Hi friends, Wendy here! Welcome to the #perfectionistproblems interview series. My mission with The Gratefulist is to help creatives let go of their perfectionism and embrace their perfectly imperfect selves.
I’ve personally learned so much from other people's perfectionist stories and that’s why I’m sharing these stories in a weekly interview series on the blog, in the hope of helping you deal with your perfectionism. Reading about personal experiences is a powerful thing and I believe there’s so much you can learn from these stories and insights.
Today, I’m very grateful to share Jennifer Burger from simplyfiercely.com ‘s perfectionist story. Over to you Jennifer!
In what way does perfectionism show up in your life?
I’m a bit of an odd perfectionist. I’m not neat, organised, or always overachieving (all the stereotypes!) and I’ve taken a lot of big chances in life with things like travel and relationships. When it comes to the big stuff, I’m actually very comfortable when things are unpredictable and messy - so for a long time, I didn’t think I was a perfectionist at all.
But over the past few years, I’ve learned more about perfectionism and I’ve also been working hard to become more self-aware - and in the process, I realised perfectionism does play a huge role in my life after all.
Specifically, I really struggle with the simple, everyday things! I’ll rewrite a short email over and over again, or I’ll be reduced to tears if a dinner I cooked doesn't taste like I hoped, or I’ll quit a new workout on Day 1 if it’s tougher than I expected. I also struggle with self-confidence and comparisons - about my blog, my appearance, my home and more.
This might not sound like a big deal but the sum of these little actions and disappointments really impacts my quality of life. When I don’t manage my perfectionism, I’m moody, negative, and I give up on things before I’ve had the chance to even try.
Why do you think perfectionism is such a dream killer?
I think perfectionism is a dream killer because it can be paralysing. When I’m dealing with perfectionism, my instincts tell me to give up, to quit, and to run away and hide … and obviously, if we give into these instincts, we’ll never achieve anything!
How does perfectionism affect your soul and success, both in work and life?
Whenever I let perfectionism get the best of me, it really affects my self-confidence and my outlook on life. I go from being a sunny, positive person to having a negative, defeatist attitude.
I absolutely hate feeling this way, but I really struggle to control my emotions. It really just goes to show how deep-seated my fears and self-doubts really are.
What does embracing imperfection mean to you?
Embracing imperfection is about rolling with the punches and letting go of expectations. Also, because I really struggle with the small things, it’s about stepping back, looking at the big picture, and finding perspective.
What’s the single most important thing about perfectionism that’s holding you back?
I think my biggest problem with perfectionism is dealing with failure and criticism. This is why I’m not afraid of big risks (like moving to a new country); it’s such a huge adventure that there’s no clear definition of winning or losing.
But the small things? Like following directions, or writing a blog post, or styling my hair - these things feel achievable. I should be able to do these things perfectly, so when I can’t … well, I feel like a failure.
Tips and tricks about dealing with perfectionism? Share them!
To be honest, I’m still very much learning how to handle perfectionism! It’s definitely not easy and will take practice, but the two things that are helping me the most right now are journaling and self-care.
Journaling helps me because it brings self-awareness. I think one of the tough things about perfectionism is it’s not always immediately obvious. Sometimes there is a fine line between perfectionism and hard work and it’s not always easy to tell the difference.
This is where journaling helps me. When I record how I’m feeling, it’s easier to see if I’m on a positive loop (“This is good, but if I did this it would improve things.”) or a negative loop (“This is hopeless, what is the point of trying?”). If I’m stuck on a negative look, then I know perfectionism is to blame!
Often, just acknowledging the problem is enough to turn things around, but if not, I’ll usually turn to writing a gratitude list. (Something I learned from you, Wendy!)
If I’m really struggling, I’ll turn to self-care - although it’s worth mentioning that when I practice self-care regularly, it helps keep me from succumbing to perfectionism in the first place!
I think this works because when you practice self-care, you’re sending yourself the message that you matter. Making yourself a priority is good for your confidence and in turn, this helps you bounce back when life isn’t perfect (and inevitably, it isn’t!).
Share a favorite quote or mantra that you use to remind yourself that who you are and what you do is good enough?
I love to be reminded of the power I have over my own life, so one of my favourite mantras is “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
It makes me feel bold and defiant; it’s less about feeling good enough and more about it not mattering. I am who I am - messy at times but also wonderful, because this is who I want to be.
WHO IS THIS PERFECTLY IMPERFECT, SOUL-CONNECTED CREATIVE?
Jennifer is a traveller, minimalist and dream chaser. You can find her writing at Simply + Fiercely, where she helps women create lives they love through simple and intentional living. Originally from the States, she now lives in Queensland, Australia - because once you go subtropical, you never go back!
Wendy, again! Phew, that was SO powerful! Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your story so courageously. Make sure to show Jennifer some love in any of the places linked above.
Are you inspired by Jennifer's story and ready to let go of your perfectionism? Make sure to download my FREE perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click the button below!