Perfectionism is one of the worst psychological traps. It is a snake eating its own tail. Being driven to take on all the responsibilities only means there are more opportunities to screw up. This is the predicament that sends the perfectionist’s anxiety sky high!
Getting to the root of perfectionism takes time and the following approach prescribes steps that give way to a deeper self-awareness and new way of being.
Step 1: Learn to shift to being instead of doing.
All card carrying perfectionist have multiple “to-do” lists at any point in time. While it is necessary to check off our tasks in life, we cannot conclude that our worth and existence is nothing more than what we do. Learning to be is crucial and it will be uncomfortable, so get ready! Believing that you can lie in bed all day and still have value is the antithesis to the perfectionist manifesto, and yet it is the ultimate goal. But don’t panic, you will get there in baby steps.
Step 2: Begin to envision a worthwhile, imperfect you.
This steps is tough because the perfectionist likely lives according to beliefs that are nothing more than a cognitive house of cards. Valuing productivity and falling for the illusion of control gives perfectionists a false sense of power and stability. Challenging perfectionistic beliefs must occur slowly and subtly to keep anxiety and defenses at bay. A new image of oneself must be developed over time. This new self-image cannot be too radical or the perfectionist mind will think, “Reject!” Instead, multiple versions must be imagined over time to create flexibility in thinking and loosen the grip on a singular self concept. Eventually the perfectionist can slowly accept a new view of the self.
Step 3: Invite imperfection into your life.
Sometimes the only thing keeping us from expanding our personality is practice. If the perfectionist never allows a mistake to go unaddressed or always attends to every possible detail, then there is no opportunity to practice imperfection. I like to think of personality in terms of skills. The perfectionist has developed a set of skills that allows them to be hyper-focused and detail-oriented. Practicing imperfection requires a different set of skills–self-compassion, flexible thinking, and critical thinking. In order to be more comfortable with imperfection, developing new skills is required and that only comes through practice. This can be accomplished by intentionally sending an email with a misspelled word, wearing a certain shirt even though it needs a little ironing, or releasing a work product that could still use a round of revision. These are just a few examples, but the idea is to increase comfort with imperfection through practice. This results in an dynamic, more flexible personality that isn’t driven by the compulsion to be perfect.
Ready to release your high expectations and love your imperfections? Contact me to make an appointment!