Hey friends! I did something scary this week. It was nerve-wracking and exhilarating, totally terrifying and fan-freaking-tastic at the same time. Do you know what it is?
I hosted my very first workshop! Woop woop! #confetti
Something interesting happened while preparing for this workshop about letting go of perfectionism. I’ve been a recovering perfectionist for these past four years now, but doing something new and challenging made the perfectionistic voices in my head come out in full force.
The presentation slides aren’t enticing enough. The workshop is too long. The workshop is not long enough. Nobody’s going to show up. I’ll look very uncomfortable. I’m going to stutter. I'm going to suck.
I know by now that those perfectionistic thoughts are just fear talking. I decided to work through them, face the fear, and do the workshop anyway.
I’m so glad I did! it was such an adrenaline rush. I feel so privileged and grateful that I get to do the work that I do. Almost 45 minutes of valuable, actionable, and practical tips about starting to let go of perfectionism in the next 7 days.
You can watch the video of the workshop at the end of this blog post. But if you want some quick tips to help you on your way towards a perfectionism-free life, keep on reading m’friend. :)
(P.S. Can’t wait for that free perfectionism-busting workbook?)
What is perfectionism, exactly?
To be able to let go of perfectionism, we first need to be clear on what perfectionism exactly is and what it isn’t. Let’s get to it...
Perfectionism is a shield, not a Wonder Woman cape
We tend to think that being a perfectionist is like having a special superpower and if only we could put that superpower to use we’d be successful and noticed and appreciated. We think being a perfectionist is what’ll get us ahead at work or in our business. And more dangerously, we think that if we’re being the perfect wife/parent/friend/daughter/sister our spouses, family, and friends will love us more (or love us at all).
Okay, sister, time for some #realtalk.
I used to think that perfectionism was my superpower. Well, in reality, I was crumbling on the inside. I was insecure that study would be the only thing I was good at. I felt like I didn't fit in. I used study as a way of trying to control a small part of my life as I felt so out of control in the rest of it. Perfectionism was the shield I used to stop people seeing what was really going on on the inside.
Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence
Striving for excellence isn't what perfectionism is about. Striving for excellence would mean focusing on personal growth and healthy achievement: 'How can I improve?' or 'What are my goals?'. When we’re striving for excellence we have a clear vision with goals in mind and we’re steadfastly working towards that vision and those goals.
Instead, being a perfectionist means we're focused on the other and trying to win their approval: 'What will they think? Will they like me? Will they think my effort is good enough?'
There’s a difference between healthy striving (which is internally motivated) and perfectionism (which is externally motivated).
Next time you think 'I need this to be perfect!', ask yourself why. Usually the answer is that you're scared that people won't like you, that it won't be good enough, or that you fear failure, disapproval, making mistakes, and/or being criticized.
Perfectionism is a fear-based response to insecurity and uncertainty
Perfectionism is fear-based behavior. It’s a thought pattern that goes like this: 'If I do this perfectly or have a perfect life or look perfect, I am in control and therefore people can't hurt me or see me for who I really am.'
That feeling of control that we think perfectionism gives us? What we’re really trying to control is how people perceive us or the work we do. But we can't make other people like us. We can't control perception. (Unless, off course, THAT’s your super power.)
Perfectionism is not the key to success
Wouldn’t that be great? That perfectionists are more successful than others? *stares dreamily*
Wake up, missy, we ain’t dreaming. :)
Perfectionism doesn’t help us achieve our goals. In fact, it holds us back and hinders growth and achievement.
How many times have you not done something you actually wanted to do, because knowing you wouldn’t be perfect (or even good) at it right from the start made you anxious? I know I have. For the longest time I didn’t sign up for drawing class, because I couldn’t bear the thought of other people seeing my work.
Perfectionism is not something we’re born with
Again, perfectionism is about being concerned about making mistakes and worrying about what others think. We are not born perfectionists. We pressurize ourselves to become perfectionists, mostly out of fear and anxiety. Sometimes our environment and role models urge us to do so.
How do I let go of perfectionism?
I bet you’re like ‘Okay, okay, Wendy, you have me convinced, but how do I stop being a perfectionist? How do I let go of perfectionism?’ No worries, I got ya! How about these tips?!
1. Understand perfectionism
Read this blog post a few times (and download and use the workbook while you’re at it!). Talk to fellow (recovering) perfectionists. Do a little soul searching and dig deep within yourself to figure out which perfectionistic tendencies and habits you recognize in yourself and how those tendencies and habits influence your behavior and your life.
Also, ask yourself if (and if so, how) your perfectionism is influenced by your environment, role models, and outside expectations. And while you’re at it, ask yourself this:
‘What are some inner beliefs and expectations that have lead me to being a perfectionist?’
‘What do I fear and/or what am I anxious about that leads to me being a perfectionist?’
Realize this is a process that can be painful and exhausting and that may take a few weeks of soul searching and contemplation. The key here is to come to understand your perfectionism and how it impacts your life. If you understand it, you can rise above it.
2. Stop using perfectionism as a shield
After tip #1 this one speaks for itself. You’ve probably come to the conclusion that you’ve used perfectionism as a shield to protect you from something. From the fear of failure, for instance, or the anxious feeling of not being good enough.
Stop doing that. Stop using perfectionism as a shield. However tempting, stop using perfectionism is a defense mechanism against the world. There are much healthier ways to help you cope, such as talking to a coach or finding a creative outlet.
3. Start doing things your perfectionism prevented you from doing before
You can do it. Start small. Pick one thing you’ve always wanted to and start doing it.
Don’t be to hard on yourself, though. The goal of starting this activity is to have fun and not be perfect. Bringing along an accountability partner with you might help you to not slip back into your perfectionistic tendencies.
4. Set achievable goals for yourself
This one’s a toughie, I know. It’s so tempting to set unreasonably high goals for yourself again, but try to refrain from it.
After following up tip #1 you’ve gained insight in how much your perfectionism is a result from limiting beliefs and outside expectations. Tune into what YOU find important. What are YOUR goals? And what is a reasonable time frame for that goal?
Here’s what I want you to do this week...
- Use the workbook to ask yourself some tough questions to better understand yourself and your perfectionism.
- Try out one thing that makes you feel vulnerable and allow yourself to actually feel vulnerable. Leave that perfectionism shield at home.
- Sign up for one activity or event that you’ve always wanted to do or go to.
- Pick one goal for you (and not for your perfectionism).
Let me know in the comments how things are going with implementing the 4 steps to start letting go of perfectionism. Reach out to me if you have any questions or need a bit of encouragement.
You can watch the video of the workshop below. Also, don't forget to download that perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click the button below!
Hi there! I’m Wendy, founder of The Gratefulist and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you let go of your perfectionism. Let’s chat about the hard stuff - like dealing with comparison, people pleasing, your inner critic & starting a perfectionist detox - so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.