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Freedom from perfectionism
Freedom is my word for 2023. As I considered what it would mean for me to really embrace freedom, an escape from perfectionism sprung to mind.
Perfectionism has a lot in common with busyness and rules, which were the topic of my first 2 blog posts. As I researched futher I discovered perfectionism is also correlated with trauma.
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I have always set high standards for myself. I did’t think this used to be problematic. But perfectionism seemed to be controlling. Brene Brown renowned author and TED speaker says "Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth." Rather “it’s a way of thinking that says this: 'If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame, and ridicule,’”
My perfectionism wasn’t healthy. I had so many of the traits below:
You set expectations for yourself that you would not expect of anyone else in your position.
You consistently put off self-care and recreational activities to make your work flawless.
You check and recheck your work for mistakes even when you can no longer find anything to correct.
You expect negative feedback even when you have exceeded the expectations of others.
You overperform, often realizing later that you did not need to do as much work as you did.
You stress over the quality of even routine tasks.
Never feeling good enough.
Constantly engaging in negative self-talk.
Anxiety and depression
Do any strike a chord with you? I would love to leave these behaviors behind in 2023.
I have tried before. In a therapy session in 2021, my therapist suggested that I should talk to myself like I do a good friend. I could see her point. I would never be so demanding of a friend as I am myself. I found it hard however to talk to myself like that. It felt like she was asking me to lie to myself. I could not accept myself as having done well enough or allowing myself to have a lower standard.
I was rescued by my little dog Rafi. I somehow could hear his loving and accepting voice. I started illustrating his wise sayings. The illustration below is when I baked some cakes for a friend who was going through a tough time. He nearly didn’t get them because they were not as well risen as I wanted. I somehow heard Rafi’s voice persuading me to share them. I’m so glad I did, my friend raved about how delicious they were.
Sadly Raf’s wise words dodn’t seem to transfer with me to other contexts. I was really driven and over working in my NHS career. Ultimately it was that drive that took me burnout and needing to leave the NHS after 30 years.
I discovered another Brene Brown’s quote today. It made me smile at the same time as making me sad.It really spoke to the fear and shame that I felt. Maybe I’ll illustrate this later.
"When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun -- and fear is the annoying back seat driver."
What if I could let good enough drive? Surely it should follow that shame and fear will have to hitch a lift somewhere else. More than just ejecting those negative emotions I would like to welcome joy and hope as passengers. For too long I have been robbed of the joy of sharing something new, something I am still learning. I want to find joy in the journey, not just the destination.
I wonder if anyone reading this also struggles with perfectionism. If you are in emotional difficulty I recommend getting the help of a therapist. I have found resources from The Centre for Clinical Interventions incredibly useful. You can find a workbook and information sheets on Perfectionism here.
I would love to hear your thoughts on perfectionism. If you look below you’ll see a comment call out. PLEASE share something. It will make my day!