I am a self-diagnosed perfectionist, plus I may have been told this by a few people. In fact, my perfectionism got in the way of me being able to write this blog. Like most perfectionists, my perfectionism manifests as either obsessing over things being “just so” or procrastinating on doing something because of my fear that I will not be able to make it “perfect”, so why bother?
In some ways my perfectionist tendencies have served me well. I have been able to use it to focus on my goals and get s@#t done. However, the turmoil and despair I have experienced in the process of achieving my goals, has at times been extraordinarily painful and prevented me from being able to enjoy the present moment and the gifts of life. Through a lot of therapy and self-reflection, I have come to learn that perfectionism can be a great tool in keeping us motivated and doing our best, but, unchecked, is a sure way to ruin the true joy we could be feeling on the journey to achieving our goals and living out our dreams.
What is perfectionism?
A simple definition (courtesy of Wikipedia), which I think sums it up pretty well – you suffer from perfectionism if you “are striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding other’s evaluations of you”. I don’t know about you…but I can relate to this.
So How May Perfectionism be Stealing Your Joy?
1) Obsessing over how things “should be”
Being a perfectionist means you are constantly obsessed with how things “should be”. You spend an extraordinary amount of time worrying about everything. What you look like, what you say, what you do, what you know, what you don’t know, how your home looks, how your parents, children or pets look…the list goes on.
This makes it very difficult to accept and deal with the way things actually are and to be able to see the good in situations. Let’s face it – life is not perfect and there are many things we have little control over. So, an inability to accept how things actually are makes life very stressful and can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, which are pretty much the opposite feelings of joy.
Learning to let go of the illusion of control and practice staying in the present moment is the beginning of freeing yourself from the self-imposed stress of perfectionism. Things that may seem like they need to be “perfect” because it will somehow improve the outcome or the way people see you, often in the end, you realize that they don’t really matter because nobody cares or pays attention.
Even if your perfectionism did improve the outcome or led people to be in awe of you, the amount of stress endured to achieve the outcome likely robbed you of the ability to enjoy the journey or the end result.
2) Comparing Yourself to Others
As a perfectionist, we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other people. We are constantly examining our neighbours with critical eyes to see if they are out performing us. This makes life very stressful because while we can all find someone who it seems we are doing better than, we can also easily find someone else who appears to be doing better than us. This means we can never truly enjoy what we have because the value we place on it is in relation to how it compares to others.
With this mindset, it is inevitable that we will miss the gifts of our own life and accomplishments, which is a sure way to steal our joy.
So, if you haven’t quite mastered the art of seeing other’s accomplishments as inspiration to achieving your own goals, then I strongly suggest that you work on keeping your eyes on your own road.
Instead of wasting energy comparing yourself to someone else, use it as an opportunity or cue to practice being grateful. Take a moment to find 1 to 5 things to be grateful for in your own life. This is a fantastic way to finding a feeling of joy.
3) Not Being Kind to Yourself and Others
If you hold yourself to an impossible standard, chances are you are fairly judgmental of yourself and others. Being judgmental causes you to be unkind. You constantly find your inner critic droning on-and-on in your head about things that are wrong with you, other people, situations and the world in general.
This translates to engaging in very negative self-talk, where your mind is continuously beating you up for not being good enough. With others, you express disapproval by criticizing, nit-picking, being condescending and/or controlling.
Living in this energy definitely makes it next to impossible to feel joy.
By letting go of the illusion that perfectionism is possible and learning to embrace the imperfections in yourself and others, you become a kinder person. This allows you to engage in self-acceptance and self-love. When you become kinder to yourself, you are able to be kinder to others, which means you can be a person who uplifts and encourages others, instead of putting them down.
In the wise words of Jane Fonda - “We are not meant to be perfect; we are meant to be whole.”
I would love to hear from you about your struggles with perfectionism. Please comment in the section below.
My passion is to help people discover their truth, so if you’re curious about how I can help you on that journey, please reach out and send me a message to book a free 30-minute consult.
Looking forward to connecting!