I am as guilty as the next parent of acquiescing to the perfectionism scheme, when my kids were very young I was always vigilant that they were no less than anyone else’ children, i.e. dressing them up like models when we were going out, pushing them to show off what they knew, or making sure they were on their absolute best behaviour especially if other kids were misbehaving etc. In short wanting to make it known that my children were the best. I’m sure most parents can relate.
I believe though that due to my early upbringing in some pretty, remote places in Africa, where people tended to be more easy-going, and where comparison wasn’t a thing my parents never really felt compelled to buy into the whole being perfect thing. As a result, it didn’t take me too long to realise that, actually, there was no need to push my kids to be perfect. I was well aware that in the early years of childhood it’s important to be careful not to create problems where there are none, so Instead, while I was around (and that’s a story for another day) they were allowed to develop their own characters with a view to letting them follow their own heart’s desire.
There are however in everyone’s life various people, and environments which influence a young person’s mind whilst on their journey to adulthood, all of which come together to form their character, the way they see the world and react to it. In addition, I fully believe that there is also the natural side of the coin and that some people are born with a need to be perfect in all things. Both scenarios are not ideal given that any type of perfectionism can create difficulties for the individual.
It only takes some small comment or action to throw a person off their “happy” track. This may then influence the way they see themselves, how they perform, how they interact with other people, whether or not they develop certain skills, and so much more.
As time has passed I have learned that
- The sky isn’t going to fall on me if I’m not perfectly groomed on days that I don’t feel like it.
- The world won’t come to a grinding halt if I let the roots of my hair turn well and truly grey before I do something about it, if I decide to do something about it.
I am happy in the knowledge that It’s my choice to have an untidy house occasionally, my choice to cook a meal or get a healthy take away, to wear clothes which are just thrown together and may not look picture perfect. These days I am ever more secure with the way I am, and while I honestly cannot claim to have ever been a perfectionist, I did care what people might think or say about me. I did go through a phase of comparing myself to what the world says is perfect and at times I would be frustrated that despite some effort , I thought , I wasn’t able to measure up.
Today with social media, problems relating to perfectionism have grown exponentially. It is even more difficult for people to appreciate that we are all different, that there is no need whatsoever to play the comparison game, to trust that they are enough, and to simply accept that good enough is perfectly ok. It seems that more than ever we are bombarded, not only with advertisements but also by influencers and mentors all of whom are seemingly “wonder people”, fitting societies dictates. We don’t realise some of it is airbrushed and they usually have PR people or money
They are at the top of their game in their work, fit the picture of what is considered beautiful, have the perfect body, are highly qualified, with ideal relationships and family lives, living the dream in fabulous homes.
It’s no wonder that there has been such an increase in stress levels, anxiety, depression and generally a feeling of not measuring up. Quite frankly it’s mind boggling how many people I encounter who are suffering from disorders / anxieties related to perfectionism.
It might seem easy not to fall into the trap, just don’t pay attention to it all.
If only it were that simple, it is the subconscious mind which sucks it all in and leads one to feelings of inadequacy, then slowly but surely negative self -talk is allowed to creep in and change belief systems, before you know it we are no longer happy with ourselves and can’t seem to find a way back. Just as becoming a perfectionist didn’t happen overnight, neither is finding a workable solution going to be a quick fix.
There are a few things to do which can get the ball rolling:
- Identify what it is the underlying belief system which is causing you to want to be a perfectionist, such as fear, insecurity, failure to name a couple. Having recognised the ones that don’t really serve you let go of them and choose new more positive beliefs
- Perfectionists have a tendency to imagine the worst-case scenario for pretty much every situation. Try to reframe it positively, in the knowledge that it is highly unlikely that the worst ever will or does happen, imagine the situation with best case glasses on
- Acknowledge that it is your behaviour which is perfectionist, avoid labeling yourself as a perfectionist because that becomes who you are whereas it is in fact just a label. Changing a behaviour is easier than changing an identity trait which you have made your own
- Pay particular attention to your self-talk, try to avoid any negative notions about yourself. Surround yourself with positive self-affirmations. I know you have probably heard it a million times before but start to truly BELIEVE that you are now, and always have been enough.
- Have a good look at the standards you have set for yourself, pinpoint a lower level standard that you are able to work with and consciously work towards that goal, then having reached it you could consider taking it down a notch further. Give yourself permission to accept good enough.
- Make tasks that you do time sensitive. Set a start and finish time and stick to it whether or not in your eyes it has been completed to perfection.
It is not always easy to address the issue alone, because it can be hard to take the first step, doubt begins to form as to whether you are making progress. Please contact me if you feel that it would be beneficial to you if we work on the solution together. Carol@carolcassar.com