7 Lies of Perfectionism
1. If people know my struggle they will think less of me. Image is everything. People can only see my good side. If they see my weakness, I’m hooped.
Often the idea that we must project the right image in order to succeed leaves us feeling inadequate and very much a failure when it’s discovered we are less than the perfect image we attempt to portray. Authenticity can’t shine through, unfortunately. People relate well with others who struggle and are willing to share that struggle. That sense of being able to identify with another person builds trust and connectedness.
2. If I say ‘no’ I’ll be shunned.
Is this you, per chance? I have spent most of my adult life trying to balance my yeses and no’s. We live in a society that promotes the super hero, I can do it all mentality. We strive to do it all because we want to feel accepted and appreciated, and feel if we say no that we are either hurting or depriving the other person. This typically sets us up again for a sense of failure when we can’t possibly meet all the expectations we’ve committed to, or even expect from ourselves.
3. If I’m perfect maybe I won’t be hated.
If I do nothing wrong, if I say the right thing at the right time, if I’m nice….it will gain the love of those around me. I tend to think when someone presents themselves as such, they become unapproachable and many of us tend to avoid or at least not open up with this person, assuming they will either judge us or think less of our imperfections.
4. If I’m all things to all people I’m a good person. I’m the strong one, the one everyone needs to rely on.
Trying to be all things to all people is a pretty simple definition of insanity. It cannot be done, and when we try it is far too easy to disappoint someone at some point. The fallout from it becomes a good ol’ inner beating that makes us feel far less than…..perfect.
5. I’m responsible for others’ happiness.
When we take on the responsibility of ensuring those around us are happy, it becomes almost martyrdom, don’t you think? We feel better about ourselves for being THAT person – the one who gives everything up for the sake of another, thinking that it’s right and good and somehow we’re close to being Heaven’s best. What that does, however, is place a burden on us that isn’t ours to carry. It is also somewhat delusional to think that others’ happiness depends on our ability to provide it. Truth: we are each responsible for our own happiness and when another is not able or is unwilling to accept that in themselves, it is their issue and not ours. A very tough one, this 5th one, for people-pleasers. Have I mentioned that I’m speaking from experience?
6. I can’t mess up or I’m doomed to failure.
I have one kid who used to cry if they didn’t get 100% on their tests…in Grade 1! I have another who up until recently figured that if it couldn’t be done perfectly the first time, there’s just no point in doing it at all, now is there? Why is it so crucial that we don’t mess up? Some of the greatest inventors ‘messed up’ repeatedly – or alternatively they considered it a learning process. “Well, that didn’t work, I guess we can eliminate that process. Next!” How sweet it would be if we could truly look at our mistakes as learning opportunities and stop the inner dialogue that tells us our mistakes define us as losers. So. Not. True.
7. Perfection makes me indispensable.
Even the most gifted are not indispensable. Needs change, policies change. In an ever-evolving world, no amount of perfectionism will secure our roles or careers. Doing tasks perfectly does not equate to innovation or creativity. Heart and spirit, willingness to adapt, coming up with brilliant solutions or possibilities? Those are qualities that far surpass an impossible attempt at perfection.
While it is common for those of us who strive for perfection to spiral downward when goals aren’t achieved, it is not a peaceful or harmonious way to live out the one life we’ve been given to experience and enjoy. How do we combat these tendencies in a manner that doesn’t undermine our desire to do well?
- Pursue excellence, not perfection. When approaching a project, go at it with, “I will do my utmost, and that is enough.”
- Ask for help when we’re in over our heads.
- Ask for feedback. Ask the questions – Are my expectations unrealistic? Am I being too picky? Where can I lighten up?
- Recognize perfection as an oxymoron. There is no perfect person, nor will there ever be. Excellent ones? Millions of them…
- Test the waters – try vulnerability in a safe scenario and see where it takes you. When people can identify with you, they immediately like you!
- Live in the moment. Enjoy it. Savour it. Recognize how precious it is, and that at the end of the day, being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Why is it “7 Apples on a Saturday Night”? – explained here.