I have spent most of my life trying to be perfect, helping others, being kind and compassionate with everyone but myself. But when I entered motherhood, I fell into a crisis and had to learn how to overcome perfectionism.
I really couldn't see the light in anything, nothing was fun anymore, and honestly, I wanted to run from all of my responsibilities. I wanted to be the free woman I was before, not all the chores and looking after everyone else.
Is this specific regarding perfectionism?
When Sienna was four, I started seeing the perfectionism traits in her. She was scared of making mistakes; she'd crumble if she got told off, and doesn't naturally talk about things that bother her.
I don't want my kids to grow up with no self-worth!
I'm now on a mission to be ok with being the messy version of myself that I can show my two girls we can learn from our "mistakes" and that "failure" is better than not trying.
"I win, or I learn, but I never lose." Marie Forleo
Shall I better use this in the second part, how-to with kids?
Here are six steps you can implement in your daily life to work towards progression over perfection.
1. Rephrasing mistakes and failures
Why do we think we need to be and do everything correctly? Because we believe that we aren't worth anything if we make mistakes. And here is the point: What are mistakes?
It's a pretty hard word, and of course, we associate negative feelings with it. To overcome perfectionism, let's try to call it something else, cut off the edge of a harsh word that triggers perfectionism. Let's call it learnings instead - and this is how we should treat them.
The same applies to failure. We tell ourselves that we've failed at something, which makes us feel inadequate and lowers our self-esteem even more. There are no mistakes, and there are no failures. There are learnings, set-backs, situations we have to look deeper into and adjust accordingly.
By rephrasing the negative words and phrases we use to put ourselves down like "I am useless," "I can't do anything right," and replacing it with ………… You will see that your perfectionism will be triggered less and less.
2. Set realistic expectations
Perfectionists like myself and most likely you as well, tend to set the bar very high. Especially for ourselves but also for others sometimes, especially the ones very close to us. The higher the expectations, the greater the risk you can't meet them.
We might have learned that we get recognized or loved if we are perfect. But what we do is making our lives and others harder.
Ask yourself, does it matter how something is done if it's done in a way you wouldn't do? Even if the outcome is the same or good enough? The world isn't perfect, why do you have to be? Perfect doesn't necessarily mean better.
You can learn that other ways to do something can result in the same outcome. And all that without the stress you're taking yourself through.
How you can set realistic expectations:
In general, the lower your expectations on yourself and others, the less they won't be disappointed. Doing something another way doesn't mean it's not good enough.
3. Remove Yourself From Competition
Lots of perfectionists are very competitive. We tend to recognize the winners, the successful, and achievers. Your parents might have been happy if you had good grades, won a race or any competition. But winners are not perfect, believe it or not.
How you can remove yourself from the competition:
To be extremely competitive can be seen as a negative character feature. Because perfectionists can indirectly show others, they are not good enough. That's not what you want to do, right? And this is precisely the reason why you've ended up being a perfectionist. It's a learned pattern. If you let others have the lead also, if you ask for help and admit you're not able to do everything correctly, believe it or not, it makes you even more lovable. By asking for help and showing your vulnerability - not weakness - you give others the chance to feel needed.
4. Show Vulnerability
Perfectionists don't usually show vulnerability because we've learned that it's a weakness. But to reveal what's going on inside and be true to ourselves, we are getting closer to living a wholehearted life. Vulnerability isn't a weakness at all! In fact, it's the opposite. We just need to learn the courage to speak up for ourselves.
"Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it dares to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage."
- Brené Brown
To one perfectionist to another, if we look into this deeper, your perfectionism might make you even imperfectly perfect! Be kind to yourself and remember that to show vulnerability is showing courage. It makes you human. And it's what the world and you need right now.
5. Celebrate Your Learnings
We have already talked about getting rid of negative words like mistakes or failure, right? Now we go even a step further towards the learning. Every time you think you've made a mistake or failed in a situation, look at it why you think it didn't work out. Analyze it like it is and not like "I couldn't even get that right". What makes you think you've failed, and was it so important to get a perfect outcome?
The most important thing with situations going wrong is learning from it. We are all only humans, and sorry to say, but we are all not perfect and will never be. Thankfully! We would never improve; we would never learn from anything we do.
As long as you know what you could do better next time, and can implement the learnings in a similar situation, you've come one step further to overcome perfectionism. Or did you ever think about the possibility that it wasn't your fault that the situation itself simply didn't allow it or any other possible circumstances?
Look at children learning to walk. They fall often, but they get up and try again and again until they finally stand on their feet and walk. Do you think they aren't perfect because they are learning? No, right? Why do you expect it from yourself?
6. Relax and enjoy
If you always want to be the best, need to win and be best at everything, and do everything correctly, the fun in life will fall by the wayside. This is the negative spiral towards an unhappy life.
To overcome perfectionism, it helps to relax more, does deep breathing, find a new hobby, step back, and ask yourself if it is necessary right now to succeed. Most importantly - be kind to yourself and work towards falling in love with the messy version of yourself. And try not to put yourself much under pressure. Enjoy life, and celebrate your learnings.
Perfectionists usually suffer from very low self-esteem and have learned a strong behavioural pattern that they are only loved and respected if they succeed or achieve things. Everything is a competition or comparison, and the pressure to "be best at everything" can become unbearable.
The only thing perfect it's you, who you are, right here, right now, with all your imperfections. First, you need to start being kind to yourself, change the language you are speaking to yourself, and learn to listen to your thoughts and feelings to live a more fulfilled and wholehearted life.
To overcome perfectionism, the 3 most important questions to dig deeper on and ask yourself are:
For best results, grab a pen and paper and spend some time to write down the answers to these questions.
Please reach out and comment below what your main struggle is at the moment.