Recovering Perfectionist?

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My name is Lynell and I am a recovering perfectionist. Whew there I said it.

The way my perfectionistic tendencies show up for me are procrastination, self-doubt, then not doing anything at all because of fear of not doing it “perfect.” I have identified my cycle.

This can be a very crippling disease, which can turn to a downward spiral of self-doubting thoughts and behaviors.

Then these self-deprecating thoughts end up wiping out everything you could have potentially achieved.

Sound familiar?

Personally, I have struggled with this tendency ever since I was a child.

I always had to speak the best and do the best, not just because of a need for achievement but rather out of a fear of failure.

It’s essentially why I stopped doing sports because I could not grasp my head around not being seen as good enough or…the best (and trust me, I was NO WHERE near the best)

I became scared to try out for things out of fear I wouldn’t make it.

Instead of learning how to be okay with making mistakes I started giving up because I started to doubt my abilities.

Many people don’t even know that they have perfectionistic tendencies because of the way that society has defined perfectionism.

I remember when I was in grad school, and I was completing my internship.

After each session, I would have to write my note, and I would spend hours, if not days, putting this unattainable pressure of making sure I included every detail in that note.

I worked out of fear of getting a correction from my supervisor.

Sometimes I would convince myself that I needed to put off sending it off after I waited a day or two to look at it with “fresh eyes.”  

As recovering perfectionists, we find so many ways to justify our thoughts.

I now look back and say “Lynell you were learning!” It is okay if your supervisor sends you some feedback, that is what they were there for.

I feel like I wasted so much time living in fear when I essentially could have been getting things done quicker, getting corrected quicker and learning in a healthier way.

I left learning experiences on the table because I was living out of fear of making that mistake.

How can I expect myself to know everything right out of the gate?

What we think perfectionism is: being super woman, super dad, able to multitask, the calmest one under pressure, doesn’t need much sleep, works overtime till they get it done and seems to have it all together.

Let me tell you what perfectionism really looks like:

  • Keeping items just in case you may need them
  • Doubting your abilities to the point you don’t follow through on tasks
  • Focusing on the one negative feedback comment you got despite the other 20 positive ones,
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Needing someone to constantly reassure your work
  • Procrastination
  • Packing multiple “what if” outfits when traveling (guilty),
  • Taking every task on because you feel like you are the only one who can do it right.

If you found yourself saying yaaas to many of these then you my friend are a perfectionist or as I like to say, you carry perfectionistic tendencies.

This tendency has led me to put this blog off for years.

Constantly thinking, what if I state research wrong or make a typo.

This may sound very trivial to some but detrimental to me all because of this dooming fear of failure.

When people explain their struggles with anxiety or depression, I notice that those symptoms may stem from an underlying need for achievement , approval or perfectionistic tendencies.  

I have included a visual example of how anxiety can grow.

process of anxiety , self doubt and perfectionism

First you may have perfectionistic behavior that show up for you (overplanning, difficulty writing emails, leading a team)

Then you may start to doubt your abilities to follow up with those tasks “perfectly” out of fear of not doing them well.

Then the anxiety starts to creep in from doubting your abilities/self which often leads people to procrastinate.

It’s time to make those mistakes, gain those experiences and learn along the way. So yep, it’s time to get intentional.

Discover your cycle. How do you know you are struggling?

Did you find your struggle similar to the example above?

Which perfectionistic behaviors could you relate to ?

What has your perfectionistic tendencies stopped you from doing?

Cut the cycle off at the head. Notice when you start to spend time reading and altering a simple email.

Notice when you feel the need to have to rewrite that list you just wrote 2 hours ago.

I acknowledge and accept that finishing each post will be a challenge, editing each post will be a challenge and publishing each post will be a nightmare haha.

It will be a daily struggle not to run to everyone I know to ask for their opinion and approval.

I may even cringe when I get a correction about a post , but I refuse to run away from the learning experience.

What is one thing that you can do in the upcoming weeks to make safe learning mistakes?

And when I say “safe” I mean something that it not going to be distressing to other areas in your life such as sending an email in 5 minutes that would normally take you 30 minutes.

What steps  will you take to  challenge your perfectionistic thinking?

Still not quite sure if you struggle with perfectionism.

I will be sending out more resources in the near future because I see so many people who struggle with these tendencies , so be on the lookout !

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