Being a total perfectionist kept me totally stuck for years and addressing it was one of the reasons I trained as a practitioner. I love to learn about this topic both to help my clients and to better understand my inner perfectionist should she decide to pop up and try to sabotage me.
To date, my favourite books on this topic are by Brené Brown and specifically ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ which I highly recommend to many clients.
Through years of research into shame and vulnerability, Brené has an amazing understanding of perfection and the ways it affects the people she studied. Her books really resonate with me and some of my struggles around perfection, so I decided to use this article as a brief summary of some of my key takeaways.
Perfection is not:
- The same as striving for excellence or healthy achievement
- About self-improvement or growth
- Defensive and trying to protect us from being blamed and judged.
- About others perception and focused on what they think about us and trying to earn approval.
- Self-destructive and addictive.
When I think back to being 10 years old, I remember bringing my school report home and my grades were all ‘A’s’ other than one ‘B’. The only thing my Dad said was, “why was that a B?” Now my younger self soon realised only A’s were good enough and I created the dangerous belief: I am what I accomplish and how well I do it. It’s scary how that belief kept me feeling I wasn’t good enough for years and affected my confidence.
“Perfection is the 20 ton shield we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.” Brené Brown
Brené’s research showed perfection hampers achievement and is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, life paralysis and missed opportunities. With it comes the fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people expectations and being criticized. These symptoms of perfection can keep people well and truly stuck for years!
For some people, perfection shows up when they are feeling vulnerable, for others, it can be compulsive, chronic and debilitating.
The key to addressing perfection is moving away from where your focus is on what others think to one where ‘I am enough’. It’s about owning our story, appreciating our imperfections and working on our resilience and self-compassion.
Start moving towards a life where you are enough by being kind and compassionate to yourself. Check what your inner voice is saying and the tone it uses. This article is all about positive self-talk.
Seek out human connection and create a support network. Identify someone you can talk to who will act as a sounding board as well as provide you with an objective opinion.
Include mindfulness practices into your daily routine to help you gain perspective and make good decisions. A few ideas are gratitude journaling, yoga, meditation, drawing or taking a walk in nature – whatever works for you.
The Lightning Process is a perfect way (sorry, I couldn’t resist) to help you address perfection and the ways it affects you.
If you struggle with perfection, contact us and find out how we can help you.