I used to label myself a perfectionist. I thought this was an amazing quality to have – one I would throw around in job interviews and brag about to my professors. What I didn’t realize was that my quest for ‘perfect’ was a breeding ground for a lot of self-judgement and shame. It didn’t give me any room to screw up and created some of the most stressful times in my life so far.
I know that for many of us, being perfect is a standard we’ve set for ourselves and falling short of that causes some really toxic thoughts. Perfect is…a) Subjective, so your version of perfect may be totally different from mine and b) Unattainable, there’s always room for improvement in everything we do. With that being said, how can we hold ourselves to such a tall order?
A big part of me believes that my label of ‘perfectionist’ has been the cause of a great deal of shame in my life. It made the work that I was creating in school or at my job a part of me instead of an external extension of me. So when something went wrong, it was also me who had gone wrong. My inner voice would sound like this: “I am a perfectionist and my work is who I am, therefore I didn’t just screw up, I AM a screw up.” See how that can be dangerous?
As soon as I became aware of the consequences of perfectionism, I took a step back and now when I hear the word ‘perfect,’ alarms go off in my head. I have a better understanding that I can’t be perfect and I don’t want to be. Flaws in who I am and the work I create are all exactly as they should be. Getting stressed out and being hard on myself is all a product of perfectionism.
Here’s three ways you can kick perfectionism to the curb.
1. Make space for mistakes. Consider what could go array before you initiate something and allow those things to happen, should they may. This doesn’t mean don’t work hard, but what it does mean is making an intentional effort to accept mistakes. Incorporate this into your morning mantra or meditate on it – find some way to remind your brain that perfection isn’t real and mistakes make life, life. Learn from it and move forward.
2. Ask someone to call you out. Perfectionist qualities are like a bad habit. Recruit someone to hold you accountable to beating it once and for all. This should be someone whom you trust and spend a good amount of time with. Ask them to kindly put you on pause when you’re dipping into old perfectionist habits and help steer you in a healthier, more open and accepting direction.
3. Stop saying it. Just stop saying you are a perfectionist or ‘that’s perfect’ or the word at all. Take it right out of your vocabulary and decide to rid your life of it. As soon as you find awareness of the word, you’ll begin to notice it more and taking it out of your vocab will be easy peasy. Oh and labelling yourself as a perfectionist is just plain silly so stop that too.
I’m not saying for one second that having attention to detail or being meticulous isn’t great. Those are words I’ve replaced perfectionist with and I encourage you to do so too. Just don’t let those qualities take you over the top into a stressed out place that isn’t productive or happy for you and your amazing self.
Have fun making mistakes and loving yourself through it!