Do you constantly find yourself in a frantic frenzy, always on the run, exhausted and never able to slow down?
Do you always feel like you’re under the heavy weight of comparison, competition, hustling and multitasking?
Are you a people-pleaser and unable to say “no” to others?
Do you find that whatever you do, it just doesn’t seem to be good enough?
If this is you, you may have already realized what this is… Perfectionism.
Perfectionism can be defined as “pushing oneself to meet unreasonable demands and expectations, as well as being intolerant of mistakes or setbacks” (Edmund Bourne, PhD).
Maybe you have already come to terms with being a Perfectionist, yet you are flat out tired of being tired. You desire a change of lifestyle and mindset, but do not know where to start.
The best way to tackle Perfectionistic thinking and behavior is to understand its tricks, so you can learn how to stop yourself from getting stuck in the problem P’s web (keep reading to know what this web is all about!) By doing so, you are then able to make choices that better align with a preferred way of living you so desperately long for…peace, please?
The Problem P’s
When observing a spider web, you can see how each strand of silk keeps the web efficient and well-designed. Likewise, perfection is a spider web that includes strands of
aka the problem P’s. When you are caught in Perfection’s web, you are more than likely struggling with those strands of silk.
Each strand holds a set of underlying beliefs and instincts that you are living by and unconsciously following that keep you feeling overwhelmed and stuck. These beliefs can be called “assumptions,” “scripts,” “attitudes,” “core beliefs,” or “outlooks.”
Where do core beliefs come from? We all have our own collection because of what we have learned during childhood and adolescence from parents, teachers and peers; aka the culture we grew up in. One professional writes, “These beliefs are typically so basic to our thinking that we do not recognize them as beliefs at all—we just take them for granted and assume them to reflect reality” (Edmund Bourne, PhD).
These core beliefs ultimately guide our thinking in the way life is or the way life “should be”; therefore, influencing how we see ourselves, others and the world. It’s important to realize everyone has been directly or indirectly influenced by certain “scripts.” Even if you do not struggle with Perfectionistic thinking, you are not exempt from underlying beliefs—yours are just different.
In addition, because these beliefs are second nature to us, we may not recognize them as harmful, unrealistic or mistaken. Remember Perfectionism’s definition??? By uncovering certain deep-lying beliefs, you may realize they are exactly what have been holding you back from your full potential and limiting your self-esteem.
What do core beliefs look/sound like? Specifically, for Perfectionists and those who struggle with the problem P’s, these beliefs center on the notion of trying to earn acceptance and approval. Author, speaker and researcher, Brene Brown, writes, “Somewhere along the way, you adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: ‘I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.’” Examples sound like, “I have to receive an A or I’ll be seen as stupid.” “I’ve been at my job for a month; I shouldn’t have to ask for help.” “My worth depends on what I accomplish.” “I should always be on top of things and not make mistakes.” “My worth depends on others and their approval.”
I hope that by addressing and noticing the above beliefs, you can see them for what they are: unrealistic, irrational and mistaken. Perfection is an unattainable goal.
Untangling Perfection’s Web
Ok, but how do I get out of Perfection’s web of Proving, Pleasing, Pushing and Producing?
Slow Down – When you are caught in the web of the problem P’s, your thoughts and behaviors tend to be going at a rapid rate. Perfection’s speed is never fast enough and is always keeping you hustling, proving and producing. Just because you may be sitting, that doesn’t mean your thoughts are at rest or going any slower. They too are at a breakneck speed! By slowing down what you do and think, you are creating an attainable pace that will inevitably get you closer to the lifestyle you have been dreaming of! It is important that you do not skip this first and vital step!
Identify, Question, Call It Out – Once you have determined and set a pace that feels preferred and reasonable for YOU, you can then identify and question the problem P’s. In one of our previous blogs (https://lifepointcs.org/about-us/blog-posts/) Carol shares about acknowledging the battle by asking, “Do you realize when you enter the battlefield of your mind?” Specifically, with Perfection, one could also rephrase this by asking, “Do you realize when you enter the battlefield of pushing/proving?” “What is going on here that is keeping me stuck in Perfection?” “Are these assumptions promoting my well-being peace of mind or keeping me frantic and overwhelmed?” When you are at a slower, more realistic pace, you can identify the belief(s), question it and call it out as mistaken! Tangibly, you can do this by actively writing out the problematic P’s, in order to confront the hidden beliefs that get stuck in your head.
Let Go and Embrace – So you did all the above and can recognize how you get caught in Perfection’s web, now what? Brene Brown puts it plainly, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be.” Because Perfection is unattainable, you are now encouraged to adopt a new belief system. This means acknowledging, accepting and embracing your inadequacies, imperfections and vulnerabilities as okay. They are a part of life and human experience. You don’t have to prove, earn or compete for your worth. Instead you make space for it and embrace it. “You embrace who you are—weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely” (Shauna Niequist).
Process, Practice, Presence – The Preferred P’s! Finally, acknowledge that this will take time. I guarantee you that you won’t nail down this new belief system right away—it’s a process of identifying, questioning and calling it out. It is a Process of patience that will require you to Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself. Say, “I can rest. I can fail. I can admit need and weakness.” When motivated by compassion and love, you can then be present in the midst of demand, but not be controlled by it. Being present within yourself and your surroundings means learning the art of healthy striving, where your worth is not determined by trying to earn approval or acceptance, but by letting go and embracing.
“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level” Thomas Merton
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (Mistaken Beliefs) – Edmund Bourne, PhD
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown
Present over Perfect – Shauna Niequist