Do you strive for perfection, and feel disappointed that you achieve it?
Do you find yourself putting things off because you can’t do them perfectly? Or worse, never sharing the things you do because you’re not convinced they’re perfect?
Hello, my name’s Lottie, and I’m a perfectionist.
Let me tell you, it’s been no easy feat, particularly as I grew up with a mentally ill father with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He liked to dictate his perfectionist needs and twisted compulsive behaviours. It was a case of obeying or suffer. Not only did I have to do everything’ right’, if it wasn’t ‘right’, which for a person with OCD, it rarely is, I felt his wrath. My dad was not passive about his requirements.
What did I do? I argued, often, but that had violent consequences so I surrendered and became a people pleaser; a person with low self-esteem and a desperate need to get things right for fear of retribution. I would rather do nothing than try something and risk getting it wrong. Mistakes were not forgiven, by my father, nor, eventually, by me.
This leads to a superbly restricted life, and keeps you well away from your real purpose, and can too often contribute to ongoing poor health. That’s not to say I believe my poor health is purely a result of perfectionism or even my dad’s behaviour, but those things didn’t help.
As I watch fellow perfectionists through the lens of recovery, I can see perfectionism is stopping amazing women from sharing their gifts with the world. This is a travesty.
Luckily, we’re of an age where there is excellent research into this and strong calls to drop perfectionism, not least from Brené Brown:
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Let Go of Fear
Have you noticed that people with a fatal diagnosis suddenly achieve incredible things in a short period of life between diagnosis and death? Perhaps more than they had in the years of life living up to diagnosis.
I speculate, not having done the research, that this has a lot to do with dropping perfectionism and no longer fearing failure or consequences. What’s there to fear when you know the end is near?
I’ve experienced something like this myself. Since my near-death experience after my bowel surgery in 2013, I too have let perfectionism and fear of failure go. My life has since catapulted forward with many achievements I’m proud of and have enjoyed.
My coaching practice and writing is a culmination of me living on purpose, and this life rocks!
I feel sure you don’t need to follow my lead and nearly die, or get a fatal diagnosis to drop perfectionism and find your true purpose. The first step is recognizing what perfectionism is.
Here’s a definition of perfectionism:
Perfectionism (psychology): Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations” (Perfectionism (psychology) In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 21, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfectionism_%28psychology%29)
Once you recognize what it is, you can raise your consciousness to counter its effects. You learn to put that inner bitch I often talk about, back in her box!
When she comes at you with, “You’re no good at this,” counter it with a rebellious, “screw you, good or not I’m doing it!”
When she throws the line, “It’s not good enough!” You go at her with a sturdy, “We’ll see about that.”
When she tries to burn you with, “I wouldn’t bother if I were you ‘Miss B’ is far better at it than you, leave it to the experts.” You flick that inner bitch a middle finger then tell her to get back into her damned box and leave you alone because you’ve things to do.
Progress Over Perfection
Someone said progress over perfection. I’ve no idea who said it first, but it’s a good line, right?
Write it down, ‘PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION’, in big letters on a post-it and stick it on your mirror. Every morning repeat it five times out loud.
Then, work out what that next baby step is that you need to take to achieve your goals and fulfil your dreams. Take that step, whether it’s perfectly executed or not.
Beauty is not in the art of perfection but in getting things done.
Where in your life might you be holding yourself back with perfectionism?
All of my love,
PS: If you want to know more about baby steps be sure to sign up for my newsletter below where you’ll get access to a bunch of good stuff, including my baby steps PDF.
Photo Credit: Kelly Hsiao