The harsh truth about *perfectionism* and how to recover from it

Perfectionism is the need to do anything, well, perfectly, and an unwillingness to reach anything short of that. In relation to Imposter Syndrome, perfectionism is a camouflage made up of strategic behaviors to hide your shortcomings, flaws, and insecurities. It’s a cover up, a piece of the mask that is imposter syndrome. In reality, being perfect is impossible- for everyone. Even when we know this, perfectionism can take hold and guide our decisions and actions. Although we may think it helps us iron things out, tidy things up, and tie everything up with a bow, it’s probably doing us more harm than good.

How it’s hurting us:

Unrealistic Expectations– When we set unachievable standards for ourselves, we’re going to be constantly disappointed. If we keep missing the mark, we’re also ignoring all of what we have done by focusing on what we haven’t. All other accomplishments don’t get the recognition they deserve. Essentially, we set ourselves up for failure time and time again.

No Room for Growth– If perfect is what we’re looking for and we won’t settle for anything less, we don’t leave room for learning and growth. We get stuck in a fixed mindset and don’t open ourselves up to opportunities to learn.

Undervaluing Ourselves– When perfect is the endgame, we sell ourselves short. Where we are now and what we’ve done up until this point hasn’t been enough because it’s not perfect. This thinking fuels negative self-talk and keeps us on this unforgiving and unappreciated loop. If we continue on this trajectory, it can result in various forms of anxiety and/or depression.

How to defeat it:

Lay out the road ahead– Mapping out a plan with an accurate assessment of how difficult that plan will be is key. Perfectionism thrives off of, “this should be easy,” so when we are challenged or struggle, we think we’re inept. If we take a more honest approach, we are more likely to understand that any obstacles that lie ahead are part of the process. This is the difference between perfectionism and healthy striving. You can still aim high but with realistic expectations.

Exercise Self-Compassion– Your held beliefs about yourself are malleable. Beliefs you hold come from past experiences, societal norms and familial values, to name a few. And just because they keep you stuck doesn’t make them cement. They’re actually more like glue- once warmed up enough, they take a more shapeable and desirable form. Practicing self-compassion allows you to remold your thinking patterns and in relation to work and effort, it allows you to give yourself credit and recognition.

Letting go of what people think– Perfectionism is, in fact, an act for others. It’s a presentation of perceived perfection so that others think you’re deserving, worthy, intelligent, creative, etc. When we’re able to separate what we want from what we think others want, we shed off this mask and embrace our authentic selves.

Getting into the ring against perfectionism in these three ways is not an easy feat. It may take some time and certainly some effort AND it’s definitely not going to be perfect.

Stay Well,
Catherine at Revive

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