We all have a story to tell. What’s your story about dealing with the pressure to be perfect and the struggle of perfectionism?
Today, I’ll be sharing my journey from being a Perfectionist (that’s right, with a capital P) to being the Gratefulist.
I used to be a proud perfectionist. It defined me. I always thought my perfectionism was what set me apart and made me successful. But then, in the middle of a major life transition, I had a reckoning.
This is my story of overcoming perfectionism and the lessons I learned along the way.
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From Perfectionist to Gratefulist: my story of overcoming perfectionism
Hey you, welcome to #perfectionistproblems the show. I’m so excited you’re here!
It’s so awesome to me that you want to spend your time with me this week and hopefully in the upcoming weeks too.
Okay, I’m going to get started.
In this week’s workshop, I’ll be sharing my journey from being the capital P Perfectionist to being the capital G Gratefulist, my story of overcoming perfectionism, and the lessons I learned along the way.
My name is Wendy and I run a website called The Gratefulist where I help stressed-out perfectionist turn into recovering perfectionists. I’ve made it my mission to encourage women to overcome their perfectionism and embrace their perfectly imperfect selves, so that they can finally go all in on their dreams.
I started years ago with a $10 gratitude journal, writing down 3 things I’m grateful for everyday. That journal later turned into a perfectionism journal, when I was tired of my perfectionism holding me back and I had finally mustered up the courage to try and figure out how to slay the perfectionism dragon. It’s crazy to me how a simple, $10 notebook turned into this passion project where I’m giving these workshops to help you (and others like you) let go of your perfectionism.
I’m also an avid beach lover, as you can see. Beaches and bright colors are my jam. I’m a gratitude geek, obsessed with the tv show Scandal, and driving around in my bright red convertible is my guilty pleasure.
From Perfectionist to...
Okay so, let’s start with the before picture, my Perfectionist years…
For years, I thought perfectionism was something to be proud of. When I told people I was a perfectionist I said that with either a self-satisfied smirk on my face or an inward, silent smirk.
So, letting go of perfectionism... a few years ago this would have petrified me. I felt I was strong BECAUSE of my perfectionism. Now I know I was strong DESPITE of my perfectionism.
Let me tell you why.
As a kid, I loved going to school. I was an A+ student and was praised for it. I loved learning and spending hours writing and rewriting papers and study notes.
I thought double.triple.QUADRUPLE checking my work was what made me successful. I was convinced that my perfectionism made me an excellent student and made me get the grades that I got.
All through school and college I proudly called myself a perfectionist. Being diligent, rigid, and extremely detail-oriented, favoring quality over quantity, preferring to work alone, holding myself to high standards, and working in a structured and organized manner; those were just some of my perfectionistic tendencies.
You might recognize them in yourself.
Everything changed when I graduated college after finishing my master’s program and I entered the workplace. Getting my first job was my undoing.
What I found was that corporate culture appreciates speed over diligence, quantity over quality, and group work in project teams over solo work. Basically, everything I didn’t like, wasn’t good at, or couldn’t do perfectly. Needless to say, I was miserable.
That’s when it first dawned on me that my perfectionism didn’t help me anymore. In fact, looking back, it had never helped me.
Because, to be really honest, all through high school and college, 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.
During my college years, my fellow students only saw the perfectionist shield I had put up. It stopped me from making authentic connections and friendships.
Perfectionism was the shield I used to stop people from seeing what was really going on on the inside.
Uhm… woah! Let that sink in for a minute: perfectionism was the shield I used to stop people from seeing what was really going on on the inside.
Give me a “THAT’S ME!” in the comments if this resonates with you.
… being a Gratefulist
That was all I needed to quickly realize that I had to let go of my perfectionism. And I did.
Around the same time I became interested in the benefits of gratitude and I wanted to start a gratitude practice. So I did.
I no longer wanted to be the Perfectionist. I wanted to be the Gratefulist.
Now, at that particular time in my life, a few things happened at the same time: one of my closest friends moved to a different country, I moved to a different city where I didn't know a single soul, and I was putting in a lot of hours at work without getting results, feedback, or appreciation. I was tired, stressed, and I felt very much alone.
During that time there was very little I could muster up the energy for. The one thing I felt like I could do, and started doing, was writing a daily gratitude list. I bought a simple 10 dollar notebook and I started writing down three things I was grateful for each day.
That was a turning point for me. Gratitude has changed my entire outlook on life, I am more positive, take nothing for granted and I'm more appreciative of the beauty around me.
It’s been 5 exciting years filled with gratitude, vulnerability, embracing imperfection, and tough and scary moments of expansion and growth.
These are the lessons I learned along the way.
I learned to do it anyway. To put myself out there. To experiment. Even when I’m scared or anxious. Even when my perfectionism kicks in. I found that the response is (almost) always overwhelmingly positive.
Another lesson I learned is to listen to my intuition. For me, it’s been crucial to learn how to make a distinction between my intuition cautioning me and perfectionistic fear.
I also learned to be open about my struggles. When I did so, the response was overwhelmingly positive yet again. What I feared the most actually made me more relatable, authentic, and human.
The biggest lesson was that there’s no growth without vulnerability. My new motto is that I’d rather do what I set out to do and feel vulnerable than give in to the fear of perfectionism. I’d rather be courageous and try something than give in to perfectionism and never put myself out there.
Those perfectionistic habits still creep in every once in awhile and that’s okay. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Keep the learning opportunities coming, I always say.
But still, letting go of my perfectionism was the best thing I ever did.
So, here’s my challenge for you this week: identify your “tipping point” when it comes to perfectionism.
What I mean is this, what was the moment you realized that perfectionism no longer contributed to your success (and maybe it never had), but that it was holding you back? When did perfectionism become a liability for you, when before you believed it was an asset?
Take some time to sit with this question. What were the circumstances that resulted in that “tipping point”? How old were you? What did you do? Where did you live?
Did your “tipping point” coincide with a major life transition? Was it an internal wake up call or was it instigated by someone else?
That’s all I got this week. Hope to see you next time!
Are you stuck in perfectionism and need little help letting go of the perfectionist tendencies that are holding you back? Then make sure to download your FREE copy of my perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click that pretty yellow button ;)
Hi there! I’m Wendy, perfectionism coach and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you overcome your perfectionism, 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.