I felt like a lightbulb went off inside my head. At the same time, a heavy weight dropped into my stomach. My challenges and the subject of many blogs over the years can be summed up in one word. That was the lightbulb. I felt both delighted to have a name for this struggle and a little sick at the same time. The weight dropping into my stomach was the realization that this shadow still impacts me. I may have begun the journey, but it’s certainly not over. There is more work to be done.
I’d been re-reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and as I read about her “dig-deep” button, my mind flashed back. “The dig-deep button is a secret level of pushing through when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, and when there’s too much to do and too little time for self-care.” (The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown, page 3).
My memories returned to a job I had some years ago. The job description covered a lot of different areas. I was committed to being the best I could be and to making a difference. Over the years in this position, I kept pushing myself to do more and more. I drove myself to achieve better results in less time, to be more efficient and effective. I forced myself to be more creative and have a more significant impact. The previous month’s results were not enough. I had to do better. I remember being exhausted and overwhelmed. At times, I remember thinking I didn’t have a moment to breathe or even drink a cup of tea. There was too much to do. Each time I thought I couldn’t continue, I would use my deep dig button to push through. I achieved a lot; the personal cost was enormous. The phrase, giving my blood, sweat and tears comes to mind. I remember the migraines, the stress, the tightness in my body and my way of being. Despite placing immense value on people and relationships, I remember feeling (in later years) like I didn’t have the capacity or time to care. I certainly didn’t have any energy left at the end of the day for my family or to do anything fun.
In that lightbulb moment, I could suddenly see the dots connected by this one word – perfectionism. I could see that fear of failure and fear of what others think of you are part of perfectionism. Self-doubt, insecurity, and imposter syndrome – they’re part of perfectionism. As are finding it difficult to choose, overcompensating, over checking, not delegating, reassurance-seeking, excessive organizing and list-making, procrastination, not knowing when to stop and avoidance. My realization – all these years, I’ve been looking for and writing about the path that leads beyond the shadow of perfectionism. As a self-identified perfectionist, I have a lifetime of experience in this area. I grew up around perfectionists. I’ve worked with perfectionists. I am a perfectionist.
Striving for flawlessness is a key aspect of perfectionism. This drive is accompanied by critical self-evaluation and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. Perfectionism can be described as the relentless striving for too high standards that are personally demanding. Part of perfectionism is allowing your self-worth to be based on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards. Part of perfectionism is experiencing the negative consequences of setting such demanding standards and continuing to go for them despite the considerable cost to you.
Are you a perfectionist?
- Do you have personally demanding standards and relentlessly strive for them even at high personal cost?
- Do you often feel bad about yourself for not living up to your standards?
- Do you believe you should do it right or not bother doing it at all?
- Is it difficult for you to know when to stop?
- Do you frequently check your work to make sure it is right?
- Do you often feel like you haven’t done quite enough or that you need to do better?
If you are a perfectionist, I’d love to talk to you or hear from you. Here’s what I’m interested in finding out more about:
- How does perfectionism show up for you?
- What is the impact of perfectionism on you or those close to you?
- What is the one personal impact of perfectionism you would change if you could?
I created this image that I call the antidote to perfectionism. It is my laptop screensaver. I use it to remind myself of what I want more of in my life. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful too.
This Week’s Photos
One of the ways I create ease and flow in my day is by walking my dog, often early in the morning. As an amateur photographer, I love capturing the birth of the new day.
“Have you ever seen the dawn? Not a dawn groggy with lack of sleep or hectic with mindless obligations and you about to rush off on an early adventure or business, but full of deep silence and absolute clarity of perception? A dawning which you truly observe, degree by degree. It is the most amazing moment of birth. And more than anything it can spur you to action. Have a burning day.”Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
I use the Co-Active model to create insight during coaching, and science and research based Positive Intelligence techniques to create the mental muscles to sustain change. Learn more about coaching with me.