A Quick Guide for the Perfectionist: What to Do (and Not Do)
The Perfectionist Myth
We all have an image in mind when we think of a perfectionist.
Impeccably dressed, clean home, always arriving on time, having it all together.
And while that image is certainly one way of perfectionism can show up, it’s not the only way.
Perfectionism shows up in different ways for different people.
So just because you don’t fit the stereotype image of the perfectionist, doesn’t mean perfectionism isn’t a mindset that’s affecting your life, or holding you back from where you want to be.
What Perfectionism Looks Like in Real Life
Perfectionism, at its core, is about the stories we tell ourselves regarding what and how we should be.
It’s about creating aspirational, often unattainable, expectations and comparing where we are now with where we think we ought to be.
And often it’s about beating ourselves up when we fall short or don’t hit the mark.
Nevermind that the expectations weren’t even possible to begin with.
Perfectionism requires suspending the reality of real life, constructing a world that is unachievable, and then berating or beating ourselves up for not achieving or accomplishing an effectively false reality.
The Difference Between Perfectionism and Striving for Greatness
There’s an important difference between perfectionism and striving for greatness.
As Brené Brown writes in, The Gifts of Imperfection: Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best.
Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame.
It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”
How Perfectionism May be Holding You Back From Your Wellness Goals
Perfectionism shows up in many ways, but has a particularly negative impact on health and wellness.
Because it may be tempting to strive to eat perfectly, move perfectly, and look perfect, attempts toward perfection can lead to frustration, overwhelm, self-criticism, and often abandoning healthy lifestyle habits altogether.
Perfectionism may show up differently depending on your Wellness Personality.
For example, a Dynamo might be stuck comparing herself to her own internal expectations, while a Seeker may be focused on comparing herself to what others are doing.
And the Cultivator may be feel like everyone else has it figured out, and discouraged by how far she thinks she has to go.
(Curious about your Wellness Personality? Take the quiz to find out your type and to grab your free resource guide!).
The good news is that perfectionism does not have to be a way of life. Read on for the 5-Minute Guide for the Perfectionism: What to Do (and Not Do)
What to Do
See Mistakes a Normal Part of the Learning and Growing Process
Congratulations, you’re human! And humans make mistakes.
Instead of viewing mistakes as a reflection of your self-worth, and immediately jumping to embarrassment, shame, and self-criticism, try reframing the internal conversation.
When you make as mistake, a misstep, or slide into old habits, remind yourself that you are human and mistakes are a normal part of the learning and growing process.
Chose Meaning Over Perfect
Take a moment to self-reflect on your personal values, and whether meaning is more important than perfection.
If it is, become more mindful of moments when you consciously choose meaning over perfect.
Maybe that looks like a 5-minute walk in the outdoors, even when you can’t get to the gym for an hour.
Or perhaps that looks like roasting a few veggies and grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the store in favor of an elaborate dinner.
Gentle Over Perfect
As Brené Brown says, self-compassion is perfectionist kryptonite.
So let's have more of it!
Self-compassion simply means extending the same kindness and empathy to yourself that you do to others.
Easier said than done, right?
Here’s what to do.
The next time you find yourself falling into the perfectionist mindset, try imagining that you’re talking to a friend or child.
What would you say to him or her? Would you share kind and empathetic words?
If so, try sharing those same words with yourself, and remember: gentle is the new perfect.
What Not to Do
Procrastination is a sure sign that you’re stuck in a perfectionist mindset.
Putting off the workout because you can’t fit in a full hour.
Skipping meal prep because you don’t have time to prepare a full week’s worth of food.
Not meditating because it’s difficult to sit for 20 minutes.
The next time you find yourself procrastinating or putting something off that you know is important for you health and self-care, ask yourself: am I avoiding this because I have an expectation of perfect?
If the answer is yes, there’s a simple answer.
Some, in this care, is most certainly better than none.
Don’t Confuse Consistency with Perfection
We all know that consistency is key when it comes to long-term success.
But we get into trouble when we confuse consistency with perfection.
Consistency does not mean being perfect, or hitting the mark every single day.
It means showing up and doing the work most of the time.
Do it more than you don’t.
It’s that simple.
If you’re ready for more perfectionist resources, take the Wellness Personality Quiz to find out how it’s showing up in your life.
When you take the quiz you’ll also get a free resource guide, packed with curated tips and tools just for you.