Perfection is the voice of the oppressor ~ Anne Lamott
The relationship between perfectionism and low self-worth is a damaging dynamic. When you are a perfectionist, what you do, the decisions you make, the way you look is never good enough. You are convinced that you never quite get it right and you judge others by those same standards. You set impossible, unrealistic and rigid expectations for yourself and the failure to meet those targets can destroy your self-worth.
You might be a Perfectionist if…
- There is no middle ground – if a task is not done perfectly, then it is a complete failure
- You endlessly tinker and tweak your work because each new version seems like an improvement. (often that is not the case)
- You are devastated by criticism and cannot laugh at your mistakes or allow yourself any room for error;
- You have difficulty making decisions
- You are annoyed by others not being on time or not being organized etc.
- You obsess about the minor details of a task
- You cannot take satisfaction in a well-done project and tend to find fault before you see the positive outcomes
- Your thoughts are filled with judgements and criticisms of yourself and others – “you never”, “you always” and “you should” …
We all experience perfectionism to some degree in our lives. In fact, having some perfectionist qualities is desirable so that we can achieve levels of quality and excellence in our goals and accomplishments. The damage arises when we have no filters and apply our high standards rigidly to every situation. At some point, we will not succeed and that is when our perfectionism becomes our enemy.
When that happens, our mistakes or perceived flaws activate and underlying fear of rejection and belief that we are worthless. This can cause us to feel shame and embarrassment because we have been exposed for the failure we think we really are.
How Perfectionism Sabotages Your Self-Worth
While it is important to develop high personal standards and work towards important goals in life, pursuit of perfection can send us into a crazy-making spiral of unhappiness, can hurt relationships and can deeply injure our sense of self-worth.
In the demanding behaviour of a perfectionist:
- you can never accept any imperfection within yourself (or others):
- relationships become rigid structures with no flexibility or acceptance of faults or capability to work through misunderstandings
- sharing feelings and being vulnerable is often avoided resulting in isolation and lack of intimacy or authenticity in relationships
- you can abandon half finished products or avoid starting anything new out of fear of failure that would reveal your imperfections or lack of skill.
- genuine happiness and gratitude are impossible because unmet expectations can deteriorate into a cycle of blame and judgement of self and others
- Perfectionism can cause you to procrastinate as you dither about how to begin a task. This can lead to anxiety and stress to meet deadlines.
Turning Perfectionism around — Restoring Self-Worth
When you unhook from the perfectionist’s grip on you, it opens up the space for self-confidence and self-worth to grow. Without the draining and persistent need to do everything 100%, you can set more reasonable levels of achievement for yourself and begin to discern what is good enough and what needs more effort.
- Replace high expectations or unrealistic goals with more achievable and less stressful objectives
- Use Breathwork and meditation to quiet any fears of vulnerability or shame and to generate self-acceptance and self-love
- adopt a curious and open beginner’s mind with unfamiliar or new tasks
- add humour and play into your life – let yourself enjoy laughter and lightness and learn to shine that equally on your accomplishments and your mistakes
- give yourself credit for your efforts and appreciate something every day that you did – well enough.
- Accept failure – embrace mistakes and imperfections as a creative way to learn, improve and grow
- Be grateful. Instead of focusing on how people failed to live up to your standards, look at how they supported you and what they contributed.
- Become disciplined enough to know when to walk away and be done. Know when your product is good enough and you are complete.
The healing of Perfectionism lies in being willing to learn that you can look foolish or make a mistake and still feel good about who you are.
Maybe the reason nothing seems to be ‘fixing you’ is because you are not broken. Let today be the day you stop living within the confines of how others define or judge you. You have a unique beauty and purpose; live accordingly ~ Steven Maraboli