I have had a major ‘thought’ / realisation in the last few days.
‘Perfectionism’ doesn’t mean that you are , or even think you can be, perfect. It means you beat yourself up when you are NOT perfect.
Which given that no-one is perfect, you can always do better, and the range of tasks and things one needs to do every day is so vast …. it means beating yourself up about everything, every single day.
This is literally a massive things for me that I just had not computed, Had I googled ‘perfectionism’ I would have come up with this
Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.
Perfectionism is a trait that makes life an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. A fast and enduring track to unhappiness, it is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation.
Sigh, Its take a LONG time, but I can see it very clearly now. How much of my life has been about Must and Should, and how harsh I am on myself. I was mulling over the whole New Year Resolutions thing in the last couple of days and there are a few things that I should address. New year, new start – fine. Bt it occurred to me how many New Year’s Resolution lists these things have been on eg take more exercise, eat less junk and so on. The very fact that these things are still recurring means that obviously previous resolutions to change have not been successful. And I started wondering why that was…
And I think it’s this…. It’s ( I have) always been all or nothing. All / total / complete etc just doesn’t work. for example I might have set myself the challenge to get more exercise. I would have worked out a schedule to squeeze in the 5 sessions of CV exercise that are recommended every week (and it would have been a HUGE squeeze) and then started. Within 2 weeks I would have missed one session, and then another – perhaps for unavoidable reasons…perhaps just because I REALLY didn’t feel like it … poof that’s the end of that. Not perfect, not kept up with what you said, not doing it properly. Resolution busted let’s not bother ….( another failure )
Something like this
So, by dropping the exercise altogether I have yet another stick to beat myself with.
This year I’m going to do it differently. I would like to take more exercise ( I should for my health, take more exercise) but thats hard. It’s hard to find the time, It’s hard to motivate myself and it’s hard to feel enthusiastic about. Deep down I WOULD like to be healthier, If I accept I am never going to be super fit, but that any improvement is a benefit, then we are into a different place. So I have set a goal to try and improve my fitness, I am going to focus on what I CAN do, and do that. I am going to go back to Yoga which I loved, and if that is all I can manage, then that is all I will do for now.
I have set some longer term things to work towards in many areas of my life… my fitness, the house, my garden etc. But they are all flexible, long term not “do it now or else you are a failure” type things … things i can look at and work towards with no deadline or massive expectation.
Every now and again I wonder if I’m ready to finish therapy. If I’ve done “enough” – and then I come across another thing … such as wondering if once you have firm boundaries in place you can afford to be a bit less rigid about stuff inside those boundaries?
I learned very early in A.A. (unbelievably for me, almost 9 years ago) that “we claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection,” whch really relieves me of the daily pressures with which I would otherwise be confronted. It has certainly made a difference in my heart, my mind, and in my life.
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That’s right – progress not perfection … 🙂
I can so relate to this. Do you find that you also are focused excessively on what people think? Or on not offending people? This also translates as a kind of “failure” to me.
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Oh yes ! I am only very slowly making progress with this aspect. Literally until this week I kind of though I was a failed perfectionist because I was so crap at itv! Or that in reality I was NOT a perfectionist because surely a real perfectionist would be doing better !!! Xxx
I think failing at perfection is the only way it’s done. Part of my perfectionism is not even trying because my own standards are too hard to meet. And I identify COMPLETELY with the striving not to fail as opposed to striving to succeed. This has been eye-opening for me as well. Thank you!
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Great article. I relate to your cycle and I’m also approaching things differently in 2019. Focusing on what you CAN do is fundamental to managing your mindset. All the best for the year ahead.
Aw snap! I had a realisation about perfectionism myself this weekend – that perfectionists find it incredibly hard to trust others. (I wrote about about it – if you’re interested… delete link if not appropriate! https://email@example.com/the-thing-they-never-tell-you-about-perfectionism-baf101e299b4 )
Miss your posts, Lily – hope all is well!