Oh, the pressure to be flawless – it takes effort to escape it and this unattainable standard of perfection is suffocating! Our social media flaunts designer homes, digital wizardry…you know those ‘too- perfect’ images of people and dreamy vacations. Ads ruthlessly push overhyped products with false promises from achieving a perfect body overnight to having flawless skin in just one use. The insanity doesn’t end there, our grocery stores toss away 40% of the foods that don’t meet their ‘perfection standards’, what is this, Produce Tinder?
That annoying voice of perfection begins its reign of terror early, with society’s unspoken yet very real pressure on children to look, act and be perfect sending our caregivers into full-blown panic mode over our not-so-perfect selves for fear of social judgment. Thanks, society! Getting that A grade becomes the defining moment, and underachieving starts the spiral into shameville.
Fast forward to the adult world, and it’s Hunger Games – office edition. In a climb to the top of the high performance mountain we push, prove and perform in order to maintain our positions and sometimes at the expense of the things we love the most.
Join the club of perfectly imperfect humans – we’re a fun bunch, I promise!
Researcher Katie Rasmussen understands this to be a “public health issue” driving mental and physical ailments like depression, anxiety, headaches, dyspepsia (fancy speak for sick tummy) and constant fatigue. Can you imagine, even our heads and stomachs aren’t spared from the wrath of our pursuit of flawlessness?
The storm gets even wilder when the other two “deadly P’s” come to play: people-pleasing and over-performance. Together, they forge unrealistic expectations, merciless self-criticism, and a never-ending quest for overachievement.
What is Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, and Over Performance?
Perfectionism is an unrealistic expectation that you must achieve or perform perfectly and if not you experience feelings of inadequacy. People-pleasing is an attempt to make others happy while disregarding your own needs and desires. Over performance is the result of trying to do too much in too short a period of time, leading to stress, fatigue and emotional numbness.
This beast sometimes hides its fangs behind perpetual guilt, irrational defensiveness, and endless procrastination.
So if you find yourself striving for perfection but never quite reaching it
Putting others’ needs ahead of your own and feeling guilty when you don’t
Feel like you ’re always running to catch up and over performing, running on fumes
You’re not alone.
How does perfectionism relate to people-pleasing and over-performance?
Perfectionism and people-pleasing go hand in hand like Batman and Robin!
Our culture has convinced us that the only way to be safe from criticism is by striving for perfection and therefore we people please in an attempt to gain approval and admiration, believing it will bring protection from potential judgement or hostility.
The over-performance part comes in the mystical land of Workaholia (workoholism)where trading in lunch breaks and personal boundaries for the tantalizing allure of impressing bosses, colleagues and filling the deep emotional void of self approval.
Perfectionism and underperformance?
A peer-reviewed clinical study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2017 examined the phenomenon known as the “perfectionism paradox.” It revealed that perfectionists might actually falter in the workplace and other life arenas. How? Their relentless pursuit of flawlessness generates a pesky mix of anxiety, focus loss, and concentration difficulties which can lead to underperformance in various areas of their lives. Sadly, some of these high-achievers dodge challenges altogether, petrified by the thought of failing!
What causes perfectionism?
There is no one cause. Society is a big one, how we were raised and a dash of trauma can further fan those perfection flames as our subconscious cleverly crafts coping skills to navigate the emotional fire. Children raised in dysfunctional households, especially with abusive or alcoholic parents, may become masters of people-pleasing, tiptoeing on the tightrope of life with resilience and grace.
Breaking the cycle
In the same way you may have inherited these behaviours and beliefs from your ancestors, you possess the power to banish them. Yes, it will be a grand journey filled with time, effort, and determination. Your may whisper doubts and fears, such as “will my quest against perfectionism lead me to complacency or mediocrity?” Research shows the opposite is true and this means you can attain lofty standards without the burden of berating your soul with every misstep.
Practical strategies that shall aid us in our mighty battle against perfectionism
Reality check your thoughts
Ever feel like your brain needs a security guard to keep out those pesky perfectionist thoughts?
The key to defusing your perfectionism lies in hiring that security guard for your brain IMMEDIATELY! Start recognizing your inner perfectionistic chants. You know the ones
Black and white thinking: “Nail it perfectly, or join the failure parade.”
Catastrophic thinking: “One wrong move and it’s goodbye, job!”
Should(n’t) statements: “Oops, that meeting comment just awarded me an Idiot Badge.”
Use your cognitive security guard by first recognizing your chants.
You are welcome to download our “Evaluating Unhelpful Thoughts” care plan here to become aware of these.
Meet self-compassion. A soothing ‘heal it quick balm’ to remedy the effects of perfectionism. Instead of tormenting yourself with self-doubt understand your marvellous humanity.
Repeat after me: A single mistake cannot revoke my worthiness.
To unlock this treasure chest of self-compassion exercises and guided meditations, journey to the realm of psychologist Kristin Neff’s website. Let the transformation begin!
Change your mind about mistakes and failure
Starting right now at this moment. Just decide.
You can make a decision today that you will change your outlook on mistakes and failure and start acting with more courage even if it’s wobbly at first (there you go again expecting things to be perfect).
Think of the thing that is holding you back.
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you mess up? Envision it. Feel the fear.
Now ask yourself, is it really that terrible?
Life brings us face-to-face with imperfections and situations that don’t always work out. We might stumble (sometimes rather epically) and face disapproval from others or even ourselves. That’s where growth sprouts from!
Is any of that truly bad? Honestly?
Dive deep into those fears and then witness how you transform your relationship with them. With laughter, support, and a fearless attitude, watch yourself flourish in the chaos of life’s inevitable stumbles.
It’s time to upgrade your life – boundaries style!
That’s right, these glorious invisible lines help us strike a balance between Captain Self-Sacrifice and Happy Bliss. By mastering our personal space and expectations we purge anxiety.
Perfectionists tend to put other people’s needs before their own, which often leads to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or taken advantage of.
However it shows up you, here are some examples of what boundaries could look like for you:
- Establish specific times for yourself when you will take breaks from your work. This could include taking a full day off each week
- Setting realistic goals and expectations for how much time should be spent on a task
- Just say no. Seriously
- Express what you are thinking in a kind and respectful manner instead of bottling it all up
- Become aware of your people-pleasing habits and if you don’t like them, change them. Start with something small like feeling the urge to people please and notice it in your body and breathe through it instead of acting on it.
- Schedule 30 minutes to reflect on what you truly want without any pressure to take action immediately and allow yourself the freedom to sit and simply be with your deepest desires. Trust that natural inspiration will come as this could be the key to unlocking a whole new level of fulfilment and joy in your life.
- Stop numbing out your needs. Explore them instead. Ask yourself what do I really need right now? rather than becoming getting into an emotional drama about why you can’t, take one small step towards meeting that need directly. It’s amazing how even the smallest action can transform things.
We hope this article has inspired you to take the
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