Perfectionism makes life like an endless report card. It can be fast track to unhappiness
Extreme side- more focused on avoiding failure.
If you are somewhere on the spectrum of perfectionism it is not only affecting how you look at yourself, it is affecting your relationships.
Excellence v. Perfectionism
A desire to achieve is healthy. But an irrational desire to always be perfect can cause problems.There is a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection.
Clients often ask me, what is wrong with high standards and lofty goals? High standards and hard work do lead to the achievement of lofty goals. Perfectionistic standards lead to fear of failure, which leads to inaction. Huge difference there, right?
Constantly pushing yourself beyond your limits can have a lasting effect on emotional wellbeing. Put more bluntly: perfectionism can send you on the road to burnout.
So when goals are too loft, it breeds inaction.
When perfectionism is about avoiding failure then you become stuck and stagnant.
Long jump. Remember the long jump in elementary school field day or high school track and field?
Run down a runway and then jump as far as you can in the sand. I loved the long jump. What if I told you you have one try in the long jump and you have to jump passed the 30 foot mark. What would happen? Is that expectation even possible. It’s not humanly possible. No human has made it to the 30 ft mark. So it is an unreasonable expectation, even for a world class long jumper. But none the less, this is where I am setting the bar.
Would you likely try? No, you would tell me there is no way to get close to that mark so what should you even try. This is what your brain does to you when you are a perfectionist. It keeps you from trying because you always, always, set the bar too high.
Here is the Perfectionistic Cycle
The thought buried deep or right on the surface is :
- I am not enough
- Because I am not enough, I am going to set excessive standards to prove to myself and others that I am enough
- Standards are so high, I fear failure
- Because I fear failure, I will not try
I become stuck, unable to try new things. Unproductive. Low self-esteem.
Dangers of Perfectionism
Perfection, of course, is an abstraction, an impossibility in reality. When taken too far, the striving for perfection can lead to negative outcomes, like procrastination, a tendency to avoid challenges, rigid all-or-nothing thinking, toxic comparisons, and a lack of creativity. Maladaptive perfectionism is often driven by fear of failure, feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, and adverse childhood experiences. It is frequently accompanied by depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and even suicidal impulses.
Perfectionism is Costing You
- Productivity- if afraid to try, not very productive
- Self-esteem and self-confidence— You don’t feel good about yourself because you are not accomplishing goals, not moving forward.
- Focused on failure, instead of what you want in life, what you want to accomplish, what you want to be known for.
Can’t wait for tomorrow because now that we know what perfectionism is, we are ready to make a change. To do something for ourselves and our future.
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Meet Kathryn Ely
I’m Kathryn Ely and at age 50, I’m enjoying my very best life. I spent years as a lawyer and then stay-at-home mom helping others go out into the world and live their best lives. While this was very important to me, I did not realize that I was losing myself in the process. I followed all of the “shoulds” like “women should always care for others” and “taking time for yourself is just selfish”.
As two of my children were getting ready to go out into the world I realized I was lost, without my next purpose, and it was scary. So I went back to school and over the course of several years, I not only found myself, but I designed the formula for women in midlife to achieve their most fulfilling lives. It is my mission to equip as many women as possible with this design and the tools to make this chapter of their lives the best chapter.
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Imperfect Thriving is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive, imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.