From the moment you wake, you’re already going through the ‘TO DO’ list in your head “I must do this” or “I should do that”. And as you move through your day placing unrealistic expectations upon yourself and others, your super critical inner voice relentlessly berates you for what you’ve done wrong, what should’ve been done and what needs to be done better.
Welcome to the world of a perfectionist.
Perfectionism is not about being perfect – it’s about thinking everything needs to be perfect, therefore relentlessly pursuing your perceived idea of ‘perfection’ no matter the cost to you, your wellbeing, your relationships and your life.
As a society, we tend to look up to perfectionists and reward them for their constant high standards, extreme devotion to work (at the expense of social activities) and their drive and determination to meet their self imposed standards. And, in many cases this is positive – challenging yourself to be the best you can be helps you to learn new skills, achieve positive results and to grow as an individual. However, there’s a huge difference between the healthy pursuit of excellence and the unhealthy and unrealistic strive for perfection.
Given their extreme all or nothing perspectives and the rigid set of rules and standards by which they live by, studies show that perfectionists are likely to experience stress, anxiety, depression and other serious health consequences.
Why? Perfectionism is a construct of the mind based on the belief that “it’s not ok to make mistakes”. Therefore perfectionists are driven by a fear of failure, always needing to be seen as right and putting their self worth on the line if they’re wrong or make a mistake. Some may procrastinate or not even attempt a task if they believe they won’t be able to do it adequately.
And, if perfectionists do make a mistake or if others don’t share in their rules, views or standards – all personal hell breaks loose! Their hard earned sense of control is rocked as they second guess themselves, become angry, defensive and extremely self critical or they mask their feelings of inadequacy by becoming controlling and judgemental of others. However, by rejecting others through their judgements, perfectionists are ultimately projecting what they are disowning and rejecting within themselves
CHOOSE TO CHOOSE
We live in a free world, yet perfectionists are never truly free. They are trapped in their inflexible and rigid set of rules and standards of living. Their mindless “shoulding” and “musting” have become so habitual that they don’t even know why they repeat these behaviours.
Who’s rules are they anyway? We weren’t born with them yet they’re running our lives.
Who conditioned you to strive to be perfect, successful and the best in everything you do?
Who’s approval and validation are you constantly seeking?
Or, in who’s eyes are you needing to be seen as valuable or worthy?
With awareness comes the freedom to choose.”
How different would it be if you had the freedom to choose your own set of (new) rules NOT rules based on your past experiences?
How different would it be if you were to mindfully begin your sentences with “I want to” instead of “I should/must/have to”?
Because you can, you know. All it takes is choosing to give yourself permission to do so.
THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE
Perfectionists are control freaks! They see their world as a mismatch between what is and how they think it “should” be. Therefore they spend their lives judging and comparing as they try to control, improve and perfect reality and everything associated with it including: their image, their bodies, their jobs, home, family, children etc because anything less than perfect just “isn’t good enough”.
In fact, nothing is ever good enough for the perfectionist. Constantly preoccupied with the destination rather than the journey, they regret the past “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve”, reject the present and try to control the future. In the process they worry about things that haven’t happened yet causing a great deal or unnecessary stress and anxiety. And, no matter how great life may be, perfectionists are always comparing it to something better. “If only I had X, then everything will be just perfect!” or “If I can just lose another Y kilo’s, then I’ll be happy.”
And, after all the blood, sweat and tears when they do reach what they perceive to be their ideal reality, it’s gone just as quickly as it came leaving perfectionists feeling empty and perpetually dissatisfied. So they continue to strive for something else to fill them up and satisfy them … and the cycle continues.
The world (and reality) is already perfect – in a perfectly imperfect kind of way. It is ever changing and evolving.”
However, the more we run from and reject reality, the more we run from and reject ourselves. You see, there is no ‘there’ there, the future only exists in the imagination of our minds – it isn’t real. There is only here and now and by accepting and acknowledging reality for what it is, we can begin to accept, acknowledge and be kinder to ourselves.
Our inner language as well as our outer language will then transcend our extreme all or nothing perspectives as we become curious to the possibilities. We begin to ask questions rather than have all the answers as we become more fully aligned with what’s most true and meaningful to us.
We become open and responsive to choices not limited by restrictive, rigid and inflexible rules and standards. And, if something doesn’t match up to the way we think it “should” be, we can choose to shift our frustration and anxiety to acceptance, appreciation and awe of what is – nothing to control, nothing to change, nothing to perfect.
And, as we become an active participant in the present moment, our lives begin to flow as an ever evolving process, always realising our potential – nothing to reject, everything to accept. Ultimately creating infinitely richer, more spontaneous and more fulfilling lives for ourselves as well as others.