to be the top performer at the office so you missed quality time with your family.
Maybe the project you were doing had to be “just so” and you missed the deadline to submit it.
Perfectionism is often touted as a positive personality trait.
Someone may say they have “healthy perfectionism” to explain their ways. But, if perfectionism is hampering their happiness and performance in other areas of their lives, then it is actually a negative trait.
When it is hard to enjoy the journey because you’re too focused on the outcome, you’re losing out on the joys of living in the moment. In fact, being mindful and present and at peace with just being is difficult for a perfectionist because most everything they spend their energy and focus on is task and outcome-oriented.
“When perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun and fear is that annoying backseat driver” ~ Brene Brown
When you identify yourself as needing to be perfect at an early age…
You aim to get the perfect grades, be the perfectly behaved student the teachers love, and be the perfect model child who family and friends all admire and adore. Then when that first B comes across instead of an A, the anxiety is over the top. The possibility of getting anything other than a perfect score is unfathomable and unacceptable!
And when you are so good, the best amongst your peers, you are logically placed into a pool of other high achievers. Now, the chances of another beating you for the top scores are even greater – and your anxiety and fear of failure become more severe. You’ll do anything and everything necessary to ensure you remain absolutely perfect in order to stay at the top.
Then, workaholism sets in with this imbalanced amount of time spent at or thinking about work – answering messages at all hours of the day and night. You have a hard time saying “no” and develop unrealistic expectations that you can take on more and more and more and still manage.
But BURNOUT is real.
Perfectionism causes anxiety, overwhelm, and chronic stress. As you may already know, these conditions come with physical symptoms in addition to mental fatigue. Headaches, stomach upset, problems with sleep, issues with food, and even problems with the cardiovascular system. The stress on the body and mind to keep things perfect all the time is exhausting.
It doesn’t stop there. Perfectionism also does a number on SELF-ESTEEM.
Anything less than perfect is tied directly to self-worth and value. Perfectionists often take constructive criticism very defensively instead of accepting it as a tool to assist with their growth.
A perfectionist tends to spend a lot of time judging themselves against others and is constantly in their head monitoring what others may think about them…
Does my house look just right? Are my kids the best-dressed? Am I better looking?
And speaking of perfectionism as it relates to appearance, it can, unfortunately, quite easily lead to disordered eating. There can be a lot of anxiety surrounding body image for a perfectionist. This can lead to the creation of rules to mind about getting exact nutrients, pure ingredients, and sometimes too much exercise.
And let’s not forget about PROCRASTINATION!
Because perfectionism is tied to self-worth, not having the perfect solution feels shameful. So, when an ideal answer doesn’t seem possible, a perfectionist finds it difficult to even begin tasks.
For example, there is a paper to write, but the perfect way to word it just won’t come so you sit for hours and hours at the computer and just cannot complete the task. Or, you may not feel like the perfect candidate for a job that you want to apply for, so you don’t show up for the interview.
Perfectionism is often referred to as “all-or-nothing” thinking because of this.
The anxiety around not being perfect is hard to overcome but it is possible.
The first step is to recognize if you are having issues related to perfectionism. It is these feelings of discomfort in our lives that motivate change.
The next step is to strive for 85% perfection – this is everyone else’s 100%. Essentially, you want to aim for a different end zone – to be a high achiever instead of a perfectionist.
For a while, this means you’ll have to sit with some discomfort and become accepting of it. You’ll need to be vulnerable to put something out into the world that is slightly less than perfect and do it anyway.
Try focusing your perfectionism on the 8 circles of wellness!
We need balance in our life to feel emotionally calm. The 8 circles of wellness is a model for this type of balance. The eight dimensions include: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social.
Humans need symmetry in all of these 8 areas to feel well both physically and emotionally – and balance is achievable with intention and practice.
Show yourself compassion.
Make mistakes and feel OK with them!
If you would like help embracing healthier attitudes and a more relaxed way of living, I would be happy to guide you. Feel free to reach out to me at (602) 329-0483 to schedule a one-on-one session when you are ready!