The Trouble With Perfectionism

Hi, I’m Rebecca. And I’m a perfectionist. Actually, I like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist. At our Busy Moms Retreat this past weekend, I realized that we all struggle with this in some regard. It might be your weight, it might be your kids’ Pinterest-worthy birthday parties or it might be your own work…we all hold up the shield of perfectionism at times to deflect.

Along my journey, I’ve been teased, picked on, and flat out ridiculed for my insanely high standards. In the past, I usually got a little defensive and kind of pissed off, but I now realize that having high standards and being a perfectionist are two very different things.

Having high standards is about doing things well; A perfectionist is about being without error. It’s the latter that becomes the trap. The trap that keeps us from fully loving and fully experiencing life. Here’s how it works:

1. Perfectionism is a cycle.

When you don’t allow any room for being imperfect, real or heaven forbid, human, you are setting yourself up, because yes, it must be said, no one is perfect. When your mistakes arise, as they inevitably will, you’ll assume it’s because you weren’t good enough. This naturally leads you to assume you suck and had you been perfect, this wouldn’t have happened. This just causes you to pursue perfection all the more. Seriously. Read that paragraph again. How screwed up is that??

2. Perfectionism numbs us to the good things.

Let me give you a great example. I have been trying to shed my last 10ish pounds of fluff for quite some time. I started this particular program that involves shakes, cleansing and overall mindfulness of eating. I did that program to perfection. I actually cut out caffeine. I LOVE coffee. I was regularly exercising. I was following the plan to the letter. I stepped on the scale and?

Nothing had happened. The weight didn’t shed. I was down a few inches overall, but I was furious. I called my girlfriend and hollered, “What the hell?!?! I did it perfectly!! Why didn’t it work?!?!” (This was much less expressive than the actual conversation, but you get the point.)

Why didn’t it work? Here’s the truth: I was being completely unforgiving to my body. I had given up caffeine. “Good job, me.” I was doing tough workouts in the morning. “You frickin’ rock, Rebecca.” I had more energy than before. “Way to take control of your eating, Rebecca. You amazing stud, you.” Is this what I told myself? I wouldn’t be sharing this story if I had.

All I ever saw was the fluff. It’s all I saw, it’s all I focused on and I became completely wrapped up in the process and I believe it’s quite possible the stress I felt from the lack of results is what kept me right where I was. When you don’t allow the good to flow, even a perfectly followed process won’t yield perfect results.

3. Perfectionism keeps us from learning.

Chances are, if you’re a perfectionist, you have deep, abiding fears about putting something out to the world that might not be perfect. I absolutely struggled with this when I started this business. The funny thing is that I knew it wasn’t perfect and yet, I’m learning something about myself, my gifts and my business every single day. If you hold yourself back from sharing something because it’s not quite perfect, you limit your opportunities for growth. Imperfect action is still action and you LEARN from it. If you want something, try something. It might not be quite right, but who really cares?!? It’s so much better than sitting around talking about it.

4. Perfectionism won’t shelter us from bad feelings about ourselves.

In fact, it’s likely to increase the chance of having those self-loathing and self-injurious thoughts. Not only is perfection an unattainable goal, creating the perception that we’re perfect is as well. It’s isolating, debilitating and keeps us from experiencing the fullness of life.

Here are the ways you can cultivate a little “Imperfectionism” in your life.

  • Remind yourself every day that you’re doing the best you can. (And realize this will change from day to day)

  • Be at least as good to yourself as you would be to a friend. (Right?!?!)

  • Ask yourself daily what you learned. Strive for progress, not perfection.

  • Remember that our imperfections are what make us connected. Do you want to be perfect and alone?

  • Give yourself a break today: Maybe just showing up is good enough.

Am I alone in this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on perfectionism and any tips you can share with the rest of us! Have a perfectly imperfect day, all!

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