Self-Perfectionism is the Problem.
Updated: Jun 12
Why do you do (or don’t do) certain things, and is it tied to the need to be perfect?
● Why do you go to the gym? To be skinny for others or to take care of yourself?
● Why don’t you take that painting class you’ve always wanted? Are you afraid your first attempts will be embarrassing?
● Why don't you join the improv group down the street? Are you afraid they are better than you and they will judge you?
● If no one saw you do something, would you still do it?
● If you couldn’t share your experience, would you still do it?
● Who would you be if people thought your actions and ideas were amazing? Would you feel freer to express ideas and be involved?
Although we have been led to believe that perfection is the goal and that lack of perfection is the reason we are unsuccessful, this is not true.
Perfectionism isn’t a goal. It isn’t something you can check off a list; perfection is impermeant. Perfectionism is a series of fleeting moments that are not destinations one can rest at for long. No one reaches perfection; they only stop there momentarily before moving back into the space inhabited by the rest of us. Perfectionism is constantly changing and is always fleeting.
Seeking perfectionism in life can lead to great unhappiness.
We tend to think that being perfect (without flaws) will lead to feelings of worthiness, but that is the furthest from the truth.
Trying to be always perfect can lead to some unfulfilling habits.
Habits that contribute to and promote feelings of worthlessness rather than feelings of worth.
Debunked “truths” about perfectionism:
We tell ourselves; I cannot struggle because that is weak. If I am weak, I am unloved. Studies have shown that those who show vulnerability are highly likable and more believable, and many people feel more connected to those who can show vulnerability through weaknesses.
This can be things like not knowing how to do something, admitting mistakes, and healthily laughing at yourself. In actuality, those things are beautiful to others.
We tell ourselves that if we aren’t working toward perfection, we will stop achieving or having goals. This is silly. We will all continue to complete but will be able to do so through learning and flexibility rather than rigid steps that might hinder the goals in the long run. Our goals and tasks may become more collaborative, and we may find mentors and gurus as we work toward more important things. We may decide that past goals no longer serve us and move on to new ideas and benchmarks.
Some of us do not do or try new things because being an amateur is weak or embarrassing. But the truth is, you can only perfect a skill if you are willing to be imperfect.
You also miss out on many fun activities with others that you might enjoy.
Everyone you know that is talented or very good at something was once an amateur at their current skill. You can’t learn something new without being an amateur first. Being willing to be a newbie is surprisingly liberating.
We confuse high standards with perfectionism.
High standards are not perfectionism.
High standards are boundaries you have set for yourself, such as, “I will not accept a job that underpays me” or “I will not date someone angry all the time.”
Or high standards are goals you have for yourself, such as, “I will buy a house by the time I am 30” or “I will make enough money not to have to buy thrifted clothes unless I want to.”
High standards are just things you make up based on either the values you have or the values other people have.
Some high standards we have are only ours because we feel the pressure from society to maintain such standards for ourselves. Often these high standards are linked to money, status, and possessions.
But, like anything, high standards need to be balanced. Suppose your high standards prevent you from learning new things, being open-minded, or having fun with people in healthy ways. In that case, you should consider balancing your criteria with healthy exploration and unique things.
One thing is for sure; Perfectionism is pressure.
And Pressure can lead to anxiety.
Sometimes we perceive the pressure as the judgments of other people. Our need to be perfect is tied to what others think of us.
But who are these other people? The judgments of others are usually thoughts we have created in our own minds. Think to yourself, who is judging me? Do I know this for a fact? Have they told me so, or is it just something I think they are thinking? Have I extrapolated this idea due to things they have said in the past? Is this my assumption or a truth?
Unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that other people expect you to be perfect, then you must entertain that this idea is only an assumption on your part and that it might not be something they actually feel.
If you have surrounded yourself with judgmental people, consider reevaluating that group.
Do they really care about you if they are constantly judging you?
Find a balance between those that judge and those that accept you as you are. You will be surprised how many people will take you as you are because they want the same acceptance.
Sometimes we judge because we feel that is what everyone else is doing, which is the expectation. One brave person standing up for acceptance can change the dynamic of the whole group.
Now that you know a little about it, do you think you indulge in the self-perfection model? Here are some characteristics to help you decide.
· You can become easily Overworked. You take on all group tasks and try to do them without asking for help. You are a yes person. You are a people-pleaser.
· You will go above and beyond, and you are constantly seeking praise.
· You are a procrastinator – the pressure to start is too much. The fear of not being perfect at the job or task at hand makes you afraid to start.
· You are not trying or learning new things because you can’t be perfect the first time. You are worried about being judged by others.
· You are pointing out flaws in yourself to others. You want to point out your flaws before others judge you for them.
· Perfection keeps you from intimacy. You are not cute enough. You can’t be naked with the lights on or look at yourself in the mirror because you aren’t perfect.
· You can’t have deep relationships because people will discover who you are. You don't have deep friendships because you can't tell other people your ideas for fear they will think your feelings and thoughts are stupid.
· You can’t enjoy things like food, clothes shopping, or swimming because you feel your body is imperfect, so other people will think you are ugly.
· You want to avoid traveling because you fear not knowing the culture or norms.
How to change your view of needing to be perfect?
Increase your tolerance for imperfection and being okay.
Be okay with being uncomfortable. With learning new things, with having new experiences.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
In other words, go out of your comfort zone.
Do things that get you out of your comfort zone, learn something new, talk to a stranger, go somewhere new, do something alone, join a new group, or start a new hobby.
When you feel uncomfortable, check in and thank yourself for leaving your comfort zone.
Say to yourself that you are worthy right now. Do this every day. You won't believe yourself at first but keep going!
If possible, look yourself in the eyes, use a mirror, and say out loud to yourself that you are fine, just as you are, and smile at yourself. Do this every day.
When people accept you without conditions, notice it. Notice when you are out of your comfort zone and get a compliment or a kind word. Notice the positive feedback and be thankful.
When you mess up, say to yourself, “I am human. Therefore, I make mistakes but can learn and move on.” If you need to tell me you are sorry, do it. That heals both the person you need to say sorry to and yourself. You will be surprised at the closure you feel when you say you are sorry and really mean it.
If you make a mistake, learn from it. And pat yourself on the back for being courageous enough to learn from mistakes. That takes bravery!
Studies show that your body doesn’t know the difference between you patting yourself on the back or hugging yourself or if it is someone else doing so. So give yourself love when you step out of your comfort zone. Physically pat yourself on the back, provide a self-hug now and then, rub your shoulders, and say well done!
Thank yourself for working toward a happier and more fulfilling life.
The more you do these things, the better and easier it becomes.
Letting go of the need to be perfect is one step to feeling worthy.
Healthy Self Worth looks like this:
Peaceful days are not filled with daily drama.
Calm mind and actions
Freedom to enjoy things just as they are and try new things excitedly.
Ability to listen to your internal wisdom and intuition.
Ability to take good care of yourself.
To Have healthy boundaries.
You can work and move through issues with greater strategy and understanding.
You won’t let a lousy comment define you entirely.
You will be able to give yourself compassion.
You will be able to comfort yourself.
You will not stop having goals and working towards them, but you will do so with more openness and flexibility.
Know that change is not linear. It is forward, backward, upside-down, sideways, and everything else. So be kind to yourself. I have faith in you!
Check out the companion podcast for more (live on May 26th, 2023)!