I remember going into a job interview for a restaurant while I was in college. The manager asked me what my greatest weakness was and I thought I had stumbled upon the best answer for this, “I’m a perfectionist.” He grumbled something and before I knew it the interview was over. I was disappointed to hear that I would not be hired for the job and have come to realize that perfectionism has been the root for many of my struggles in life. Perfectionism sets the bar so high that it can never be reached. It tells us we could always “do better.” It robs us of joy and satisfaction, of gratitude and pride.
Letting go of perfectionism is something that I feared because I worried that by letting it go I would not be the high performer that I am. I was convinced this was a driving and crucial component to my success, so I clung to it. In all reality perfectionism made me feel terrible about myself on a regular basis and caused a lot of anxiety about things that were not actually important.
Perfectionism requires that we hide our struggles, flaws and real selves. It disconnects us from others and heightens our feelings of shame and inadequacy. Self-compassion is the solution to working through these feelings and learning to develop a friendship with ourselves. Easier said than done, trust me – I know. But with the plethora of knowledge available at our fingertips and some help from professionals I have made significant progress.
I am now a “recovering” perfectionist and have to regularly check in with myself to be sure it’s not creeping back into my life, which it does on occasion.