A popular cop-out I have heard in personal and professional circles is the idea that “perfectionism” is healthy.
“What’s wrong with having high standards? Isn’t perfectionism a better work ethic than laziness?”
I truly believe that perfectionism is the WORST form of self-abuse. In my history of working with addicts I understand that there is a “feeling” most substance users are trying to achieve. They want to numb out, have more energy, forget everything, be social or feel sexier, to name a few.
For perfectionists there is no high. There is no end result. IT IS A NEVER ENDING CHASE. A goal may be reached (entry into college, perfect grades, completion of a project) but a true perfectionist still won’t feel “worthy” after accomplishing goals. Just like a codependent person needs someone to fix, the perfectionist needs to feed their self-worth.
With this constant chase comes brutal self-punishment. Other dirty little words like “should”, “failure” and “ought to” keep our inner critic busy.
Rule #1: Don’t SHOULD on yourself.
When our personal demands (powered by brutal self-punishment), affect our self-worth, problems arise. Low self-esteem leads to……wait, I don’t have enough time to discuss what that leads to. You get the picture.
In my personal and professional life, I discourage the use of the word “perfect.” It’s unattainable. “Perfect” sets up unrealistic expectations. And we all know what happens when expectations are set too high. DISAPPOINTMENT!
So what are some solutions?
- Take the word “perfect” out of your vocabulary. Now. Thank You.
- Think of what “perfect” used to mean to you. I understand that some projects for work and home need to be up to a certain standard. Are these projects now considered “up to your standards?” Could you say “I’m pleased with my work? I’m proud of how this project came out.” Isn’t that a more “loving” statement than “My work was perfect.”
- Think of where you use this word? Do you use this with your spouse/partner? If so, please stop. Remember what I wrote earlier. Perfect is unattainable. It’s unfair to place that standard on someone as important as a spouse/partner. What is “perfect?” Someone who doesn’t cheat on you? State that as a boundary. (What are boundaries? I have a post for that too!)
- Do you use this word with your children? What type of pressure are you placing on them by asking them to do things perfectly? Is it more realistic to encourage them to “do their best?”
In summary, less pressure can be placed on us and people around us if we set reasonable expectations for behavior. Choose more loving expectations and prepare to receive more loving results!
When I work with clients on self-esteem the 1st lesson I give them is about compassion. According to Brene Brown, when we are compassionate with others we assume that “they are just doing the best they can.” If you can make this wish for others, then make this wish for yourself.
Daily compassion means you replace criticism with compliments. You look at what you deposited into your life, not what was withdrawn.
Inner criticisms are like bags of resentment and every day you fill those bags to a certain level. Brown further states that compassionate people have strong boundaries that keep them away from resentment. My role as a therapist, and here as a self-care blogger, is to inspire you to look at yourself and the world differently. Look in the mirror with compassionate eyes.
What could you possibly give yourself credit for?
- Raising one or more kids
- Being a supportive spouse/partner/girlfriend/boyfriend
- Keeping a job for a year
- Changing careers
- Working hard for that promotion
- Maintaining a household
- Paying your bills each month
- Saving money this past weekend because you know that birthdays, holidays and trips are coming up
- Fulfilling bucket list goals
- Staying clean and sober
- Surviving each day with mental health issues and inadequate doctors and/or meds
- Graduating school or college
- Signing up for classes again
- Achieving one goal this year
- Starting a business and sticking with it
- Obtaining your citizenship
- Asking for help
- Learning to speak up for yourself at work or at home
- Dealing with difficult family members or friends
- Setting boundaries and sticking to them
- Leaving abusive or unhealthy relationships
- Speaking kindly to your kids
- Teaching your children to do better than you did
- Paying down debts for milestone events (wedding, moving, having a child)
- Giving birth and surviving post-partum depression
- Bounced back from a divorce or a painful separation
- Returning to work after a prolonged absence
- Getting out of your comfort zone
- Travelling solo
- Learning what self-care really means and embracing it
- Learning new technology to bond with family members
- Restoring or remodeling your house
- Saving and purchasing a home
- Recovering from surgery or a physical setback
- Dealing with a medical diagnosis the best you can
- Healing from grief and loss
- Forgiving yourself and/or others and moving forward
- Reaching fitness or weight loss goals (ran a marathon, started yoga, etc)
This list could continue but then you might forget all the reasons you just nodded your head.
If you journal and need reason to give thanks, use this list. If you developed a new list in your head after reading this, write it down.
Tell others on social media the reasons you are a warrior. You survived 1, 4 or 10 of the events listed above. Bravo to you!!
If you are on social media, use #thefocusonme and describe why you need to be compassionate with yourself.
Book recommendation: Rising Strong by Brene Brown