The Truth About Perfectionism
I used to wear the label "Perfectionist" as a badge of honor. I thought it symbolized that I was a detail-oriented, high-achieving leader! And it did...for a while.
However, after my wedding day panic attack, I realized that being a perfectionist also hurt me in a lot of ways; especially with the stress and pressure that I put on myself. For the first time, I started to ask myself questions like, why was it so important for me to be perfect, what was I really striving for, what does perfectionism even mean?
Here are a few definitions of perfectionism that I found:
“A refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.”
“The need to be or appear perfect.”
“A personality trait characterized by a person's striving for flawlessness, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations.”
Now here’s the definition that stopped me in my tracks:
“Perfectionism is an attempt to avoid
all rejection, all criticism and all failure.”
BAM. There it was. This one little sentence told the truth that I was too afraid to admit. For me, perfectionism wasn’t even about being perfect. Perfectionism was all about avoiding the things I was most afraid of; rejection, criticism and failure.
So, why am I sharing this story with you? Because I've finally learned the truth about perfectionism and you deserve to know it too.
1. Perfectionism is not limited to Type-A, overachievers. Perfectionists come in all shapes and sizes. Sure, there are high-achieving perfectionists but there are also perfectionists who procrastinate because they're afraid to fail, there are perfectionists who create art but never share it. The list goes on and on! The common thread among all perfectionists is fear. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Perfectionism is actually all about fear. It finally clicked that wanting to be “the best” wasn’t just about having high standards. I was actually pushing myself closer and closer to burnout because I was terrified of experiencing rejection, criticism or failure. That got me thinking. What was I really so afraid of? What did it mean if I was rejected? Why did I take criticism so personally? What would happen if I actually failed? The truth was, I thought that experiencing rejection, criticism or failure meant something terrible about me. I was afraid it meant that not only did I fail but that I was a failure. This brings me to my final realization...
3. We use perfectionism as a tool to earn our worthiness. Unfortunately, I didn't have a strong sense of worthiness on the inside so I thought, if I could just be perfect enough, then I'd be able to earn my worthiness from others. I wasn’t even discerning. I gave anyone and everyone the power to judge me – my parents, my bosses, my siblings, my peers, even well-dressed anonymous New Yorkers on the street. I allowed myself to become a people-pleasing, workaholic, detail-obsessed perfectionist who occasionally dimmed her light in order to let others shine.
Now here's the real reason I’m telling you all of this.
If you see yourself in this story, I want you to know that you are worthy and you are not alone. I also want you to know that it's possible to build that worthiness from the inside out. I know it because I’ve done it. In fact, I’m still doing it!
If you’d like to build your worthiness or you just want more info on working with me