I'm a perfectionist! You're so lucky! Or are you??
Image by Jonathan Cooper at Unsplash
I started typing with a little trepidation, I must do well, it must be good!! Oh no my perfectionist side is coming out, and I suppose in some way we all have a little bit in us somewhere. Just like we all need that bit of stress every day to get us out of bed and doing the things that need doing.
How do we describe perfectionism?
"a sense of control where none is evident."
Thomas S Greenspoon
· A destructive behaviour that feeds off our anxiety and distress.
· Reaching for an unrealistic goal that's full of pressure to achieve.
· “Undermining our own potential” Katie Rasmussen
· A self-defeating activity where your best is never good enough
· Believing that your only enough when you’re perfect.
· The belief that being perfect is your ticket to being accepted by others.
· Self-worth and esteem connected to performance
· Sensitive to criticism and will dwell on mistakes
· Procrastinating, and putting pressure on to get task 100% right all the time
Wow! I imagine that’s not what most of us thought when I mentioned perfectionism!!
It’s an odd one because as a society we are often praised for wanting perfection but here we can see that it’s not necessarily a healthy way to be.
Gordon Flett and Paul Hewitt have done extensive studies on this subject and the link below is for a short video explaining the 3 types or ‘flavours’ of perfectionists that they have found.
The two sides to perfectionism
What’s important to realise is that perfectionism can be classed as a 'healthy' thing, something that's a good thing, if it goes hand in hand with conscientiousness – this is when we are organised, have awareness, and are self-controlled.
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo says he strives for excellence, not perfection: 'I am not a perfectionist, but I like to feel that things are done well'
Whereas, with maladaptive perfectionism the person is consumed by self-criticism, low self-esteem, and the feeling of never being good enough. Andrew Hill describes it as “perfectionism isn’t a behaviour - it’s a way of thinking about yourself.”
Tennis star Serena Williams is a self-described perfectionist who destroys racquets and casts blame when things go wrong – outbursts which have cost her the game” Amanda Ruggeri
Brene Brown also described perfectionism as “a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgement, and shame."
She gave another quote on Oprah's chat show, “When perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun and fear is that annoying backseat driver!”
These are great descriptions, and you can see the chat here with Oprah.
What can it lead to?
· It can cause multiple mental health issues
· Tiredness and exhaustion
· Catastrophising situations and seeing them only in black and white
· Procrastination, leading to greater stress and anxiety
· Inability to priorities tasks or make decisions
· Low self-esteem because you just never feel good enough
What can we do to change this destructive way of thinking?
To change our perfectionist ways can feel counter intuitive. Because we need to do that thing that we are so averse to doing – we need to be brave enough to admit there’s something wrong!!!
It’s about creating an environment where imperfection isn’t just accepted but is celebrated, because it means we’re human - Rasmussen
It starts as I always say to my clients, “one step at a time, one small step at a time.” First it’s recognising that it’s happening and becoming more aware of it. Then it’s finding ways to make small changes, remembering that when you get it wrong!! It’s ok!
And it really is! – we are human and making mistakes is all part of learning, embracing how necessary mistakes are in life allows us to grow, develop and become better people.
5 Top tips for supporting your children to have a
healthier relationship with perfectionism
1. Model the good behaviour, show them it’s ok to make a mistake and learn from it. You don’t have to lose it!
2. Affection and unconditional love – no strings attached, no hoops or goals to achieve. Let them know they are loved always. Especially when it’s tough. You can dislike a behaviour, but always let them know you love them.
3. Tell your young people that you’re proud of them and that you hope they are proud of what they have achieved. It’s a good thing to feel proud.
4. Celebrate mistakes, encourage growth, and support them with love at these times. A hug goes a long way – learning from the situation can come after that.
5. The ‘Power of Yet’ statement is essential with kids – teaching them and letting them know that they might not be able to do it now but they will be able to just not 'yet'.
5 top tips for adults who are challenging
1. Be kind to yourself, it won’t happen overnight, but every little win is brilliant, and we learn through repetition.
2. It’s about re learning that mistakes are ok, they help us grow and get better at what we do because they teach us new things.
3. Developing a healthier self-esteem by thinking of the things that are positive, the things you enjoy.
4. Spending time with people you care about and who support you.
5. Consider the social media, TV, or books you read so that you don’t follow things that are encouraging perfectionism.
Many of the tips from each list are interchangeable and it’s about finding what works for you. Taking it slow, getting support from loved ones, friends, colleagues or a professional and celebrating the small things whether right or wrong.
Let’s stop undermining our own potential and start harnessing it. We can still have high standards, be motivated, and disciplined but we can also be kind to ourselves. Let’s quit striving for unrealistic goals and worrying about what others think.
Remember it takes courage and strength to make changes in our lives and they all start with one small step.
Be your own cheerleader and start today. Make one small change.
If you would like to have a chat then send me an email and we can arrange a time; email@example.com