Okay, my soul-connected creative friends, it’s time for some #realtalk.
There’s a very persistent and dangerous misunderstanding about what perfectionism is and this misunderstanding is perpetuated in the media and in popular culture. In most magazine articles and TV sitcoms a perfectionist character is portrayed as someone who is diligent, detail oriented, conscientious, and overly organized. Basically, the Monica Gellers of the world. Characters of comedy gold.
But here’s the thing, that’s not the definition of perfectionism. Everything you might think perfectionism is, it's not true.
And if you want to be able to let go of your perfectionism, you first need to understand it. I’ve volunteered to be the guinea pig, so that you can use my story as an example. I’m warning you, this is going to be deep down and vulnerable.
Let’s get to it...
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Most of us think that perfectionism is a collection of traits, like type A, attention to detail, and being very organized. It’s how perfectionism is portrayed in popular culture. It’s how we talk to each other. She’s so type A, she’s such a perfectionist! Or Stop fussing over details, you’re such a perfectionist! Right?
Well, nope, that couldn’t be more false.
I started questioning this theory based on my own personal experiences, because I knew I didn’t suddenly turn into a perfectionist once I started focusing on details and being all organized. Those things happened as a response to my perfectionism.
Perfectionism really is a dangerous and harmful way of thinking and behaving.
Perfectionism is a coping mechanism that we use when we feel scared, insecure, uncertain, and/or not good enough.
You know, those moments when you feel insecure or uncertain, like when you meet your in-laws for the first time or when you’re faced with a deadline on an important work project, trigger a fearful thought pattern within you 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.'
Here’s where I get really personal and vulnerable.
Because “a fear-based coping mechanism and thought pattern as a response to insecurity, uncertainty, and feelings of unworthiness”, what does that mean, right?
When I dug deep into my own history, I began to see how perfectionism had taken root in me at a young age. As a kid, my good grades got me love and attention and praise. To me, it felt like love was conditional. Not who I was, but how I performed determined whether I was good enough and deserved love. And that hurts! That hurts to say!
This dangerous thought pattern became the core of my belief system:
'If my school or work performance determines whether I get love and attention or not, I better perform perfectly so that I can make sure that I never feel the pain of not getting love and attention again.’
Being the smart girl became my identity.
After digging even deeper and getting more vulnerable with myself, I also came to see that what I’d always assumed where my perfectionist super powers (like being diligent, preferring quality over quantity, and holding myself to high standards) were actually MY super powers. They’re my strengths and my talents. And all these years, I’d been abusing them through perfectionism.
Need a little help letting go of your perfectionism? Then make sure to download your FREE copy of my step-by-step, perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click the button below.
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.