“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and downs, but that’s its beauty.”
– Amit Ray, ‘World Peace: The Voice of a Mountain Bird.
Is Perfectionism Good or Bad?
Perfectionism is one of those qualities that gets lauded in our busy world. People don’t hang their heads in shame when they admit “I am a perfectionist” the same way they tend to when they stand in a meeting of alcoholics or drug addicts. When employers hear someone describe themselves as perfectionists, they envision a strong work ethic, personal responsibility and high standards. However, there is a dark, shadowy side to perfectionism. It can run amok and become self-destructive and corrosive to relationships.
A perfectionist, by definition, is a person who “refuses to accept a standard short of perfection.” Anything less than flawless is unacceptable. This definition means there is literally no margin of error in any avenue of life. Everything they think, say, or do must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time. Imagine the pressure of having to be right all of the time.
Most people understand that is impossible, and the gap that results is tremendously frustrating.
Every time a perfectionist falls short of their goal, they fail. There is either perfection or imperfection, and it is a very all or nothing existence.
Someone else might be able to make a mistake and understand that it is a normal, good and healthy part of life, but a perfectionist thinks, “if I make a mistake, then people will see that I am unacceptable.”
Even when they achieve their goal, this is often not good enough for the perfectionist. There is usually something they find they “should” have done just a bit better or known “just a bit more about.” It can be highly frustrating as a perfectionist, constantly missing the mark and fearing that you never measure up.
Imagine being in a relationship with someone who has to be right all the time, or their world is shaken. Imagine being with someone who is constantly on the lookout for mistakes and is never satisfied with reaching the goal.
It is no easy task to walk along life’s path with a perfectionist in any capacity: parent, child, boss, employee, friend or foe. The standard is perfection, and they must uphold it.
Anyone who challenges that will be seen as a threat and trigger the perfectionist to protect themselves by lashing out or shutting down or whatever ways they have learned as their fight-flight pattern. A perfectionist will use blame, criticism, gas-lighting, and many other coping strategies when they feel they are losing their perfect status.
Am I a Perfectionist? Does this sound like you (or someone you know?)
Perfectionists tend to:
Procrastinate: They will be working on the project in their head, but avoid putting anything down on paper or avoid committing to something in case they get it wrong
Miss deadlines: They want to have the “best” presentation, project, assignment, painting etc. and will continually work and re-work it until the deadline has passed
Have trouble trusting others: think “I have to do everything myself” but really are afraid to let go of the reins in case someone’s mistake reflects poorly on them
Be afraid to try new things: they stick to what they know well, even if bored to tears rather than look foolish trying something they can’t be the “best” at
Hate spontaneity: a perfectionist likes to be prepared; surprises are unwelcome deviations and create anxiety and panic
Compare themselves to others: watch for flaws in others to feel better about their own performance and feel less than when someone else is excelling.
Write mile-long to-do lists: enjoys crossing things off but tends to beat themselves up over the ones left undone.
“Shoulds” all over themselves: Thinks “I should look, feel, do, be, know,” more regularly.
Be one dimensional: giving everything they’ve got at the office, they have nothing left and are zombies at home.
So What if I Am?
If you are a perfectionist, your need to be perfect is probably robbing you of something essential: powerful peace. Powerful peace is more than just calmness or relaxation, and it is more than happiness. Both of these are feelings that can be induced and, like all emotions, are temporary.
They come, and they go, they ebb and flow, they rise and fall based on a variety of internal and external factors.
Powerful peace is a state of being that you achieve when you discover who you are and realize it is enough. Your worth is not conditional, and it is not based on anything you accomplish or don’t accomplish. You are worthy because you are divinely, uniquely created to be exactly as you are.
How Do I Go From Perfectionist to Powerfully Peaceful?
Here are 10 habits to Take You From Perfectionist to Powerfully Peaceful:
1. Plan your day the night before:
give up the mile-long to-do list and plan your day after you have spent some quiet time journaling and evaluating how today went. Consider what you did really well. What allowed you to achieve your goals today? Consider what you struggled with, what obstacles presented themselves in your day. Can you overcome them tomorrow? Are there resources you can tap into? Commit to no more than 6 things for your day tomorrow and write them down, along with the steps you will take to make them happen.
2. Get connected:
find someone to help you stay grounded in reality and be accountable. I help my clients work on specific affirmations that are unique to them. If you are a perfectionist, statements such as: “My best is more than enough”, “Everyone makes mistakes”, and “I am a divine creation, and I honour my unique gifts” might be helpful when you find yourself “shoulding” yourself or comparing yourself to others.
3. Self-reflect every day:
develop a daily practice of self-reflection. Go inside to discover who you really are, not who you have been programmed to believe you have to be to gain love and acceptance. Through a practice of meditation, visualization, and journaling, you will find the love and light already exists, and it has been there all along.
4. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude:
open your eyes to all the positive and beautiful gifts that are yours. As your appreciation grows, your need for external validation lessens.
5. Try something new:
let go of the need to be good at it. In fact, pick something deliberately that you are NOT good at and embrace it. Like someone trying to overcome a fear of flying, you are trying to overcome something that is holding you back from living life fully, so dive in.
6. Be more spontaneous:
start by speaking without preparation. You don’t need a script to say something every time you open your mouth. While you stand in line for a coffee, say “hi, how are you today?” to the person next to you. Not only are you practising spontaneity, but you are also being kind, and you never know, you might be the only person who takes an interest in that soul today.
7. Focus on growth, not perfection:
instead of trying to be “the best” person in the room, find a group of people that inspire you. Who do you admire in your industry? Seek out successful people who are well rounded and have qualities you aspire to and ask them questions about what inspired them. Who do you admire in life? We rise to the vibration of the 5 people we spend the most time with, so choose wisely.
8. Be a whole person:
regularly evaluate all spheres of life: family, relationship, friendship, career, finances, health & wellness, love life, personal growth/ego and spirituality. Respond to imbalances in a timely fashion to maintain mental and physical well-being.
9. Accept physical imperfection:
Look in the mirror and see yourself as you are and for each “flaw”, say thank you: “thank you for these freckles; they represent the time I have spent in the sunshine.”, “thank you for these wrinkles; they represent the time I have spent on this earth and another day alive.” “thank you for this belly; it holds my womb and represents my femininity.”, “thank you for these scars; they represent how my body heals inside and out.”
a Buddhist principle is helpful here. “Remembering that everyone is our kind mother opens our heart wide and leads to great compassion.” Of course, this assumes you love your mother, but even if your mother was the worst, you wouldn’t be here without her. The premise is simple, give others a break. Treat others the way you would treat someone you love, without judgement.
If you are ready to live authentically then the very first step is to find a coach that you trust and that is a good fit. Click this link for a FREE 30-minute consultation and let's explore the possibilities together.