Do you struggle with perfectionism?
Maybe you think you have to be a certain weight, have a certain job, or have the “right” relationship. But while there’s nothing wrong with having goals, sometimes we take it too far.
Perfectionism is unfortunately a way of life for many women and high-achievers. But it’s also straight-up toxic: no matter how much we want or wish, perfection will never be attained. It’s an artificial standard that we can never meet and it will always end up eroding our own self-confidence and worth.
However, perfectionism is about much more than professional achievement or weighing a certain number. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a perfectionist, there’s still a good chance you have some toxic perfectionist beliefs. (I certainly did!)
So today I’m shining a light on more of the ways perfectionist thinking can be interfering with your happiness and mental health.
Toxic Perfectionist Thinking: 5 Beliefs Blocking Your Happiness
Toxic Perfectionist Thinking Belief #1:
Believing You Have To Be Perfect To Be Loved/accepted
This is the big one for people who struggle with perfectionism. We often strive for perfectionism because we don’t believe we can be lovable or acceptable in our natural imperfect state.
This belief is like an addiction because it’s so difficult to get rid of. We fall for the trap because it seems like if we just try a little harder, mask a little more, be a little more, then we will finally be rewarded. Only the reward is a mirage, constantly moving away from you the more you try to get there.
Eventually, this belief will wear down your self-worth (because you’re never ever “done”) and make you feel depleted or exhausted.
For most of us, it’s simply way easier to believe that if we just try a little harder then we’ll be loved than to just let ourselves be loved for who we really are. So what if we worked on being authentically imperfectly us instead?
Surprise!–you are still human. You will make mistakes, big and small. You will say the wrong thing. You’ll do things you regret. But the good news is that so will everyone else. And despite every “bad” thing that you do, you are still worthy and lovable. You might as well learn how to embrace the mess because the mess is part and parcel of being you.
Toxic Perfectionist Thinking Belief #2:
Believing Life Can Be Perfect
Perfection is a big myth in the world of manifestation. There are so many manifestation “teachers” out there who sell you on a vision of a big beautiful perfect life. (I’m sure at times it sounds like I’m one of them!) But I don’t actually believe in perfection. There isn’t anyone out there who gets out of the messy pain of being human–no matter how strong your intentions are.
That last sentence sounds scary I know! But if it sounds scary it only means you’re resisting the full human experience. When you embrace the human experience for what it is (Messy. Painful. Imperfect AF!) then you don’t have to be constantly disappointed when your life doesn’t match up.
To steal a phrase from Abraham, we are meant to experience contrast. We need the lows to contrast with the highs. If we were just meant to be happy all the time, we never would have incarnated on this physical plane in the first place. Loss, pain, and suffering are just part of the deal–and in turn, they make the “good” parts of life that much sweeter.
I know it’s hard to embrace those messier parts of life but honestly, the mess will always happen. Your car will get towed. Your partner will do something you don’t like. The economy will tank (and grow and tank and grow). Don’t make those things mean something about you. And for heaven’s sake, don’t blame them on your “low vibration” or “toxic thoughts”. Spirituality and manifestation won’t prevent every bad thing in the world from happening to you. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.
Instead of trying to make your life perfect and being shocked every time it doesn’t turn out that way, learn how to develop self-trust. Self-trust and resilience will get you one thousand times farther in life than hoping against hope for perfection that never comes.
Toxic Perfectionist Thinking Belief #3:
Believing You’ll Wake Up Perfect One Day
One of the sneaky ways we use perfection against ourselves is the promise of a fresh tomorrow. We love to think that tomorrow we’ll want to wake up at 5 am, eat vegan all day, do the meditations, and the yoga and whatever else is on our list.
This is a particularly intoxicating form of self-sabotage because one part of you really wants those things. It also really wants to believe that you can just have all those things without any hard work or effort or discomfort. So it’s easy to fall for the lie that tomorrow you’ll just wake up and magically be the person who actually does them.
However, this never seems to work out does it? Because when you wake up in the morning you feel (shocker!) pretty much the same as you do today. You won’t really feel like putting in the work of waking up early, eating right, exercising, or whatever else it is any more than you do right now. You’ll just want to chill and do what you always do–all while telling yourself that you’ll start again tomorrow.
Of course, that’s just a sneaky way to lie to yourself. Because the truth is if you don’t feel like doing it today, you’re not going to feel like doing it tomorrow either. The only way to become the person who “feels like doing it” is to force yourself to become them. You start waking up early or working out no matter what, even if you don’t want to or it’s raining or you might be late for work if you do. You stick to the goals through the difficulty of getting started long enough for it to become a new habit.
But there’s no getting around that initial discomfort of doing new things or things that you don’t really want to do. There’s no magic pill that you can take that will make you wake up tomorrow wanting to do them. The only way to get there is by doing the real hard work of just getting up and doing the damn thing.
Toxic Perfectionist Thinking Belief #4:
Believing Your Efforts Have To Be Perfect
How many times have you made a mistake (missed a workout, ate something, was late for something), and then you thought: “Oh it’s okay I’ll start over again tomorrow/next week.”
Seems pretty innocent, huh? But it’s yet another example of how perfectionist thinking keeps us from making progress.
When we make changes in our life, often we think we have to do it perfectly: eat only the right food, do all the workouts, etc. So then when we mess up, we stop and press pause on the goal so that we can start all over again another day.
However, growth has nothing to do with perfection. You can still miss the occasional workout or eat something you “shouldn’t” and still make progress. The longer you hit “pause” on trying to do what you want to do, the longer it’s going to take for you to hit your goal.
What would happen if you stopped equating growth with perfection? What tiny incremental shifts could you make? How much farther could you go if you stopped “punishing” yourself with inaction when you do something “wrong”?
So often growth involves gently coaxing ourselves into new habits. If you make it about quitting and giving up when you don’t get things 100% right, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Toxic Perfectionist Thinking Belief #5:
Believing Other People Have To Be Perfect
Have you ever had the horrifying experience of seeing your partner or a good friend do something you were completely unprepared for? How did you handle that experience?
If you didn’t handle it well, don’t worry. You’re not a total monster! All that’s really happened is a threat to your ego–and your ego loves to kick up a fuss when that happens. It simply wants to live in a predictable world. It fears the unknown and it does anything it can to create a feeling of security inside of you.
However, that means we often “fill in the blanks” by thinking we can predict the future behavior (or thoughts or words) of someone close to us–then we’re absolutely shocked when that person goes and does something we didn’t predict.
This is an example of how we apply perfectionist thinking to other people. We never actually had control over the other person; it just felt like we did! When the illusion drops, we might freak out and punish the person who is “misbehaving” because we want to get back to a feeling of safety again.
But how well do the people around you take to you trying to control them? Probably not so well! No adult human likes to feel like another adult human is controlling them.
In truth, even the people we think we know the best in the world are still their own separate entities. We will never fully understand the experience of being them–therefore, we can never fully predict what they will think, say, or do. Instead of being shocked and trying to “punish” them into becoming who we expected them to be, it’s so much easier to just get curious:
“That’s interesting. Why do you think/say that?”
“Help me understand! What made you do that?”
Staying curious allows you to get more information about the other person–and will hopefully help you stop applying those unfair perfectionist beliefs to the people you love the most.
Tips To Handle Perfectionist Thinking
Embrace your messiness
This will mean different things for different people. Maybe it means relaxing a little at your workplace. Maybe it means not going above and beyond or doing work that you weren’t asked to do. Maybe that simply means not creating a complicated list of “rules” for yourself! Even if it feels uncomfortable at first, challenge yourself to relax in this way. Then notice if the world falls apart after. (Hint: it won’t.)
Aim for B level work (not always A+)
All too often perfectionists go into new projects guns blazing and then burn out really quickly. Instead of going over the top with your efforts, what about aiming for a happy medium from the start? This is often just the trick you need to sustain your energy long enough to finish the project.
When you find yourself getting upset about something, ask yourself if it will matter in one year or 5 years. (Most of the time–it won’t.)
Done is better than perfect
If you have problems completing tasks because you always bite off more than you can chew, aim to get things done first. Then go back and do the correcting work if you have the time and energy.
Lower your expectations for those around you
High or unrealistic expectations can strangle even the best relationships. Remember that your expectations are always within your power. Instead of holding other people to them, notice what happens when you stop expecting so much.
Stop seeing things in black & white
The human ego absolutely loves black and white thinking: thinking things can only be good or bad. There is no in-between! But unfortunately for it, this beautiful 3d earth is full of some beautiful shades of grey. When you rush to judge something as “good” or “bad”, try to pause and ask yourself if it can be a little of both.
Stop obsessing over “failures” and give yourself credit for the little things
It’s hard to drop the running tally of all the different ways we f*cked up. But instead, try to remember all the times you showed up for yourself and when you made an effort, even if it didn’t always work out. The most important thing is always what you do with those moments.
Focus on the process not the outcomes
Growth is a lifelong journey. What matters the most is always your attitude above anything else. When you let little things get you down, you’re just blocking your own magic. Instead, shift your focus to growth and those little disappointments won’t matter so much.
Remember failure is universal
The only people who don’t experience failure are the ones who never put themselves out there in the first place. When you choose a path of growth, failure is simply inevitable. Every successful business person and most celebrities have several big failures behind them. Those people kept moving forward anyway, even after the “failure”–and that’s exactly what you need to do too.
Embrace your “bad” side
Everyone has an Inner Bad Girl/Guy that’s just dying to come out. Not to say you have to be “bad” all the time. But there’s a certain freedom in just owning what you want no matter what anyone else thinks. If you struggle with being perceived as perfect, embracing your “bad” side from time to time might be the perfect antidote.
So tell me: what’s your relationship like with perfectionism? What are your favorite tips for managing your perfectionism so you can feel happy and whole?
While many of us have been programmed to have perfectionist thoughts, you don’t have to hold those toxic beliefs against yourself anymore! It’s simply a mental habit but one that you have the power to break. Try out the tips in this post and see how much easier it is to move through your own life.
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