No. 17 | How to Overcome Toxic Perfectionism
I’ll be the first to admit I have always been a MAJOR perfectionist. I’ve hated sharing unfinished work– and nothing is ever finished. When I do share my work, it’s never felt good enough. I’ll tweak and tweak and tweak until I hate what I make and start over. I have the need to collect titles and accolades so I can feel external validation for my work since I have an incredibly hard time feeling validated without someone else telling me so. I practice constantly and never feel like an expert. I compare myself to other more talented and deserving creatives. I’m easily deflated when the pictures in my brain didn’t translate onto paper. I cry, get mad, procrastinate, give up, and turn back around to judge myself for not having thicker skin. I’ve pushed myself past my limits because I’ve thought if I could just achieve a certain level of success, I’d feel good enough. But over time I’ve realized that striving for perfection isn’t ever going to make me feel like I’m good enough because perfection just doesn’t exist.
Fellow perfectionists, do you want to know a secret? You and I will NEVER attain perfection. And that’s ok. We are enough even if we aren’t perfect. In fact, our imperfections are what make us relatable, teachable, one-of-a-kind humans. So let’s stop beating ourselves up over something that just isn’t real and focus on becoming better. That’s really all we can do— get better, learn, and grow everyday.
Easier said than done, amiright? Yes, change isn’t going to happen overnight. In order to overcome toxic perfectionism, you’re going to need a lot of patience with yourself and a few good tools in your belt. Here are some practices to help you overcome toxic perfectionist tendencies:
Remind Yourself that you are enough Every Day.
If you haven’t heard it from anyone else, I’m telling you now. You. Are. Enough. But it’s not enough for me just tell you. You’re going to need to get that in your brain to believe it. Everything begins and ends with your mindset. If you tell yourself you’re not good enough or that you’ll never get to where you want to go, you’ll start to believe yourself. But the same is true of the opposite. If you consistently, daily tell yourself you are enough, your mindset will begin to change and you’ll start to believe the truth. What do you think of yourself? Are those things true? If not, re-program your mindset by reminding yourself daily of who you really are. Write positive messages to yourself. Memorize true statements about who you are. It all starts in the mind.
2. BE vulnerable with people you trust.
My biggest breakthrough with perfectionism happened when I allowed myself to be vulnerable with the people who I trusted. Before this, my perfectionism had reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t open up about some very serious issues I was struggling with. I didn’t want to be outed as someone who was less than perfect so I tried to work my issues out on my own. Long story short, that didn’t work. It wasn’t until I opened up that I realized people loved me even if I was less than perfect. I realized that I didn’t have to strive for perfection to feel like I was enough. To them, messed up, imperfect me was already enough. Do you have someone(s) in your life who you trust and can be vulnerable with? Open up to them and let them show you your enoughness.
3. Separate yourself from your Achievements.
You are not your work. Contrary to popular belief, your worth isn’t defined by your success. So let go. Take a day off. Find a hobby that makes you happy even if you’re terrible at it. You are so much more than your achievements.
4. search for your deepest Beliefs.
There’s a time to let go and a time to keep pushing for higher results. A set of values will let you know which way to go. If you are driven by something deeper than the mere need to achieve, you work will not only have more depth but you will begin to define success differently. Success won’t be a feeling of “good enoughness”, it will be a deep satisfaction in being your full self. Not just the perfect made-up version in your head but who you are at your core. So what do you believe? Do you believe it enough to let it drive you?
5. Celebrate your wins.
When we know what we’re capable of, we can be incredibly hard on ourselves. While it’s good to always be looking for ways to improve, it’s also important to pat ourselves on the back every once in a while. Not in an arrogant way but with a spirit of gratefulness. Taking time to recognize when we’ve given 110% of our best effort and created or achieved something exemplary helps us digest our success and appreciate the results of our efforts. So accept the praise. Tell yourself when you’ve done well. Don’t skip the celebration in your quest for greatness.
Until next time,