Perfectionism has been one of my qualities for as long as I can remember. It felt self-imposed but at the same time – not. No one ever told me that they’d love me more if I was perfect but I certainly felt that way (abandonment issues will do that to you). So I tried my hardest to always be perfect. I remember playing “Perfect” by Alanis Morissette on a loop and singing it as loud as I could.
Sometimes is never quite enough
If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love
Don’t forget to win first place
Don’t forget to keep that smile on your face
There came a time when it stopped being about other people (for the most part) and started being about myself. If I was perfect, then I could love myself.
Perfectionism. That’s a tall order, isn’t it?
I can’t tell you how much of my life was defined by a need for perfection. I pushed myself to burnout so many times and I worked so hard for so long that it became my personality. Having an anxiety disorder also factored into the intensity of my perfectionism. The thing that really made me really analyze that need for perfection ended up being the creation of this website. Being on social media, made me see that it was impossible to please everyone. It was impossible to be perfect – and that was a wake-up call that I needed (I was also very tired of trying).
Being so visible online taught me that it’s enough to do what I can. It’s enough to show up. Kind is better than perfect because perfect is unrealistic.
Whether that perfectionism was instilled in you by your parent, school, religion, society, or yourself – here are some things that have helped me.
My strategies for beating perfectionism:
Make friends with “good enough”. “If someone else did this, would it be good enough?” That’s a challenge that I give myself quite often. This helps because when it comes to other people, I only ever expect them to do their best and I know that it looks different from day to day. I have empathy and compassion for them. If I can have it for them, then I can have it for myself too.
Good enough means doing what I can do without sacrificing my physical or mental health. I don’t hold that standard for anyone else so I’m not going to hold myself to it either.
Focus on the good parts. With my shop, I create a lot of books and the first year it was so hard for me to feel good about anything I created. Now I focus on those small little bits of perfection. The sentences that I create that are just perfect. That one page that I am SO proud of. The days when everything flows effortlessly. I realize that those things will not always be the standard and instead, I appreciate them when they come along instead of expecting them all the time.
Learn from the mistakes.
I know this one sounds cliche but it’s true. One of my favorite mantras is “If something isn’t working – try something new.” Old me would have tried, failed, got frustrated, tried again, and been stuck in a loop of failure. Same thing with mistakes – we can beat ourselves up for them or we can practice compassion and try to do better as we move forward. I like the second option.
Work on your inner critic. If you’ve been through my Self-Talk and Inner Critic Workbook, one of the things I talk about is how our inner critic is usually created when we’re young. Sometimes it is created out of abusive relationships, and other times it’s created out of protection or a need to be loved. We have to learn how to work with the inner critic to learn that perfectionism isn’t needed and that we are good enough. Changing that voice and learning kindness and compassion takes time but it’s all about learning how to challenge the words and turn them into self-compassion.
Set realistic goals.
I am all about manifesting what you want into being, setting goals, and believing in yourself – but it’s also okay to make goals that are attainable. Small goals even. “I can absolutely get this done with moderate effort” types of goals. Setting yourself up for failure with unrealistic expectations only fuels perfectionism. Make a plan with achievable milestones.
Work on Time Management: This one still gets me, but if that’s the only lingering sign in my life that I’m a perfectionist – I’m okay with it. Try not to get lost in details (time blocking can help!). Set limits for your tasks and your projects. I tend to not do a lot of editing until the very end – that way I can focus all of my energy on getting it done first without trying to make it perfect.
Celebrate the wins. Don’t forget to celebrate your victories! No matter how small they seem, each win is a step towards your goals. Reward yourself for your hard work – you’ve earned it.