The 3 Things Perfectionism Kills - by Chelsey Luren
The need to be perfect used to permeate every possible aspect of my life. Within my family, school, friends, religion, job, and every possible interaction I had in the world - it all had to be immaculate.
I so clearly remember convincing myself that I was having high standards, and that I wanted to only give my best. I used to wear my perfectionism boldly, and proud.
But here’s the reality:
Perfectionism is the lowest possible standard.
“Hang on a second! How is that even possible? When I’m perfect, every looks good, is going well, I’m giving my best to everyone, and people love me.”
For a long time I convinced myself that this was the truth. That the way to best show up as the ideal woman and the one who had it all together was by measuring myself to a standard of perfect.
When we aim for perfection, we are striving for an impossible standard. Perfectionism is literally unattainable. Since there is no way it can be achieved, by striving for it, we are condemning ourselves to a life of misery, unmet hopes, and lack of fulfilment.
The need to be perfect isn’t about giving our best, being our best, or showing up authentically in a way that allows us to feel a sense of fulfillment at all.
Perfectionism isn’t about being whole. It isn’t about being fulfilled. It isn’t even about being happy. It’s about convincing everyone else that we are.
The root of perfectionism comes down to fear of not being good enough. When we’re living with the mask of perfect, we’re afraid on some level that if we don’t do things just so, we won’t be loved, will be kicked out from the tribe, and will die.
In order to keep ourselves safe, protected, and avoid the possibility of rejection, we put on the mask that we call perfection.
Most of us are kids when we learn this habit (I say habit because it’s a learned behaviour - meaning we can unlearn it if we so choose). What we don’t realize at the time is that the mask we decide to put on will eventually suffocate our soul, and we will lose sight of all that makes us the unique being that the world truly needs. What we tend to forget as adults is that because it is a mask - not who we truly are - we are allowed and able to take it off whenever we finally decide to.
feeling overwhelmed by perfectionism?
Thinking back to my own experience, the whole time I was trying my best to be ‘perfect’ I felt like a fraud. That everyone was going to find out at some point that I had been lying about who I was.
I felt I had to keep everything all together - even though the messages I’d heard, and ideas I’d receiving were contradictory and disempowering at best.
✓ Let a man save you, you are a damsel in distress - but never take his money, a gold digger is disgusting and desperate - but also, don’t focus too much on a career, how can you possibly balance having a career and a family?
✓ Eat in this way, in this amount, and in this frequency.
✓ Be seen and not heard, but do have an opinion; as long as it’s not too big or different than ours is.
✓Don’t fight, curse, argue, disagree, or debate; but always stand up for what’s right.
✓ Don’t be too much or ask for too much, but not too little either, you deserve to be paid your worth.
✓ Keep quiet, small, and out of the way; but always look sexy and put together without acting as though you’ve put any effort in, or like know you are because you don’t want to give people the wrong idea. So be understated, but not so understated you look like you don’t take care of yourself.
✓ Have confidence and be successful, but don’t talk about it - nobody wants to be around a braggart.
✓ Know how to make a ton of cash, and keep it, but don’t ever speak about it, it’s rude to talk about money.
✓ Be great in bed, but never ask for information on how, or help on improving it because that’s unladylike. And be sure to be interested in sex, or your man will leave you, but don’t have too much interest in sex either.
✓ Don’t be emotional because emotional women are crazy. And don’t be aloof or cold because you’re supposed to nurture others, but don’t be too familiar either.
And whatever you do, absolutely never slip up.
In attempts to achieve the entire list above, I allowed people to treat me terribly.
Abusive ex-boyfriends, toxic friends, passive aggressive frenemies, codependent relationships, and people who would only show up to take from me. In hopes of them liking me, I became as perfect as I possibly could. I would be extra nice to them, do even more things to show them how likeable I was, in hopes that they would stop treating me like garbage. The worse they treated me, the harder I tried to be nice to them.
But how could that be what was happening? Wasn’t I doing it all? Wasn’t I being perfect? Wasn’t this supposed to secure my happiness, and likability?
The reality is that the way all of those people were interacting with me was simply a small reflection of how I was treating myself. The more my perfectionism would show up, the worse I would treat myself, and the worse everyone else around me would follow suit.
When we wear our fake flawlessness like a badge of honour (I distinctly remember being proud of this in the past), all in hopes we’ll finally be good enough, we are essentially showing to the world on a giant neon flashing sign saying “I don’t believe I’m good enough”.
And the reality is that the more I tried to be perfect, the brighter that blinding billboard of ‘not good enough’ would be flashing above me head, attracting the exact people who treated me like trash.
The desire to look, be, do, and have all things look pretty, and neatly wrapped in a box with a quaint bow on top. But just underneath the neatly folded paper, and the shimmering glitter lay a monster hellbent on destroying us.
The point of sharing this is not to create shame in you.
It’s simply to help bring awareness to you of what the truth of the matter is, and what has actually been fuelling the behaviour all along. From a place of observation (having full awareness and compassion), we are able to begin to shift this.
Now that we’ve spent time unboxing perfectionism, if you recognize that you’ve been operating from that energy, but feel like you ‘just can’t help it’ - here’s the next step. Allow yourself to see what you will have access to when you finally let it go.
When we finally drop off the mask of having to be flawless in every area, we are allowed to slip up, fail, and make mistakes.
…Wait, why is that a good thing?
For one - it’s an attainable standard. No, that doesn’t mean slacking off, or doing half assed work that is far below a standard of excellence. It simply means that you are allowed to take action and do the things you most want to in the world, regardless of whether or not they’re without flaw.
Doing things imperfectly grants us:
The ability to learn:
Without failure or mistakes, we cannot learn or grow.
Imagine what your life would be life if you never made a mistake. Think you’d still want to be with the boy you were head over heels with - and were positive you’d marry - back in the third grade? You know, the one who pulled your hair and ate glue? If you never made a mistake, guess who you’d still currently be with? Yep, Mr. Glue Eater.
When we try something - even if it ends up being unaligned with who we ultimately desire to be - we are given insight into who we actually are. We learn what we like, what works for us, what we desire more of, who feels good to be around.
We can’t love what we don’t know.
This is as true with another soul as it is with ourselves. So in order to truly love yourself, the time to begin getting intimately acquainted, and into self awareness is now.
When all we focus on is doing something with exacting precision - we keep ourselves frozen, and unable to complete the task at hand while we wait for the stars to align before moving forward.
The reality is that done is better than perfect. An imperfect project that is finished and put out into the world is better than the perfect one that never sees the light of day. By refusing to let go of the unattainable, things stay uncompleted. We stay stuck in procrastination, worrying whether things are good enough to be seen, when all that needs to happen is simply beginning.
I don’t know about you, but the chance to learn, having greater self awareness (AKA Self love), is more than worth letting go of a mask that keeps me stuck, and unfulfilled.
We’ve only just scratched the surface on the topic of perfectionism. It’s not one that can be fully tackled in a single blog post.
If this post hit home for you and you find your life is being completely overrun with thoughts of ‘not good enough’ - I would love to personally dive deeper into this with you. So you can learn how to shift out of this pattern so that you can finally feel good enough, and have the confidence you desire.
Perfectionism completely cuts us off from any of these possibilities, and keeps us stuck in procrastination, inaction, and cyclical self hate.
So head here to set up a time for us to chat and claim your free 30 minute coaching chat now.