Perfectionism comes in many disguises, yet is logically impossible to achieve. Whilst we all know that, we don’t necessarily believe it right into every cell in our body.

We hear praise heaped on the “perfect” ones and wonder why we weren’t included. We see those with the perfect looks, figure or voice getting picked from the crowd, when we want to be the one. We watch other more perfect team mates get opportunities, promotions and bonuses that we crave.

I know these stories. As a Pilates teacher, my story is the way I look as I demonstrate equals my credibility to teach – if I wobble or my tummy pops out, then my students will have less faith in me. As a daughter, my story is that I’m too sensitive to belong as that’s what has been said to me when I get upset. As a Coach, my story is I should be the example of the authenticity, vitality, joy that my clients crave or why would they work with me?

None of these are true, but it doesn’t stop me trying to be perfect. Can you relate? What stories do you hold to be true about perfectionism?

Perfectionism: Woman with her hand over her eyes, looking tired and frustrated with the task ahead of her

Why do we believe perfectionism is important?

It protects us by giving us a sense of purpose and control, as well as an excuse. It protects us from feeling big emotions like shame, failure or even joy. It protects us by enabling strategies like avoidance, fantasising or overworking. 

We believe in perfectionism as an ideal, an absolute or right way, something to aspire to.  We believe it will allow us to fit in, to meet the standards and expectations of us, to satisfy those around us of our value or worth.

Perfectionism pairs beautifully with over working and over giving. That bitchy mode we sometimes find ourselves in with ourselves and with others or the martyrdom we create to feel needed as we rescue people, tasks or events.  Let’s not forget it goes hand in hand with unleashing our critic’s irritation in our perceived slips or trips.

Perfectionism: Mixed race woman, sested in front of a bright orange wall. She's looking at her laptop in frustration with her right hand raised.

Where you try to be perfect?

I’ve noticed my perfectionism shows up in differently in different aspects of my life and more strongly when I’ve not met my needs. Is it similar for you?

Anything work related I tip into either do more and more depending on how confident and comfortable I am with the task to avoid negative feedback, judgement or disappointment. Or I avoid doing anything all together if things I am really invested in but feel unsure how to move forward.

With my loved ones, I have tended to become all consumed with overgiving and burning myself out in order to feel loved and a sense of belonging. 

Avoidance also crops up for me when I believe I can’t achieve my personal desires and thus risk feeling inadequate or like I’m letting myself down. It opens up a raft of excuses I can use to deflect decisions, avoid action and fake acceptance of my “lot”.

Take a moment to reflect on the last week – where did perfectionism show up for you? What did you do or not do? How did your thinking and feeling change? What was the story you were telling yourself?

 

Perfectionism: woman on white sofa, arm outstraetch across the back and her head hanging back.

I’ve been reminded this week of the saying “done is better than perfect” as my desire for perfectionism before I launch a new idea has kicked in. 

I’ve moved forward slowly last week – I’m nearly done and it feels good. My story of the “perfect” I should achieve isn’t true and I can play with new ways forward safely. Can you?