I have been working for several years now with women, and I hear about perfectionism over and over again. I can fully understand why high-achieving women fall into the perfectionist trap, as it is very tempting to keep pushing yourself harder and harder for more and more. But for how long? Believe me, as much as I love what I do for my work I don’t want my life to become all about it. And my motto is for a good reason: “YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL,” but it took me years to learn how to stop expecting so much of myself, keep the balance, add value and make decisions in alignment with my values.
Perfectionism isn’t about high standards. It’s about unrealistic standards. Perfectionism isn’t a behavior. It’s a way of thinking about yourself. And I am sure if you allow the imperfection to happen, accept it and celebrate it, it can be very liberating for you and your loved ones. Because maintaining all of that can be very exhausting, right?!
Many of us believe perfectionism is a positive. But researchers are finding that it is nothing short of dangerous, leading to a long list of health problems and that it’s on the rise – like, e.g. anxiety, depression, and even suicidal attempts. Perfectionists give up more easily. They have quite avoidant coping tendencies when things can’t be perfect. Perfectionists feel every bump in the road. They’re quite stress-sensitive. So, my question is: do you need it in your life?
When I first started my coaching business, I tried to work every hour to make everything perfect but soon learned if I was going to make the life work I needed balance. And yes, being ambitious is good but not if it dominates everything else.
I have always been the type of person to do my very best, just 110% but I wish I’d known just how busy I’d be. I’d wake at 6.00am and read and then start to work. I’d often find myself finishing a new social media post quickly. After a rushed breakfast and then bringing my kids to school I’d continue my work, getting to my desk no later than 8.45am, making some calls, running client sessions, strategy preparation, sales offers and usually meeting some deadlines. I never left my home office unless all the tasks were completed! Pfff, what a nightmare it was! During an average day I’d pick my girls up from school, driving them to different activities as: judo, dancing, swimming classes then make dinner, checking emails, play with girls, bringing them to bed and try to get a head start on any other coaching/training assignment, social media strategy, meaning I usually head into bed around 10.30pm totally exhausted. Sometimes working a 45-hour week was tough. It was all about making everything perfect. But I must admit that because of my perfectionism there were many times when I didn’t even send my offers or contacted people because I thought that I’m not good enough yet for this opportunity and first I need to get more expertise, extra skill, more experience, etc. I thought that I should have worked harder, I should have done more, I should have read more. It was harsh and nonsense. And on the contrary, it decreased my self-esteem and ability to execute well.
I remember when I read an online article that the rise in perfectionism doesn’t mean each generation is becoming more accomplished, but it says we’re getting sicker, sadder and even undermining our potential, I got terrified. I thought about my two young daughters, how I could help them to understand what life is about, build healthy self-confidence, help them make choices and be of support when they encounter failures. Because when faced with failure, perfectionists tend to respond more harshly regarding emotions. They experience more shame, severe guilt, and anger. That’s not what I want neither for my kids nor my clients.
So, please don’t think about how you should look, behave, what you should achieve or possess. Don’t focus on your deficiencies. Instead, think about your usefulness, a value you can add, and impact you can make. Remove the all-or-nothing mindset. Celebrate every progress, victory, and failure. Aim to be at your best but don’t strive to be perfect. Because attempting to achieving a sense of perfection can be a misguiding belief in your life.
Do you recognize yourself in this trap? Let me know in the comments below.