Keepin' It Real: My Need for Perfectionism is Holding Me Back

I write a lot about loving yourself, chasing your dreams, setting goals and making it happen.  I’m passionate about these topics and I live them every day. 

But….I’m not perfect and my life is far from perfect. 

There are days where I don’t love myself.  There are goals that don’t get accomplished.  Self doubt and negative thoughts creep in from time to time. 

I’m not perfect and life isn’t always easy (which is part of the beauty of life!). But, I’m always on the quest to try to improve myself.

One thing I struggle with is putting myself out there and showing my imperfections to those around me.  I tend to wear a ‘everything is perfect’ mask when dealing with the world around me.

 

This year is all about taking some big steps forward and making big changes in my life.  As part of this journey, I’m challenging myself to take the mask off and expose more of my vulnerable side.

To that end, I’ve been inspired to start a new series around here, called ‘Keepin’ it Real’.  Real is one of my ways of being this year, so ‘Keepin’ it Real’ seemed like a good title for the series.

My Objective

My goal is to peel back the layers from time to time and get real. 

Yes, I write a lot about the utopia of living your dream and loving yourself wholeheartedly at the same time.  To read about all of this without seeing the real person behind the scenes may feel intimidating when faced with your own challenges, so by pulling back the curtain, I can show you where I struggle and how I strive to push past those challenges. 

Maybe it’ll be inspiring as you face each of your challenges or maybe it’ll just make you feel like you’re not alone.  Either way, my hope is that by letting you in, it allows you to see a new side of me and a new side of yourself.

I’m aiming to share a different topic in this series each month, but won’t hold back if inspiration strikes more frequently!

Finally, my goal with this 'Keepin’ it Real' series is not to specifically give advice.  I’m not going to tell you 10 ways to do it better, or how to push past that challenge.  It’s my chance to tell you how one of my struggles is showing up in my life.  I may share what I’m doing to try to combat it but my objective is really just to share a piece of me with you.

 

My need for Perfectionism

I’m hard on myself.  I push myself and I expect a lot out of myself.  I also tend to beat myself up when I feel I didn’t accomplish something or when I expected more out of myself. 

I didn’t realize until recently how much I expect myself to be ‘perfect’. 

Let me be clear, I know I’m not perfect, but I’ve discovered when I don’t do something perfectly the overcritical voices in my head go to town!  

While I was aware that I push myself hard, I really didn’t think this was a ‘bad’ thing.  In fact, I never really thought too much about it. 

Honestly, I thought it was a good thing!  I’d tell myself I was setting the bar high to push myself towards greatness!  If I failed…I didn’t give up, so that’s good.  But, man oh man, would I beat myself up.  Fortunately, I usually try again and usually do better, but that just gave me the fuel to feed this type of mindset.  

It wasn’t until recently that a spotlight was turned on this tendency of mine and I really saw how bad the expectation for perfectionism can be.

As I started becoming more aware, I honestly don’t know where this need for perfectionism comes from, but I do know it’s something I need to work on if I want to make the big changes this year.

 

Shining a Light on My Perfectionism

A Little Background

I’ve mentioned in the past that I started coaching school in November.  Part of the accreditation process is being assigned a peer client and a peer coach from your fellow students immediately following the first training weekend. 

In other words, you dive right into the deep end of the pool with only one swimming lesson and no life raft. 

I don’t disagree with this method!  The best way to learn is to get out there and do it, but it doesn’t come without a healthy dose of fear.  

Testing my Perfectionism

Before my first call with my peer client, I was very nervous.  It was to last an hour and we’d only practiced up to 30 minutes at our training weekend and that was hard!!  My first fear was how the hell was I going to think of enough questions to ask to for an hour!!!  I was also afraid of not thinking of any questions or asking the wrong questions or etc etc etc.  

Basically, while I was excited about it, I was also terrified!

So...I prepped myself.  If I feel prepared, I normally perform better (or so I thought).  I’ve also realized over the past couple of months that part of my prepping process is mentally establishing what I’ll use to measure my success (which ends up being unrealistic expectations!).

But, here’s the thing about coaching…you walk into each call with a client having no idea what they’re bringing to the table.  You can’t prepare with specific questions or things to tell them.  So…my fear was real!!

The Moment of Truth

As we went through our first call…it went well.  It lasted the full hour (woohoo!), I asked lots of good questions, and by the end of the session, my peer client said he thought the call went really well.  

Sounds pretty good, right?! 

Time to pop the bubbly and celebrate a successful first call, right?

I did that for about 30 seconds and then it happened…all the voices in my head pointed out my imperfections during the call.  It didn’t matter that the client had just told me he was happy with the session.  Those voices shoved that aside and starting attacking every question I had asked and more importantly, every question I didn’t ask.

I didn’t extend myself any compassion for being new!!  All I did was beat myself up for not being perfect.

My A-Ha Moment

The following night was my turn to be coached by my peer coach (not the same person as my peer client). I told her all about my experience (not anything my client had told me) and how I needed to be better prepared for the following week. I also told her that I didn’t feel I was qualified to help him!  

She called me out on that and said…”So you think you should’ve been a pro coach on your very first coaching call?”  And I quickly replied “Yes!!” (and really truly believed that!)

Then it hit me how ridiculous that sounded and I started dying laughing!

It was an a-ha moment for me because I suddenly saw how much this plays out in everything I do!  My need for perfectionism prevents me from seeing my successes and celebrating them.  It makes me feel like crap because I’m constantly telling myself my best is not enough.  And it probably has me playing small because I’m afraid to not be perfect.

This was in December and I’ve spent the past two months really paying attention to this and I’ve started to drop my need for perfectionism. 

In fact, last week, I was talking with my peer coach and I was telling her about something new I had done the day before and while I had been nervous about it, I told her that for it being my first time, it wasn’t perfect, but I did good and I was happy with it. 

She stopped me and asked me if I heard what I had just said.  She pointed out how far I’ve come from that early call where I expected to be perfect!!  

I'm not 'fixed' yet (there really isn't such a thing as being 'fixed' anyway!).  I still need to pay attention and catch myself, but progress has been made!  I feel more calm and happier with the things I am working on, which is a great feeling!

 

Perfectionism according to Brené Brown

In January, I read the book Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (it’s a FABULOUS book that I highly recommend!).  In one of the chapters, she talks specifically about the need for perfectionism…so let me tell, I had my highlighter at the ready! 

It was enlightening! 

In case you’re not familiar with Brené Brown, she does a lot of research on shame and vulnerability. 

In the book, she describes perfectionism as a shield from vulnerability. 

She says “Perfectionism is not the path that leads us to our gifts and to our sense of purpose; it’s the hazardous detour”. 

Hmmm….ok.  That explains a lot about my past!

She goes on to explain that perfectionism is something we do to try to protect ourselves from being blamed, being judged, and feeling shame as the result of these (or from failing)

It’s what we use to not be seen. 

That hit home…I’m not a fan of being ‘seen’.  I’ve blamed that on my introversion and my preference to observe, not stand out, but I’ve struggled with this as I’ve entered the blogging world.  If I want my blog, website, and future business to grow and thrive….I have to be seen.

I have to drop this need for perfectionism because it’s not serving me.  I need to deal with my fears of being judged.  Perfectionism is about trying to gain approval, so I need to make sure I’m filling that need within myself instead of looking for it externally (which, to be honest, I don’t look externally for approval all that often, but apparently, there’s a trace of it still there).  

 

Final Thoughts

So, where am I now on all of this? 

I’m still a work in progress and I will still feel that need for perfectionism popping up, but I’m happy that I’m much more aware of it and how damaging that mindset can be.  

I’m working on being more visible and putting myself out there more, even if I’m not feeling it’s a perfect moment.  It’s okay!!!  

I love that as we discover these things about ourselves, we have the power to make big changes.  We’re the captain of our ship and when we spot something that isn’t working, it’s exciting to be able to do something about it!  

Sharing this with the internet is definitely a little scary.  I do feel some fear about being judged but, I’m taking a step out into the light to show you part of the real me.

Do you see part of yourself in my story? What are your thoughts on perfectionism? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment and let me know!

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