"Perfectionism" is one of those words that everyone thinks they understand.
In reality, it can vary greatly in meaning depending on the person and context. So what do I mean by it? Read on to find out if you fall into the group I refer to as "recovering perfectionists."
If you are a perfectionist, you may notice some of the following tendencies:
- You are likely exceedingly conscientious and dedicated, expecting far more of yourself than anyone else...but nothing ever feels quite good enough.
- You can be very self-critical, finding flaws in everything you do, and it’s hard for you to take a compliment without deflecting or downplaying it in some way.
- You struggle with procrastination.
- You can get very anxious and/or defensive, especially around matters of performance.
- You try very hard to control external circumstances and can get easily flustered when things don’t go as planned.
- You may not consciously think about the Bad Things (failure, rejection, etc) that you think might happen if you don’t get everything right, but you’re worried about them anyway.
- You tend towards all-or-nothing thinking, especially when it comes to your own performance or progress.
- You tend to motivate yourself through fear or shame rather than self-love.
- You tend to focus more on results than process.
- You spend a lot of time in your own head, focused on the past or the future, and tend to over-analyze situations, decisions, and interactions.
- Sometimes your life feels like one self-improvement project after another.
If you are a recovering perfectionist,
- You recognize the above tendencies in yourself and acknowledge that this might not be the healthiest way to exist in the world.
- You are open to creating a more loving, forgiving relationship with yourself, even if you’re not sure how. Even if you’re not sure you deserve it.
- You would like to believe that you can let go of shame and anxiety and still be successful, but you have major doubts.
- You are willing to question the non-stop interior monologue (you know - the one that’s completely certain that you’re just a step away from screwing it all up and dying alone).
- Even though being wrong and/or vulnerable is possibly the most terrifying thing you can imagine, you are open to it being a door to tremendous growth and healing. (Or, as one of my friends put it, an AFGO: “Another F-ing Growth Opportunity.”)
Do I identify with the above? Oh hell yes. Many days, I get at least one chance to decide whether to roll around on the floor in a haze of self-loathing, numb out with a comforting distraction, or show up and do the infinitely harder work of loving myself anyway. Thankfully, those days are much rarer now than they used to be, but I’d be lying if I said they were gone for good.
How did I start shifting my outlook? Honestly, it wasn't until I was in coach training that I viscerally understood that my "Keep it together at all costs" attitude wasn't keeping me safe from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I had to be willing to let go of the stressful thoughts and beliefs that were holding me hostage - and I had a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome. I had to make the choice to accept myself the way I was and not save my love for the "ideal" version of me I thought I could eventually become...with enough blood, sweat, and tears.
Make no mistake, self-love is not for the faint of heart. Accepting one’s flaws does not come easily or intuitively for people like me. But it has been one of the most rewarding, heart-opening journeys I’ve ever embarked on - and that was before I started helping others on theirs.
Now, I have trouble expressing just how much gratitude I feel for this path we’re on together, and for my clients - who remind me (whether they know it or not) not to give up, that I still have a ways to go.
So, what’s different now? What’s on the other side of “not good enough”? Let me see if I can give you a taste:
- It feels steady and safe. (My sense of self-worth isn’t constantly being adjusted up or down depending on external circumstances or others’ reactions.)
- It feels quiet. (That constant critical, judging, analyzing internal monologue is gone. Sometimes for hours at a time!)
- It feels connected. (When I’m not obsessed with how I’m doing, I can focus more on other people - and not just as a basis for comparison or a means of feedback.)
- It feels light. (It’s hard to describe the sensation of an internal rule dissolving, but the best I can do is a mixture of relief and hilarity: “Oh thank GOD that’s gone now and how funny is it that I let it run my life all this time?!”)
In the moments I can truly tune in to this part of myself, I feel at home in my own skin - a sensation I’d nearly forgotten, and now one I can’t get enough of.
My main intention for this blog is to help you feel understood, and to give you hope. (Also, doing my own processing here is fantastically healing, but that’s another post.) I hope I’ve done that here.
If you recognize yourself up above and you want some help as you start creating a new relationship with yourself, sign up for a free assessment here. One of the hardest things for me to admit was that I couldn't do it all by myself, but the relationships and growth I've gained since I learned to ask for help have been more than worth the temporary ego-deflation.
And if you’re just starting to realize you have a choice in how you relate to yourself and you just want to poke around the archives, I still love you madly.
Wherever you are in your journey, thanks for stopping by. As Rumi (kind of) said, “We’re all careening around in this surprise.” I’m happy to have collided with you!