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The price you pay as a perfectionist

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When you first hear the word perfectionist you may quickly dismiss this idea because you think “ I’m definitely not perfect.” 

This is a common misinterpretation of the word perfectionist

It sounds like a good thing at first, but people who struggle with it typically experience a lot of internal struggle and suffering. 

Perfectionism can manifest in many different ways, but the underlying theme is that no matter how much you achieve you still never feel good enough. 

Your inner critic tries to convince you that mistakes mean that you are incompetent and your worth is tied to how productive you can be. 

Perfectionism is driven by fear and this fear either stops you from reaching your full potential, makes you overwork in a never-ending attempt to prove yourself, or both.

A few common fears of a perfectionist are:

  • Fear of failure
  • Being seen as inadequate or incompetent
  • Being critiqued
  • Being behind

Some common behaviors of a perfectionist are:

  • Not going for certain positions out of fear you may not get it
  • Taking a long time to write an email because you are overly editing it or as some would say “babysitting it”
  • Criticizing yourself when you make mistakes
  • Procrastinating to get started on a task because you don’t want to mess up

Yeah, it probably feels like I’m in your business right now.

You are overworking yourself because you are trying to mask your feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and overwhelm.

You are constantly hustling for your worthiness because that is all you have ever known.

You have found that the areas you excel in are the areas that can provide the validation you crave…. temporarily. 

For a perfectionist, the standards that are set aren’t just high but are oftentimes unrealistic.

These unrealistic expectations can create irrational unconscious rules in areas such as work, relationships, exercise, body image, school, and social interactions.

Expectations such as striving for the house to always remain clean, expecting yourself to be able to work out 5 days a week, expecting yourself to always make all A’s, or aiming to please everyone. 

The list of unrealistic expectations is endless.

The cycle of thoughts start to manifest in different ways that create emotional turmoil and self-sabotaging behaviors. 

Perfectionism has been linked to depression, anxiety, a decrease in self-esteem, and even body aches.

It can negatively impact your view of yourself and your relationships with others.

You may be thinking “but isn’t it a good thing to set high goals?”

Yes, but what are you paying for it?

The healthier way of being that you are looking for is a high achiever.

High achievers are fueled by learning as they go. They understand that mistakes and growing pains are part of the process.

When they make a mistake they learn from it and may even ask others for help as they need it. 

Perfectionists on the other hand are often fueled by fear. Mistakes feel scary and there is a looming fear that other people will view you as incompetent if you make them.

One mistake may have you thinking about it the entire week and can send you into a negative spiral.

Then you spend the next week putting in extra hours in an attempt to overcompensate.

Both have the potential to reach the same outcome, but which one seems more balanced?

You have been on this hamster wheel of achievements and frustration and it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere. 

You feel like you never have enough time and are in a state of constant overwhelm with a running list of to-dos.

What would it look like to be able to tap into your creativity, innovative nature, intelligence, drive, and ambition without all the excess waste that you have been carrying around?

What would it be like to accept yourself fully and take reasonable risks?

To become a master in the way your brain works?

To be able to control your internal dialogue so you can show up as a better student, boss, friend, wife, and overall person? 

What would it feel like for everything you have ever achieved to feel “good enough?” 

To actually believe your best is good enough while still accomplishing greatness. 

Yes, there are ways to actively overcome perfectionism, but it won’t fit into just one blog post. 

I think that it is important that you first identify how your perfectionism shows up for you. 

Here are some questions to consider:

What areas in your life have you held yourself to the standard of “perfection?” (academic achievements, relationships, body image, job title?)

How has this standard held you back?

What opportunities have you missed because of it? 

Recognizing these will give you some motivation to start your recovery from perfectionism. 

If you are still questioning if you are a perfectionist, I have created a free pdf perfectionism checklist for you to download!

In future posts, I will be continuing to unpack the many layers of being a perfectionist so that you can continue to work towards your best self. 

Mindfully Recovering,

Lynell 

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