Since the first two syllables in the word perfectionism are “perfect,” that must mean that perfectionism is a good or even a great thing…something that we should all be striving for…right? Uhhh, unfortunately, that is wrong. Perfectionism is a very unhealthy “ism” that takes us away from enjoying each moment because we are hyper-vigilant in avoiding perceived failure or appearing imperfect.
In breaking apart the word, perfectionism, this happened:
* Perfect. A dictionary search online stated, Perfect is “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.” (Hell yeah, right?)
* Next up…perfection, is “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” (Awesome…no defects!)
* Finally…perfectionism, where “life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. It’s a fast track to unhappiness, and perfectionism is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders…What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure” (Psychology Today). (Oh yay…an endless toxic report card…)
In my blog about expectations, I discussed my drive to get all A’s in my Bachelors and Masters Programs, and how much of this was in an effort to avoid my perception of “failing.” This was unhealthy perfectionism…not getting the A’s but the reason why I had to get them. When I look in the mirror and focus on what is “wrong” over what is healthy and beautiful, this is perfectionism. When I write a blog and second, third, or fourth question it, this is perfectionism. It’s an attempt to escape judgment, criticism, shame or blame (Brene’ Brown)…many times from self. It’s about the fear of not being good enough.
What then, is the remedy for the ‘ism’ of trying to achieve a self-imposed perfect?
Personally, I believe it’s all about self-compassion and authenticity. It’s about unraveling the messages that swirl inside your head and finding some underlying absolute truth to what makes you the unique and amazing person you are. It’s about understanding the reasons that you overachieve or run from perceived flaws or supposed failure. And…many times…it’s one step or issue at a time.
Have I ever said that this being human thing can be challenging?
I think I have. One of the things that I hope to keep repeating (because it will truly change your life) is that it’s not about the situation, the body part, the report card, or the criticism from others that we struggle with…it’s what it means to us. Find your story under the one you tell yourself. Search for the reasons that you avoid judgment (see my blog on judgment) and notice that most of the judgment is self-imposed.
Perfection-ism is a powerfully damaging ‘ism.’
It will rob you of showing up, of happiness, of authentic connection, of living in the moment, and of giving others and yourself your best gift…authentic YOU. If perfectionism is something that has you in its grips, start with self-compassion and in the knowing that perfect is already who you are.
Talk to someone…a spouse, significant other, friend, or coach.
Lastly, in my opinion, it’s all already perfect and perfection, even and especially the challenges. As Pitbull would say, “Every day above ground is a great day.” 🙂 The older I get, the absolute more I know that to be true.
Brene’ Brown. 20090. perfectionism and claiming shame. http://brenebrown.com/2009/03/18/2009318perfectionism-and-claiming-shame-html/
Psychology Today. 1991-2016. Perfectionism. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/perfectionism