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The lies of perfectionism

December 04, 20204 min read

The lies of perfectionism

Are you a perfectionist? Or maybe you don’t consider yourself one – you just love to do things with excellence.

I think we have some perfectionism in all of us. And the only reason we tolerate the harsh rule of perfectionism is because of the lies and promises it makes to us.

These lies can creep into our consciousness unnoticed and whisper to us that we have to strive to be perfect or we’ll never be happy….

Lie #1 Perfectionism tells you that it’ll give you ‘the good life’

We can strive to be perfect because we think that if we are perfect in all our ways, we’ll get the best job, great house, amazing marriage, popularity and respect.

Yes it’s true that having high standards at work or in our business will lead to promotions, bonuses and a measure of success. But ironically, the more perfectionist we are, the more strained our relationships will be with others (especially those we perceive to be very imperfect), and the more stress we invite into our life because being perfect all of the time brings with it incredible pressure. This is hardly the good life!

Lie #2 Perfectionism tells you that if you’re perfect, you’ll be loved and accepted by others

Perfectionism can have its roots in wanting to be loved and accepted by others. Maybe we discovered earlier in life that due to imperfections, we were not acceptable, so the way to compensate for that is to show ourselves to be perfect so that others will like us.

If people think we are perfect (or expect perfection around us), they’ll often feel uncomfortable around us however.

Brene Brown, author of ‘Daring Greatly’, conducted extensive research on vulnerability. She found that those who were willing to be vulnerable in their relationships with others (and therefore reveal their imperfections), enjoyed companionship and a depth in their relationships that is denied to people who aren’t vulnerable with others.

Lie #3 Perfectionism tells you that if you just try harder, then you’ll get there

‘Just work hard enough at it, and one day everything will be perfect. If it’s not perfect yet, you just have to work harder until it is.’

But perfection never comes. There’s always some area where you fall short. When you do ‘attain’ perfectionism’s standards for one day, you get a brief ‘high’ of feeling great for that day. But of course you can’t sustain it – no one can. And soon the day comes when you have an imperfect day again. And again you feel like you haven’t measured up, like you need to try harder tomorrow.

It’s exhausting and unrelenting.

You’re like the classic hamster in a wheel

(I know, because I’ve been there).

It’s why I found housework so hard when I was a full-time mother at home with two young children. You see, I’m a recovering perfectionist. I’ve recognised it (thankfully) and I’m loosening its grip on my life and it’s ability to rule me and the way I live.

Full-time motherhood brought me face to face with it. You see, as soon as I’d cleaned up something in our home, a mess was created somewhere else (an inevitable result of having a baby and a toddler).

As soon as the dishes were clean, it was time for another meal – and yet more dirty dishes. Every day, even when I got the laundry right down, there were little people (and big people) who had worn more clothes again (how dare they right??), and were adding more dirty clothes to the pile. The never-ending nature of housework was my perfectionistic brain’s worst nightmare – never feeling like I’d ‘got there’, I was constantly reminded that my ideal was still out of reach.

Pretty miserable, right?

So, if like me, you’ve recognised perfectionism in your life, what do you do?

I’m not going to give it justice in one blog post. But here are a few ideas.

You can start by telling yourself, ‘This is good enough’ the next time you see something less-than-perfect in your home.

You can tell yourself, ‘they’re just a child’, the next time one of your offspring has less-than-perfect behaviour and you’re tempted to really tell them off.

You can remind yourself, ‘Just enjoy the moment’ the next time you’re tempted to do something perfectly, work relentlessly instead of taking time to relax, or stress over every perfect detail in preparation for having friends round.

Together, we can let go of the need to be perfect – and be a whole lot happier with ourselves and with life as a result 🙂

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