Overcoming Perfectionism

One woman’s story:

“There’s nothing perfect about me, and I’m okay with that… now.

As early as grade school I wanted perfection. I remember asking my mom to buy me a stack of lined notebooks and colored pens. I spent hours neatly labeling each notebook by class, date, and assignment deadlines. If I made one mistake, like a jagged cursive letter or a misspelling, I’d rip out the page and begin again on a fresh sheet. This was a tiring task but it was also a compulsion — I insisted that everything had to be neat and orderly. Or else… ??? Or I’d be out of control, scared, and overwhelmed.

When my parents divorced I was shocked because they rarely fought. I had no idea for how to deal with my intense emotions. I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and I intuited that anger wasn’t a acceptable in our family, especially for women. It wasn’t ‘Christian’ enough or loving enough… or good enough.

I felt a burning inside. But I never let it get too hot. I played the good child, the loving daughter and sister, but my life was out of control.”

No matter the root causes of your perfectionism or your desire for it, know that it’s actually a desire for love and acceptance, even if from yourself.

Perhaps you inaccurately concluded that the only way to be loved was to do everything right.
Maybe you feel the need to challenge yourself to ‘be bigger’ and ‘do better’ in your work and your relationships. That’s not a bad thing. But there’s a difference between striving for growth and wanting to reach perfection.

  • Overcoming Perfectionism Requires Surrender

  • Perfectionism is about fear — fear of criticism, of losing control, and so trying to control everything So as to avoid being rejected – by anyone or anything. One mistake could mean abandonment.
  • Striving for growth, unlike perfectionism, is about (lovingly) pushing ourselves to be the best person we can be, given the current situations in our lives. Growth is okay to strive for. Perfectionism is not.
  • Surrender is about accepting where we are in any moment, knowing that we are a work in progress. It requires self-forgiveness.
  • Tips to Manage Perfectionism

  • 1. Laugh
  • Having a sense of humor about ourselves and our actions, especially embarrassing or disappointing experiences, doesn’t have to be a form of defense or protection. Humor can heal or at least create enough dopamine and endorphins to get us through the tough moments. (“What a nut!… Silly me!“)
  • 2. Forgive Yourself
  • Forgiveness is actually an act of kindness to the self and it’s not a bad thing. Forgiveness releases us from fear-based thoughts and emotions. It is the gateway to surrendering our perception of control over our lives and over the reactions of those around us. In AA they say, ‘Let go and let god’. Acknowledge our powerlessness to control the universe. (Actually, what a relief!)
  • 3. Know the facts
  • Learning to let go of controlling every detail of your life is called —- ‘wisdom’. The fact is, perfectionism isn’t even possible! And look at the amount of judgement required in deciding what ‘perfect’ is to begin with! Impossible. And miserable. Even if you tell yourself your perfectionism is only about yourself, the truth is, you are judging everyone and everything you deem ‘imperfect’. Miserable for you AND everyone else around you.
  • One person said about her compulsion for perfectionism:
  • “It’s scary sometimes, and there are days when I want to organize and reorganize my desk instead of facing what’s really bothering me.”

  • But those difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging moments pass much quicker when you simply exhale, and surrender to whatever is really going on in the moment.
  • And a sweet sort of softening occurs:

  • If I can accept myself, I can learn to accept others.

  • Isn’t life better that way?
  • She goes on to say,
  • “I may still compare myself to that social media dynamo who effortlessly attracts a huge following on Facebook or avoid looking at myself as I pass a store window for fear of being disappointed by my reflection, but now I just smile and keep going, knowing that this too shall pass.

  • Be kind. Be at peace. Become WISE!

  • Quotes from Erin Dougherty‘s blog.
  • 3 Ways To Break Free Of Perfectionism

    Worth reading – from Off the Web!

     “You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brene Brown

    There’s nothing perfect about me, and I’m okay with that… now. This wasn’t the case for most of my life, though. In fact, I’ve been a perfectionist for almost thirty years. I’m not counting the first five years of my life when I was free to be as messy and magical as I wanted.

    In third grade I asked my mom to buy me a stack of lined notebooks and colored pens. I spent hours neatly labeling each notebook by class, date, and assignment deadlines. If I made one mistake, like a jagged cursive letter or a misspelling, I’d rip out the page and begin again on a fresh sheet.

    This was tiring but it was also a compulsion. Everything had to be neat and ordered or else—or else I’d be out of control, scared, and overwhelmed.

    Before my parents divorced, they rarely fought, but my father’s frequent absences and his coolness toward my sister and me sparked a firestorm in me.

    Expressing anger wasn’t a thing in our family, especially for women. That simply wasn’t Christian enough or loving enough or good enough.

    So I denied my anger and my sadness and, most of all, my fear that my family was breaking apart and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

    Inside I burned like coals after a long night’s fire. I never let it get too hot. I played the good child, the loving daughter and sister, but my life was out of control. Thus began my long dance with perfectionism.

    I tried to be a perfect girlfriend, perfect student, and perfect employee, all the while denying the expression of my full self, imperfections and all.

    At parties, I perfected the art of banter and hosted like no one else. All was accounted for, each detail a way for me to control life.

    I never realized that perfectionism was an attempt to avoid all rejection,                                       all criticism, and all failure.  It was a matter of life or death.

    Perfectionism saved me from drowning, but it didn’t help me to swim. I was treading water, staying safe, and desperately trying to control my reality, which is never truly possible. What I realized later was at the heart of perfectionism is the desire for love and acceptance.

    Life is a practice and when we practice we make mistakes. The desire for love and acceptance are universal desires. There is no shame in mistakes, just an opportunity to learn and to grow.

    No matter the root causes of your perfectionism or your desire for it, know that it is a desire for love and acceptance and there is another path to get there. Maybe your family only showed you love and attention when you did everything right.

    Maybe you feel the need to challenge yourself to be bigger and do better in your work and your relationships. This is not a bad thing. But there’s a difference between excellence and perfection.

    The One Thing You Need to Know to Overcome Perfectionism –  Surrender

    … to the moment, to change, to messiness or imperfection. Surrender is about accepting where we are at in any moment, knowing that we are a work in progress.

    Excellence, unlike perfectionism, is about lovingly pushing ourselves to act, think, relate, and create from the highest part of ourselves.

    Perfectionism is about trying to control the outcome in order to receive love and acceptance.  It’s all about fear.

    Surrender gently tug us toward our own center of perfect humanness. Surrender also invites self-forgiveness, an act all perfectionists need to practice daily.

    3 Tips to Manage Perfectionism

    1. Laugh.

    About anything. Do it often. Having a sense of humor about ourselves and our actions, especially embarrassing or disappointing experiences, doesn’t have to be a shield or form of protection. Humor can heal or at least create enough dopamine and endorphins to get us through the tough moments.

    2. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Most of all, yourself.

    Forgiveness is actually a selfish act. This is not a bad thing. Forgiveness releases us from fear-based thoughts and emotions. It is the gateway to surrendering our perception of control over our lives and over the actions of others.

    3. Surround yourself by free spirits.

    If you can’t find anyone like that in your circle of friends, then read about them or watch movies about dreamers and risk-takers—people who’ve failed or made huge mistakes only to overcome them and create an even better life than they could have imagined.

     • ~ •

    After thirty years of perfecting perfectionism, I’ve finally learned to let go of controlling every detail of my life. It’s scary sometimes, and there are days when I want to organize and reorganize my desk instead of facing what’s really bothering me.

    But those difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging moments pass much quicker when I simply exhale and surrender to whatever is in my heart and in my mind. A softening occurs, and my body finally relaxes instead of being constantly braced for struggle.

    I may still compare myself to that social media dynamo who effortlessly attracts a huge following on Facebook or avoid looking at myself as I pass a store window for fear of being disappointed by my reflection, but now I just smile and keep going, knowing that this too shall pass.

    Edited for readability
    by  Erin Dougherty    Join Erin Dougherty’s mailing list at www.birdsongreadings.com and get a free copy of “Finding Your Personal Mythology.” Or join her Facebook group“The Mythic Life,” all about the everyday hero’s journey.

    What is Codependency?

    When I heard the term for the first time, I thought it was a good thing – like cooperation, co-ops, and interdependency. But in the field of psychology, it actually refers to a style of living that is not so good. According to Melody Beatty, who wrote “Codependent No More”:

    “It’s a condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules which prevent the open expression of feelings as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”

    Codependents’ have low self worth and look for something outside themselves to make them feel “Okay”.  Some try to feel better through alcohol or drugs while others’ may become obsessed with other people’s problems.

    Codependency develops at home. It’s a strategy for survival in an environment where someone else’s needs were seen as more important than yours. If a parent was mentally or physically ill, or someone was raging around and threatening your safety, or any other extreme personality, you might have learned  to always be focused on other’s needs, never even knowing your own needs.

    I think codependency happens when a person believes their worth is about function and not about existence.

    Let me explain.

    We learn to care about ourselves and others’ based on two kinds of love, modeled for us through our caretakers. One – usually considered “masculine” – comes about from feedback that we do things well. The other – usually considered “feminine” – is created from knowing we are lovable because we exist.

    In dysfunctional homes, our self worth cannot be confirmed.

    Members of these families tend to believe the problems around them are their fault, thus becoming obsessed with trying to fix things that are, frankly, beyond their control.

    You can also become codependent if your home environment doesn’t nourish your spirit. Parents that fail to compliment you, that are neglectful, or do not provide proper supervision to help you feel safe, can lead a young person to doubt their worth or ability to manage life.

    They learn to seek “worthiness” through sources outside themselves.

    Like drugs.

    Like alcohol.

    Like approval.

    Like being perfect.

    I became codependent with my family. I became codependent with alcohol. I had many traumatic events that you might understand, even forgive. But the bottom line is… I thought “I” wasn’t enough to manage these things. So I drank – a lot. I justified it because I had my “boundaries”: never before 6pm,  when I had my kids (I’d recently divorced), and never when I worked.

    But my life, subtly, became controlled by my need for the substance. I’d always know how long I had to wait before I could imbibe; I’d calculate if I had “enough” for … whatever. I became convinced that everything good about me was because of who I became when I drank.

    I was so, so, so very wrong.

    Find a counselor if you doubt your worth, if you have a history of “bad” relationships, if you can’t sleep well because of worries outside your control.

    “You are responsible for helping yourself see the light and for setting yourself straight. If you can’t get peaceful about a decision, let it go. It’s not time to make it yet. Wait until your mind is consistent and your emotions are calm. Slow down. You don’t have to feel so frightened. You don’t have to feel so frantic. Keep things in perspective. Make life easier for you.” ~Melody Beatty

     

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