Dodging Bullets : Escaping The Paralysis Of Perfectionism
If you’re anything like I was, you have an image of yourself that you want other people to share. You think people expect that of you, so you pretend to be that person. Overtime, you layer your life with shields of arm that guard the real you. As a result, you can’t authentically interact with people because you are afraid to become vulnerable. I’ve been there. As a recovering perfectionist, I would like to share with you a few tips for escaping the paralysis of perfectionism.
I don’t remember how or when I fell into the trap of perfectionism. I’ve spent decades trying to live up to the image I thought people wanted and expected of me.
I am the eldest child of in my family, and with that came a lot of pressure, mostly self imposed.
I got excellent grades in nerdy classes. I didn’t drink or do drugs. I started my own business when I was 16. I was President of the Fashion Club. I started my high school girl’s lacrosse team.
I didn’t make mistakes. Or so I thought.
The problem was, I did make mistakes. I may sound conceited or full of myself, but that is not my intent. It wasn’t that I believed I was perfect, I just needed everyone else to believe I was. Which meant I had to pretend.
Perfectionism brings a feeling of suffocation and dread at not being able to escape. The joy of life is diminished to feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.
I’ve yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life is filled with peace. To be perfect, would be to be free from all flaws and defects. It is an impossibility and something that can’t ever be reached.
Nobody is perfect – but it seems as if we are always trying to reach a state of perfection. This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do your very best, but with being overly focused on what’s wrong with life.
I believe this stems from fear. The fear that we will be inadequate if we don’t meet our expectations. The fear that the path or the journey to meeting those expectations, won’t be the way we envisioned. This fear tells us that we are not enough.
But, my dear friend – let me be the first to tell you that you are enough!
There is a major difference between striving to be your best self, because you know you are capable of achieving that self, and working to become what you think people want you to be.
Perfectionism is mainly a paralysis of living up to expectations – real or imagined. The key to overcoming it, is changing those expectations.
Focus On The Action, Not The Results
One thing I have learned, is that by focusing on the task at hand, and not the outcome, eliminates the pressure for a specific result.
Stay in the present moment.
Your projected future outcomes, and past failures will spiral you into the dangerous perfectionism trap.
We have to remind ourselves, that it is ok to make mistakes. To find our own way. Making mistakes will allow us to grow into the best possible self that we can be.
Learn to forgive yourself for mistakes.
Give yourself grace.
Remove Your Armor
The more I get to know myself, my unique skills and talents, the more I can appreciate myself for who I really am rather than looking outward for self-validation. I make my own rules.
Ironically, becoming vulnerable has allowed me to step closer to who I really am, not the person I pretended to be for so long.
The longer you act as though you are perfect the way you are, the harder it will be to see where you need to grow.
Once you shed the layers of protection that you have built up over the years, you will give yourself permission to be free. You will most likely breath a sigh of relief.
Give Yourself A Reality Check
When my inner critic begins to battle with reason, and self doubt creeps in, I make an effort to ask myself these questions.
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- How likely will that “worse thing” happen?
- Will this even matter in five years?
Every morning I tell myself something that I am great at. Something simple as, your hair looks awesome today, or you are going to kill your speech. Whatever it is, I choose it for the day and repeat it when I start to beat myself up.
Let’s break this self – imprisoning need for perfection and give ourselves permission to be who we really are.
As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in your life, you will discover how perfectly perfect life already is!
So be you.
Real, authentic, messy you.