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.
  • The Meaning of Life (Wants to be) Revealed!

    Throughout time, people have wondered what life is about — is it all meaningless? Am I here to learn certain things? To resist certain things?

    Regardless of what we believe about our place in the universe, it appears to be our nature to search for meaning.

    And I believe there are patterns in our lives that imply we have lessons to learn during our lifetime.

    We may ask ourselves: Why?…

    Why do I keep getting into abusive relationships?

    Why do I often feel like a victim?

    Why can’t I relax in the moment with friends?

    Why do people see me as unapproachable?

    A HERO’S JOURNEY

    Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and other scholars have placed a lot of emphasis on the unconscious mind— the parts of ourselves that we know little about — yet an essential part of mind, as it controls much of our interpretation or experience of life. These wise men emphasize the need to do whatever it takes to make as much of the unconscious conscious in order to live a full, meaningful, authentic life.

    So how can we make the unconscious more conscious?

    As we journey through our lives, we can learn to interpret our experiences by understanding archetypal characters, looking for symbolism in our dreams, and becoming curious about the characters we relate to in stories.

    1. DREAM INTERPRETATION

    One avenue of discovery is focusing on our dreams, both day and night, and looking for clues in the symbolism. Keeping a Dream Journal, that is, waking and quickly writing down what we recall from a dream, can be a rich clue for unraveling our personal lessons for living a meaningful life. Accuracy isn’t important — it turns out that the words we choose become the clues to the unconscious mind.

    EXAMPLE — I HAD A DREAM … where I had a set of keys that seemed very important, yet I fumbled and dropped them down a storm drain. My oldest brother had to help me retrieve them.

    Symbolism:

    • OLDEST BROTHER, for me, represented maturity, authority, intelligence and wisdom.
    • KEYS represented my responsibility to take care of something important.
    • NEEDING HELP reminded me that, although awkward, it was ok to seek the wisdom of someone wiser than me.

    2. STORIES

    I think another avenue to self-discovery is in reading literature and/or watching shows. The unconscious seems to only be available through indirect means: a kind of charade; or archetypal imagery; metaphor and/or symbolism.

    A good novel reaches around our ego defenses and potentially reveals to us the next step in our developmental journey. We identify with particular characters, abhor others, and may be attracted to others still. When we have an emotional responses to a character’s experiences, we grow ourselves without even trying. Unconsciously we have discovered an archetype just waiting to be given a voice. Music, poetry, even astrology, coincidence and tea leaves can lead to similar self-discovery!

    Each is a potential window into our deepest parts of being.

    • EXAMPLE– I love the story of “Alice In Wonderland“. I even love the

    White Rabbit” song by “Jefferson Airplane”. Without being able to properly understand why I was so touched by the story, I was later able to recognize that it reflected some of my core values:

    • be curious.
    • Question the “rules”.
    • And enjoy the journey — no matter how strange.

    3. Getting FEEDBACK

    Another avenue to getting to the root of our purpose in life is to be open to feedback from others. As risky as this may feel, asking others about what they think of us can be revealing. The key is having a desire to really know who you are.

    “Life is about floating on the seas of turbulence, drifting on the eddies and currents, flowing, and along the way, learning: whatever that may look like for each of us currently experiencing a mortal life.” 

    ~Joanna Hunter 

    EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Living In the Moment

    Have you ever wondered how regularly have you headed to the shopping center, work, or back home without truly contemplating it? And have you eaten a …

    EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Living In the Moment

    Reshaping Our Stories

    Our view of the world has a fundamental tendency to tilt towards the negative.

    That’s exactly why our mind needs to practice intentionality — that is, intentionally reshaping the stories in our mind.

    Studies in neuroplastcity (the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life) suggest we can actually CHANGE the results of earlier experiences, even when trauma occurred. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.

    There is research out of U.C Davis showing that just writing for a few minutes each day about things that you’re grateful for can dramatically boost your happiness and sense of wellbeing.

    On a deeper level, try writing about an event that truly hurt you in some way. After venting (on paper), take a break. Then, re-write your story with the title “A Heroes Journey”. Notice that a change in perspective is a change in reality. Crazy, right?

    Our perceptions are malleable. They are NOT factual.

    PAINT YOUR STORY AS A SURVIVOR HERO!