The hidden trap of perfectionism

woman perfectionism

Do you need everything to be perfect?

Have you ever experienced that creeping sense of panic or anxiety if something doesn’t quite live up to the standards of being ‘perfect’?

Being a perfectionist may have some great qualities. For example, you’ll likely be passionate about what you’re doing, have a great eye for detail and you pay attention to the little things. You’ll likely also be a hard worker, but whilst those around you may feel you don’t want to let them down, being a perfectionist has more to do with yourself than other people.

Can it ever be enough?

Have you ever noticed that when you complete something, you always want it a little bit better?

Perhaps it just needs a little more finessing, a little something to make it, well, you know, perfect?

One of the major drawbacks of being a perfectionist is that success is never enough. Why? Because you’re measuring yourself against impossible standards. The goal line keeps shifting, and so you never arrive. The contentment other people feel when they complete a task seems to somehow elude you. And being a recovering perfectionist, I know that can feel pretty crap.

When is the right moment?

This one that still sneaks up on me, until I spot it hiding and call it out.

It’s easy when you fall into the perfectionist trap to believe that the ‘right’ moment will come. That ‘perfect’ moment to start that project or finish that activity. And so, you wait. And you wait. And perhaps you wait some more. From the outside, we call this procrastinating. But in your mind, you know this ‘perfect’ moment will come and you’ll be ready to deliver and create your best work.

But does that moment ever come?

Sometimes we actually just need to start. Start from wherever we are and with what we have.

As a recovering perfectionist, this was one of the hardest parts to wrap my mind around. I wanted everything clearly laid out in-front of me. I wanted to know I was ‘ready’ to do whatever it was I was going to do. But I learnt that sitting and waiting doesn’t achieve anything. So instead I taught myself to just start and trust in the process.

Are we striving to be perfect or just wanting to avoid failure?

There is a difference in striving for excellence and demanding perfection. In many ways, the need to be perfect was created when we were children. Many of us learnt that in order to get love and affection from our parents, we needed to reach a certain standard. Love was perhaps in some ways conditional, being praised for when we did an excellent job, and being sent to our rooms if things didn’t quite work out.

Unfortunately, our minds in early childhood just take in life experiences without questioning them. We simply learn that this is the way of the world and grow up running those same subconscious programs in our adult life.

So my question for you is this. What are you afraid of? If you give up the need for things to be ‘perfect’, what are you afraid might happen? And when the answer or feeling comes up, I want you to call it out. I want you to ask yourself if that is really true, or if it’s an illusion based on patterns from your past?

Awareness always holds the key

Perfectionism if left unchecked can become toxic. You can feel like you never really succeed, always pushing and striving and working towards impossible goals. Not to mention tying in your self-worth to the outcome. If this is you, stop. Acknowledge those feelings and start to shine that light of awareness on what’s really underneath the fear of not being ‘perfect’.