Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Perfectionism. I am a recovering perfectionist. A work in progress. Someone who would put her teddy bears in a row against a specific wall in my room at the young age of 3 years old. From a very young age, everything had it’s specific place. My books were on my shelf by order of subject and author. My CDs were divided in sections and in alphabetical order. (Movie soundtracks, Country, R & B, etc). Should anyone use a CD, it had to be put back in it’s exact place as it had been found. The clothes in my closet and dresser did (ok, still do) have their own place and order. (season, colour, etc) These are only small examples of how things had to be.
Our society seems to create more and more perfectionists. Perfection is a way for us to feel like we have some sort of control over our life. Sadly, this also means that many of us are reaching for impossibly high standards for ourselves as a way to feel valued and accepted. Pshychology Today has a great post regarding perfectionism.. click here to read more
Of course, perfection does have its place. For example, doctors and air traffic controllers need to be precise and perfect in their calculations. I believe the same goes when building our modes of transportation.
Why give-up on perfectionism? Why change?
STRESS. Keeping this level of perfectionism takes time, effort and causes a lot of stress. It causes a lot of stress, not just for you but for the people around you. I can only imagine how my friends and family felt when they came over for a visit. Anytime anyone moved or touched anything, I would make sure they remembered to put everything back “as it should be”. I would get upset if anything was out-of-place.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Friends and family can be uncomfortable with your high standards. As mentioned above, friends and family felt like they were sometimes walking on egg shells around my home. Everything had to be just so. Everything had to be kept clean too. I put a lot of time and effort in keeping everything organized and spotless. I felt disrespected if anyone that came over didn’t do the same. To me, their was no other way of doing things.
ENERGY. Trying to change things outside of ourselves is exhausting. I fell into a clinical depression and was burned-out to boot. All my life, in my home, in my work, and then as a new mom.. everything had to be just right. All things had to be done right the first time or not at all. I wouldn’t ask for help. I believed that asking for help would be seen as a sign of weakness and/or failure.
SELF-GROWTH. By letting go of this need for “perfection” you will give yourself room to grow. I wanted to find my authentic self and truly be “me”. No more hiding behind this perfectionism shield. No more trying to be valued and accepted by doing everything “the right way”. Instead, “failure” became a “learning opportunity”; a growth opportunity. I learned to value all of who I am. I learned to enjoy and let shine my “genuine, unarmored, messy, awkward, compassionate less-than-perfect” self.
HOW TO LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM
After 10 years of depression, (took me long enough) I realized I needed to delegate and ask for help. That I couldn’t do it all if I was going to get healthy again. The next step was learning to be ok with how others did things. That others would not do things the exact same way I did them and that this is OK. Slowly, oh so slowly, I let go more and more finding a balance between what needs to be done “just so” and what is “fine as it is”.
It has now been 12 years since I took that first step as a recovering perfectionist. I am happy, healthy and I have even been called a free-spirit. Family and friends are relaxed when they visit. I no longer spend all of my energy on keeping the house in perfect order. Instead, I save it for my family, friends and life. I know I am perfectly imperfect and I am ok with this. I love myself just as I am as I continue to grow into a better version of myself.
Yours in health, happiness and success, Nancy Shimmy
Perfectionism is arbor. It’s not eternally driven, like healthy striving. It’s externally driven and fuelled by “What will people think?” Perfectionism is a shield that keeps us from being seen. Here’s to a genuine, unarmored, messy, awkward, compassionate, less-than-perfect week. – Brené Brown