Perfectionism is ruining my life

Ever want a fairy tale of a life where everything falls into place and you are the prince or princess in your story? Well that is what perfectionism whispers into my ear daily and it is killing me. Not literally, but it does suck the joy and happiness out of most everything. It is like walking in chains because every situation has to be evaluated by a standard that is not realistic so it feels heavy, burdensome, and constricting.

A while back my father gave me some super advice. He told me, “Perfect is not the bar.” That resonated with me because my entire life I have been striving for perfect, and it has made a lot of my life miserable. Am I a miserable person? I hope others do not perceive me that way. I do know that when I am still and introspective my mind constantly pounds the drums of perfectionism and asks, “Why was (insert anything) not better?”

Let’s back up for a minute. What is perfectionism? It is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. Where does perfectionism come from? I found the following on the website KNOW MYSELF:

Perfectionism is developed as a result of feelings of inferiority or of being less than others. When a child experiences these feelings he develops perfectionism in order to maintain a sense of superiority over his friends and over his environment.

The other goal that the development of perfectionism helps the child to achieve is to hide his defects from others. After all if he did everything perfectly then no one will dig behind his wall of perfectionism to unfold his well hidden defects.

This describes me to a T and I am DONE allowing this to be my reality! Don’t believe me? Maybe this story will help you understand my walk with perfectionism. While in highschool I was a good athlete. I was All-State multiple times in 2 sports and was varsity in 3 sports all 4 years. I tell you this because I remember my senior year telling myself that if I did not win the state championship in wrestling that I was a failure. I came in fourth that year and did not even raise my gaze from my shoes when I went to collect my medal. What a lost opportunity to celebrate an accomplishment.

That is jumping ahead a bit in my own experience. When did I development this unhealthy relationship with perfectionism? When I was really young, we moved around quite a bit, so I had to make friends fast. I was awkward in that I was much smaller than other kids, wore big coke bottle glasses, and had not grown up with a lot of the kids that I met. So feelings of inferiority were kind of built into the situation due to me not having history with these people. History in relationships allow us to know and accept each other’s flaws. When we don’t have history, we can fall into a trap of wanting to present a persona. 
While striving to present an awesome persona that others would like I did my best to do my best and never accept less that great from myself. Thus began my devolution into perfectionism.

As an adult, I have set and accomplished many of my goals only to quickly look ahead and not stop to celebrate the accomplishments. In many instance I have become my own killjoy. Being a wet blanket to your pinnacle moments is not a good way to DO life.

Where does one stop being a perfectionist and how does one start in their new journey? This article gives us a pretty good road map on where to start and how to stop being a pefectionist —

Here are the bullet points:
1. Know the difference between healthy and neurotic perfectionism

2. Remove the all-or-nothing mindset

3. Avoid the perfectionist’s mind trap (aka Go for the 80/20)

4. Learn to respect and love yourself

5. Use your ideals as guides, not absolutes

6. Value your relationships

7. Celebrate every progress, victory, and failure

8. Delegate and Let Go

I want to enjoy life, others and situations without behaving like a celebrity chef who is tearing into a sous chef because the duck confit is a tad under salted. Lao Tzu said, “ The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” In this new journey I am going to have to learn that the stumbles and falls are just as important as the “perfect” strides. If you find yourself afflicted by this self imposed disease know that you are not alone. Want or need a friend to chat with about this situation? I would love to hear your ideas.

Cheers to your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.