There are two topics that are featured heavily on this blog: perfectionism and gratitude. I recently wrote an entire blog series about all the ways perfectionism shows up in and negatively affects your life called #perfectionistproblems.
A little bit further back in time I wrote about 7 ways practicing gratitude benefits you, how to practice gratitude, and 8 tips that make practicing gratitude a lot easier.
You might wonder how these two topics are related. How do perfectionism and gratitude interact with each other? You’ve come to the right place, my friend, because today I’ll tell you aaallllllll about it. :)
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Gratitude is the #1 strategy for overcoming perfectionism. Scientific research says so, hundreds of women I’ve talked to who are struggling with perfectionism and/or who are practicing gratitude say so, but I also know this from personal experience. I’ve been there. I’ve lived it. (I even wrote an ebook about it.)
Previously I shared my journey from Perfectionist to Gratefulist on this blog. I’ve even created a roadmap of what it takes and the things I value on my journey towards becoming a Gratefulist. What you might not know, because I haven’t shared it before, is that the path from Perfectionist to Gratefulist isn’t random.
Gratitude isn’t just a random value for me, something that I stumbled upon in my personal growth journey. No, I made a conscious effort to start a gratitude practice and incorporate more gratitude in my life. That’s because I knew that practicing gratitude would be CRUCIAL if I wanted to let go of my perfectionism.
Here’s why gratitude is the #1 strategy for overcoming perfectionism.
GRATITUDE AS THE #1 STRATEGY FOR OVERCOMING PERFECTIONISM
As I’ve said many times before, but it bears repeating, perfectionism is not about striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about being uptight, detail oriented, and overly organized. This is what perfectionism REALLY is: 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.'
At the root of this thought pattern lies an assumption: that who you really are isn’t enough. No matter what you do. No matter how hard you try.
When you’re in perfectionist mode you operate from a place of lack. Your perspective is that you’re lacking, your life is lacking, the people around you are lacking, the work that you do is lacking. You believe that you are not enough and so is your life and work. You focus on all the things you don’t have, aren’t good at, have failed at… I could go on for a while here. I bet you can too, because you’re intimately familiar with this way of thinking.
The fastest and only way to snap out of that place of not enough is to focus on ENOUGH. To focus on the things you do have going for you.
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Now, let’s dissect what this means:
Focusing on enough and on the things you do have going for you, that’s the definition of gratitude. Gratitude lets you focus on what’s there. Not what isn’t there or what you wish was there, but on what IS there.
Focusing is a verb. It requires action. It means that you have to do something. That’s why you need to PRACTICE gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just a theoretical concept or a feeling that’ll magically appear. It won’t. You need to put gratitude in action. How? Write a gratitude list (or any of the other practices described in this guide). What you can also do in the moment when you feel yourself slipping back in that place of lack, is to physically take a step back and remind yourself about the things you have going for you and that those things are something to be grateful for.
Below are a few tips on how to go from the perfectionist perspective of lack and not enough to going through life with your gratitude goggles on.
HOW TO USE GRATITUDE TO OVERCOME PERFECTIONISM
“Be grateful for what you have!” That’s the thing you hear most about gratitude, isn’t it? Just focus on what you have. But, to me, that’s a very shallow way to practice gratitude. You can go so much deeper in your gratitude practice than that.
Besides, just focusing on what you have is only the first step in overcoming perfectionism.
The obvious thing to do when being grateful for what you have is to focus on your material possessions. However, you can also be grateful for immaterial things, like friendships, a song you love on the radio, or nature’s beauty.
When you spend a lot of time at work focusing on a big project that doesn’t seem to move forward and you feel yourself getting stuck in perfectionism, you can choose to practice gratitude in that moment. Instead of focusing on the job that isn’t going well, choose to be grateful you have a job at all.
As soon as realize you’re trying to perfect something or you’re focusing on not enough, think about something that you’re grateful for in that situation. This is a great gratitude strategy, that will snap you out of your perfectionist tendencies in no time.
Perfectionism isn’t so much about what you have or don’t have. It’s very much about what you’re doing or not doing. When you’re stuck in perfectionism you’re fixated on the things you’re not doing enough of and if only you did things better or more perfectly you’d feel better and you’d win the approval of others.
“Am I doing enough?”, is the question that’s constantly on your mind. And the answer is always ‘No’.
Now, what if you approach the question “Am I doing enough?” not from a place of perfectionism, but from a standpoint of gratitude? In that case, you’d answer that question with a resounding ‘YES!’. You’d focus on all the things you are doing. You’d be grateful because of all the things you are doing right. You’d be grateful because you’re doing the right things.
Not only will this gratitude strategy ease your anxiety, it’ll also boost your confidence and self-esteem and give you so much clarity.
This last part, where you use your gratitude practice to go deep into your way of thinking and your beliefs, is where the magic happens.
Perfectionism focuses a lot on the belief that you’re not doing enough. But underneath that belief lies another belief. The belief that YOU are not enough. That you’re lacking, flawed, broken, imperfect, unworthy.
The gratitude strategy with the most impact is to be grateful for who you are. I admit, this is difficult. For most of you, including myself, this doesn’t come easy or naturally. So, why don’t you make it part of your gratitude practice? From now, make one of the three items on your gratitude list about yourself.
Be grateful for who you are. For your character, personality, qualities, talents, mind, body, spirit, soul.
Finish this sentence: I am grateful because I am ...
Kind? Compassionate? A great listener? Strong? Imperfect? Soul-connected? All of the above?
My challenge for you is this: finish the sentence “I am grateful because I am …” each day for a week.
Write your answers down. Repeat the answers to yourself every time you find yourself stuck in perfectionism. Slowly but surely you’ll find yourself feeling better. Practicing gratitude will come more naturally and it’ll be easier to snap out of perfectionism.
Overcoming perfectionism isn’t quick and easy. It takes time and it requires action on your part, each and every single day. Luckily, practicing gratitude doesn’t have to take a lot of time. For me, writing my daily gratitude list takes 5 minutes, at the most.
In the meantime, if you need a little help getting started with your gratitude practice, no matter what type of list you write, sign up for The Gratitude Toolbox. It’s a FREE set of resources to help you add more gratitude to your work and life:
- a cheatsheet with ideas for being more grateful in your work or business
- 30 gratitude prompts for jumpstarting your first 30 days of practicing gratitude
- a progress tracker for an extra boost of motivation and to help keep you on track
- a checklist with tips to help set you up for success
- AND several gratitude journals
Just click on the button below and you can get started with The Gratitude Toolbox right away.
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 start a gratitude practice so that you can let go of your perfectionism. Let’s chat about the hard stuff - like dealing with comparison, your inner critic, procrastination & growing your gratitude - 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.