Advice, Empowerment

Let’s Talk about Perfectionism!

I’m a perfectionist in recovery. I use the term “in recovery” because overcoming my perfectionist tendencies is a work in progress, so if you’re on the same journey of changing how you respond to life, kudos!

From a young age, I wanted the life of fairytales like most young girls. My favourites included some of the classics such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas and Snow White. I loved happy endings (still do). Although nothing is inherently wrong with watching Disney movies, I developed a fascination with needing to be perfect because being ‘good enough’ was totally unacceptable.

So through my teens and 20s, I pushed myself to be someone other than my true self out of fear I wouldn’t be accepted. I had to be right in everything I did, even when it was clear that I was wrong, and often to the detriment of personal relationships.

For example, I became a supervisor at the age of 22 (looking back, that was the worst position for me because I was immature and unprepared to lead people). I had impossibly high standards and expectations that my staff could do nothing acceptable in my eyes. When they called me out on my behaviour, I would turn around and blame them for being poor workers. My emotional intelligence was at an all-time low, and I had an inner critic pointing out when things were wrong.

You see, perfectionism caused me a ton of problems. Even though I set goals, I achieved far less since I was always high-strung, stressed and unhappy. The façade of success drove me, but I kept failing because the pressure was too much. It’s was such an overbearing way to live because no matter who you are or how much money you have in the bank, we are all imperfect beings.

Despite this well-known fact, many parents, employers, and spouses still drive their loved ones to keep up with false appearances. And the next generation is feeling the brunt of this stupidity. 

According to Katie Rasmussen from West Virginia University, “as many as two in five kids and adolescents are perfectionists . . . it’s heading toward an epidemic and public health issue.” Some children’s lives are not fun as adults intend to discover the ‘next big thing’ to plaster their kids’ achievements on social media and impress others. Unfortunately, more and more, we do not hear about childrens’ accomplishments. We’re hearing how they’re getting sicker, sadder and discouraged.  

As a recovering perfectionist, I know that you can live a healthy and whole life without needing to be perfect. Does that mean you shouldn’t strive for excellence? No. You absolutely should do the best you can. Just know the difference between wanting to work hard versus refusing to accept that mistakes are part of being human. 

Here are two tips that may be of help to you (they helped me):

Tip #1: Lower your standards – instead of checking that email over five times, review it twice. Maybe show up for an appointment five minutes before its start rather than thirty minutes. Lowering your standards doesn’t mean having any standards at all. It simply means setting realistic goals. Trying this for the first time will be difficult. But keep at it. The more you see that being ‘good enough’ is okay, the more you will welcome imperfections as a positive attribute rather than a negative one. 

Tip #2: Ask for help – It’s okay to ask for help. Addressing your perfectionism is not an overnight thing. Lean on a supportive person who will encourage you to continue your journey when it gets hard. You want them to keep you accountable.

In sum, “the essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” ~ George Orwell.

Image source: Welcome to the Jungle (March 2020). Perfectionism: always aiming higher but at what cost?

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