Picture this. Your confidence is at an all-time high and you feel as though nothing can stand in your way. Until that is, someone decides to enter the playing field—your perfectionism. With it’s devious ways, it slowly starts to break down your confidence with some self doubt; a dose of your inner critic; followed up with a big slap of procrastination. And just like that, out of nowhere it seems, your confidence has been completely drained and you’re brought to a standstill.
Does this sound familiar to you? Is this how your perfectionism usually shits on your confidence? Same over here my friend.
I’ve had a rocky love affair with perfectionism for as long as I can remember. And if I’m honest, the “perfector” has usually been the dominating partner in the relationship. While there are some positive traits to admire and uphold (assuming they aren’t holding you back) about being a perfectionist—commitment to producing high quality work, attention to detail, always going that extra mile—quite often, it’s just a huge pain in the arse that needs to be kicked to the fucking curb.
We all know “perfect” doesn’t exist. As I mentioned in my productivity post, even if perfection was attainable, it would never be achieved through the eyes of a perfectionist anyway.
When your perfectionism is in the driving seat, it is a master at outwitting you. It will trick you into only seeking out what isn’t right. And in doing so, you will never see what is.
Yes, I know I’m stating the obvious. But here’s the thing… in my experience, when our perfectionism is crushing our confidence, we are usually oblivious to this reality.
Here’s an example of that in motion:
In my 20s, I developed an eating disorder. At my lowest weight I was 105 lbs. But (and I’m sure you know what’s coming next) even at 105 lbs I still felt huge. I still didn’t feel perfect.
What began as a simple goal to improve my health and fitness was quickly taken over by an obsession with a number. A number that was largely fueled by my unhealthy interpretation of perfection. I soon forgot my original goal was 125 lbs. Which then became 120 lbs. And then 115 lbs. With each “goal” I met, I kept convincing myself I could do better.
Even at 105 lbs—which was 20 lbs below my original goal weight—I still told myself I should lose more weight. When was it going to stop?
My perfectionism made me forget I’d reached my goal 20 lbs ago. My perfectionism didn’t show me that 20 lbs ago I was in the best shape of my life physically and mentally. My perfectionism had completely outwitted me and took control.
So the million dollar question is: Why do we continue to torture ourselves striving for perfection when we know we are seeking the impossible?
Why do we still allow our perfectionism to sit in the driving seat when we know how misleading it can be? And when it’s driving us down a path we know deep down will lead us nowhere, why do we voluntarily go along for the ride anyway?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions; but as a master of perfectionism, I do have some thoughts for you to remember next time your perfectionism is outwitting you.
Think about it… what you feed grows. So, if you’re constantly feeding your perfectionism (it’s a greedy bugger!), it will just become more unruly. And the larger it grows, the more difficult it will become to untangle yourself from the burden it’s placing on your shoulders. I think it’s time to put your perfectionism on a diet don’t you?
So let’s take a look at how your perfectionism is stealing your life and business profits.
If we think of “life profits” as let’s say—experiences we’ll cherish forever, memories made with family and friends, meeting new people that enrich and better our lives—naturally we’d all want our lives to be full of them. Who wouldn’t?
Now, ask yourself this question and answer it honestly:
How much life profit has your perfectionism thrown down the drain because it prevented you from getting out there and experiencing these moments?
Need some examples? Try these:
- Not attending a gathering or declining an invitation to an event because your lack of self-confidence stopped you. You worried if people would like you. If they’d judge you. If you’d live up to their expectations.
- Wanting to host a get-together in your home but putting if off until another time. You tell yourself you’ll do it once you’ve finished making this room or that room perfect. Or once you’ve finished that home improvement list that never seems to end.
- Or perhaps you do all of the above (and other things that take you out of your comfort zone) but there’s a nagging problem—you’re not really in the moment. In the back of your mind all your self-doubt and insecurities are screaming at you.
Now ask yourself that question again.
Did your bank just deplete a little? I’m going to guess yes when it’s framed this way. I’m not asking you this question to make you feel like shit; but to show you how your perfectionism may be impacting you more than you realise.
Here’s a little tip though: you already know.
You just keep burying that reality under promises to yourself that things will change. But that change never comes because along the way your confidence get’s shot again and you start to tell yourself “you’re not good enough”. Guess what? You just threw another win to your perfectionism.
You know this is bullshit right? That you are good enough? And that the only person judging you is you. Silence that negative shit! It serves you no purpose.
I’m also going to guess you keep getting buried in a shit load of sadness and regret because you feel as though you’ve let so many of these moments pass you by. Do yourself a favour; feel that regret, feel that sadness, write it down on paper and burn it if you have to, but then… let it go.
If you don’t, these feelings will eat away at you (remember I said perfectionism was greedy). I know ‘letting go’ isn’t always easy; but you have to, otherwise these moments will just continue to get stolen. Only you can take them back.
Ready to kick your perfectionism to the curb?
Here are some steps to get you started:
Talk to someone about it
One thing I’ve learned about perfectionists is that we rarely ask for help. We hate sharing our fears and weaknesses, or showing any signs of vulnerability. Just tell someone how you feel. Put it all out there and release some of that internal weight. Everyone has an arsehole inner voice that likes to tear them down. You are not alone.
Stop making excuses
At some point you just have to follow through with all the promises you keep making to yourself. Ignoring them will just result in procrastination. And perfectionism LOVES procrastination. But the problem is… they are a match made in hell. If you get trapped in their destructive cycle, you’ll just spin yourself silly. As the saying goes:
I’m going to guess you have a lot of compassion for others but not enough for yourself. When others fail or make mistakes, I’m sure you do your best to lift them up. Now start doing that for yourself! Change within usually takes time before it becomes a natural habit so please keep that in mind. Also keep in mind you might have some setbacks along the way—and revert to your old ways—but don’t beat yourself up about it (unless you stay stuck there, if so, re-do Steps 1 & 2).
Trust me, it’s time to step away from the sidelines and throw yourself out onto the playing field. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it will fill you with anxiety. But with time, those feelings won’t scream at you so loudly anymore and they’ll become easier to ignore. You’ll also realize most things really aren’t that scary. Discovering this will give you the confidence to keep throwing yourself out there time and time again.
And remember this: life will always throw negative (and usually unavoidable) shit your way. But now think about how much easier it will be to overcome it if your “life bank” is a fuller! So get yourself out there and make yourself some goddamn memories! Go fill up that bank up my friend!
Wondering where my thoughts are on how perfectionism steals your business profits?
Stay tuned because I’ve decided to share them in another post (although the thoughts above apply to your business profits too). If you don’t want to miss it, join me on Twitter as I always share posts there first. You can also grab my RSS feed here or follow me on Bloglovin’ if you’d prefer.