The Rabbit Hole of Perfectionism

perfectionism Sep 01, 2021

I am a former perfectionist.

What's wrong with being perfect? Who doesn’t love submitting a project with zero mistakes, getting a perfect grade, being the ‘lead’ on projects, and having a perfectly clean home. The first 40 years of my life I focused on everything being perfect. If things were perfect, that meant that I was perfect also. My self-worth was directly tied to perfection.

But this perfectionism started to impact every part of my life. A clean house became more important than spending time with the kids. Being a leader on a project was more important than expanding my skills at work. Getting a perfect grade in graduate school was more important than date night with my husband.

When things were not perfect, my stress and anxiety would go through the roof.

Research tells perfectionism may hold us back, change how we see the world and negatively impact our self-confidence. It is also one of the significant factors leading to burnout.

When our sights are set on perfection, we may start thinking in black and white, or in all-or-nothing terms. Things are either good or bad, right or wrong. Thinking with this mindset can lead to unbelievable stress and anxiety since there are no gray areas in situations -- just perfect events or extreme disaster.

As you strive for perfection, you self-worth declines. You become reliant on what others think and what you accomplish. And if the goal is nonstop perfection, you will never be successful since it is a goalpost that can never be achieved.

Perfectionists, including my former self, would quickly move from one task to another. Once I achieved something, I would move to the next challenge. I wanted to succeed to prove my worthiness. I was not worthy unless I was perfect. And this need for perfection was in a constant state of forward movement, stress, and anxiety.

Research tells us that the need to be perfect leads to higher reported levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. And the stress caused by perfectionism impacts on the body including putting us at risk for cancer, stroke, and heart attack.

Is it worth it?

Is the value of perfectionism worth your quality of life? Your health? Your relationships?

I challenge each of us to let go of ONE THING this week that maybe does not have to be perfect. For example, perhaps the dishes can sit in the sink for a few hours. Laundry can wait. You can come to work a bit late.

Please share your ONE THING

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I promise you this is worth it! 
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