The Perfectionism Trap

Why Trying Harder Isn’t Always Better

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Our lives are fast paced with so much available at our finger tips. You can buy almost anything on Amazon Prime and have it in your hands within 24 hours. It seems there are no limits on what we can have and do. The problem that comes with that is that we we can easily push ourselves beyond what’s ok causing anxiety, stress and overwhelm.

On the surface perfectionism looks like trying to improve yourself or do something better. But the reality is that it’s a constant drive to improve that’s never satisfed. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines perfectionism as:

“The setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.”

This definition shows how absurd the concept is and that it’s a setup for failure. With “unrealisticly demanding goals” leading to a sense of “personal worthlessness,” feeling bad about yourself is inevitable.

Drowning trying to do it all. Photo courtesy of Unsplash

There’s the new mom who’s sleep deprived and exhausted yet she tries to get everything done in the same way she did before the arrival of her newborn. These unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment and anxiety. It’s important to adjust to what’s appropriate so you can nurture yourself while encouraging and allowing growth, rather than blindly pushing because a celebrity bounced back after pregnancy and looks fantastic. You have no idea what she went through and how much support she had.

Perfectionism runs wild in our society and there’s no sign of it ending. You can choose to step away from the unrealistic ideals. You can still feel your desire to be perfect but the real questions to be asked are:

What will being perfect bring you? Will people love you more? Will others appreciate you more? Will you be looked up to? Will it make things easier? What drives you to do more?

If you want to feel more appreciated, loved or successful, do you appreciate and love yourself? Do you give yourself credit for your successes? What would it be like if you focused on yourself rather than how being perfect makes everything look or feel to others?

Very often when you strive to do something perfectly and you do, there’s a sense of emptiness because it’s hard to enjoy the rewards of your work when you’re looking outside yourself to receive it. YOU need to believe these things about yourself first before anything anyone else says will ring true.

I challenge you to do an experiment where you spend one week or one day or even one hour to let yourself feel what having everything perfect in your life will feel like. It’s the “fake it ‘til you make it” adage but it’s here to show you that the thing you’re striving for is most available when you give it to yourself first. You’ll find that what it looks like on the outside or what others think about you is much less important.

So go ahead, what would it feel like if you had perfect hair, or a perfect body, or the perfect house or perfect car or job. What would it bring you? How would people respond to you? What do they say to you? How would you feel about receiving the rewards of your perfect successes? Is it easy or hard?

Try complimenting yourself and saying things like: “Damn, you look hot today Claire!” or “Oh my God, I love your house, it’s so beautiful and organized!”or “Wow, that sports car is unbelievable. You must have so much money!”

What does it feel like to be complimented? Can you receive it? Do you believe it? By telling yourself positive things, you appreciate your own uniqueness. Is it the car that’s important or is it the feeling of success it brings?

Allowing yourself to acknowledge your own value and outstanding qualities brings a sense of peace. The striving can end when you find what you’re looking for within yourself. Give yourself that chance and see what happens. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for yourself and your life, it will bring rich rewards.

Click here to download my free guided relaxation meditation to help you connect with a sense of peace and gratitude for who you are.

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Maureen Magauran, M.D. is highly sought after for her unique, holistic approach to treating anxiety and depression. She is a Board Certified physician specializing in holistic psychiatry and meditation. Her work has been featured in Thrive Global, Merrimack Valley Magazine and Andover TV. She has been a speaker for the American Holistic Nurses Association, Holistic Mom’s Network and The Mother Connection. Through her one on one work she helps moms of young children overcome stress and anxiety to feel more joy.

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