I have lived most of my life wearing around a perfectionist pin on my heart. I would boast with my head held high… “yes, I’m Renee and I’m a perfectionist”. Not only was it socially acceptable within culture (and sometimes still is) but it became a belief that was so ingrained within me that I shared it with pride.
What it did instead was hide a deep shame and judgement… Can you relate to being a perfectionist? I have 4 major revelations to help you and an awesome video below… This one might hit home.
When I was in college, I started out as an art major before switching to marketing. My perfectionism showed up in my art and school work then… I was at the kitchen table with my artwork laid out all over the place… working all night… losing sleep to complete art projects or papers.
You might do this too. You stay up too late, you have no clear boundaries for yourself. The boundary topic is a big one but that’s for a future blog. You put things off because it isn’t perfect or whenever you do something, it is never good enough.
I see it also with many of my clients. It shows up when they have unrealistic standards and boundaries and they have no idea how to set healthy ones. They take on too much or aim way too high.
It might be standards about your clean refrigerator, your body, your work or spiritual practice. And then you see it show up within your relationships or your parenting and then it takes over your life.
I finally woke up from the nightmare! Oh and let’s be clear… I’m still waking up. I’m in what I will call perfectionist recovery.
You know what I was doing?
I was so afraid of making a mistake because I learned somewhere in life that making a mistake meant failure. So I began creating situations where I would not make mistakes.
As a parent now, I can see so clearly that when my son makes mistakes, it is his biggest opportunity. It is allowing him to learn and grow. Mistakes are his best teachers. The same goes for us.
I also noticed that I would put stuff off… it was never perfect enough and then when I finally did complete it, I didn’t know how to be proud. I still felt like it was mediocre. When I looked, all I could see were the flaws.
The lies I was telling myself were: “I have control over how people feel about me” and “if i’m perfect, no one can reject me”
I recall when I first hired a life coaching at the age of 21, one of my coaches taught me about the word, “should”.
At the time, I was the queen of to do lists and that got better and then worse before I finally broke the habit… I noticed this about a year back when I moved to a new home. I had so much paperwork in files to recycle and you know what… most of those papers were LISTS. Scrap pieces of paper… everywhere!
This created an endless list of “shoulds”… or rather, things I thought I had to complete in order to be happy and feel good.
I learned in coaching this phrase, “Stop shoulding on yourself…” Yep, it sounds like “stop shitting on yourself”.
Because when you should, you are forgetting about your desires and instead controlling and hiding.
I began to see that my perfectionism was really about my thoughts and behaviors.
I saw that I was seeking happiness and worth based on a piece of paper with a bunch of lists on it or a perfect piece of art or an immaculate house in preparation for a large party or the perfect dress for the perfect occasion.
I didn’t know it then, but I know it now…
I saw that my self worth was equated with my accomplishments and achievements and outward appearance.
The problem was not only my thoughts and beliefs but it was also the culture I had immersed myself in… I was an entrepreneur at a young age. Huge gratitude, by the way for that. Best decision ever, but with that also came this mentality that I had a standard to live up to and I had to do everything to reach it.
There is a big difference between striving and perfectionism. The gap in between the two was why I was suffering.
I started to see that this perfect project, house, body and business wasn’t fully authentic. That I was working so hard to maintain these things and basically hurting my health emotionally and physically to do it.
I felt so inauthentic and you know what… that is around the time when I created my first Love Yourself Naked program… it wasn’t for you (no offense). It was for me! I realized that I needed to learn how to be authentic and that authenticity wasn’t something I was born with, that I could create it by making different choices.
I stopped being fake and as I type that, it’s hard to admit because at the time, I didn’t feel fake. I didn’t feel perfect either. When I look back, I think I was fearful and the perfectionism was my way of hiding the fear. I was hoping it would take the fear away.
Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is not about healthy striving, it is a cognitive behavior process that says this… when I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect, I can avoid and minimize shame, blame and judgement”
While Oprah was interviewing Brené, she responded with, “Perfectionism is the ultimate fear. That the person walking around with so much perfectionism is ultimately afraid that the world is going to see them for who they really are and they won’t measure up”
As I began to choose authenticity I began to notice the people around me who were not choosing it. It was extremely hard because I had to let go of relationships in order to serve my growth in this area.
Here are 4 steps that have helped me tremendously on my journey to be a recovering perfectionist.
1. Self Compassion. I have empathy for myself, I embrace mistakes as my biggest gifts and if I goof up… I love me so hard because I deserve it.
2. I let you see me. I choose vulnerability and honesty moment to moment. Nope… not perfect at it and I don’t want to be. Every day, I make a choice to let the people around me, see me. I think… what’s the worst thing that can happen? You know what happens on average, those people feel like they can open up and do the same.
3. I learn from my mistakes. Here is an important distinction: I enjoy the process of that self evaluation and sometimes that is really hard to do. I write about what I’ve learned and most importantly what I desire more of instead.
4. I set realistic goals. These days I set goals that I feel great about but I must confess, I have a great team of coaches and peers surrounding me that keep me in check on this one… I find that I’m still thinking unrealistically at times. The best part, however, is when I don’t accomplish it all, I am no longer defined by it.
I would love to hear from you so please share below in the comments… your perfectionist moments and what you’ve learned from them.
I love hearing from you. xo
PS. Really juicy topic on the blog next week… keep your eyes peeled! By the way, if you’re interested in that Brené Brown and Oprah chat on perfectionism it’s 4 minutes and worth oh so worth it.