Are You Addicted to Perfection? (And How to Overcome It)

I'm a recovering perfectionist.  When I look back at my journey, I notice how many disguises my perfectionism has taken.  Another weight loss plan, another exercise regime, another facial care trial, another degree, another course, another bit of research, another look at what I've written, a few more edits...  Even my spirituality became a quest for perfection (enlightenment).

It's exhausting. 

What I eventually figured out is that the point of life wasn't to attain perfection after all.  Instead, it is to come to terms with my whole messy, chaotic, socially "unacceptable" self.

To accept what I believed to be unloveable. To remember that I was always good enough.  And to stop apologising for who and what I am.

And that my friend, is the hardest journey of all. 

The quest for perfection is more socially acceptable than recognising the problems it causes. I've caught myself more than once (recently) talking about how busy and how tired I am (intimating what high standards I have for myself), all the while wondering why those words are coming out of my mouth again. 

What we also know, but don't talk about as much, is that perfectionism also results in work not getting out, relationships that suffer (with self and others), as well as a great deal of unnecessary stress and shame spirals.  Ever made a mistake on something, realised it's gone out and then felt your heart pound, your face get hot and a sick feeling spread throughout your body?  Yep. 

At its core, perfectionism is an attempt to hide our deep-seated fear of not measuring up.

And if this sounds like you, you're far from alone. Imposter syndrome is pervasive.  It doesn't matter who you are or what you do, how famous you are or what you've accomplished.  It will tell you that you're not quite there yet.  It knows no bounds for people that continue to wonder if they'll ever be good enough.

Amusingly, I've even used overcoming my perfectionism as another form of perfectionism.  More striving, another thing wrong with me to target and another battle to fight. This approach has failed me again and again, yet I find myself trapped in it again and again. 

But now I laugh.  Because I realise it is just my conditioning, just my humanity, just my journey. That's all, and there's nothing to be ashamed of in that - for any of us.

It's always counterproductive to do battle with any part of yourself because it creates a civil war inside.  We need to find an integration point.  To understand that part of you has only ever been trying to protect you.  It's created a shield around you so you can't get hurt.

That fear of never being enough believes it's doing a great job of protecting you, and it is. 

But that same shield also keeps love out. It makes us defensive and closed off. And thus it becomes both a form of protection and of self-abuse.

So how do you shift it? 

For me, it's been consistent reminders of my good enough-ness. Changing my orientation from self-protection to openness.  Admitting (often) that I don't have all the answers.  Our society glorifies perfection and knowing all the answers, so this is an act of bravery. 

Being vulnerable is by far the scariest thing I've ever done.  But it's also opened me up to more authentic connections, a feeling of empowerment and freedom like nothing else I've ever experienced. We’re far better role models when people can identify with us, and that requires us to do the hard work of showing up, exactly as we are. 

So with that lovely people, keep going.  Keep showing up.