Crushing Perfectionism

Every time I start something new (i.e. a new job, a new project, learning something new, etc) I will arrive at a point in time when I feel crushed by the weight of perfectionism. I grew up in a family that highly valued and demanded perfection. For example: If I got a “B” on a report card, I was questioned, “Why wasn’t this an ‘A’?” If I got an “A”, then it was, “Why wasn’t this an ‘A+’?” I would be immediately shamed for not achieving perfection.

It didn’t matter that I had tried my best and worked incredibly hard to understand the material and was still working hard to understand and learn it even better. If my best didn’t earn an “A+” at the end of the quarter or semester, then I was a failure. It was made crystal clear to me that failure was not an option and coming even just a tiny bit short of the extremely high standards was completely unacceptable and unforgivable. Grades are just one of many examples.

That pressure to achieve someone else’s standard of “perfection” left an indelible mark on me. The daily condemnation and shame that was hurled at me became my inner monologue at a very young age and is something I still battle. Working through it has been a formidable challenge.

We all have times when we get stuck in negative self talk. Perfectionism is a battle we all fight to one degree or another. There are many problems with perfectionism, not the least of which is SHAME.

The big problem with shame is that people try to use it as a motivator. It isn’t a motivator; it’s actually the opposite! Guilt can be a great motivator for change; shame; however, not so much. Guilt = “I did a bad thing.” Shame = “I am bad.”

Shame murders motivation and crushes creativity. So what to do when you notice you’re shaming yourself for a real or perceived failure…? Flip the script!

Instead of –> Try thinking:

“I give up!” –> “I’ll try something different and/or ask for help.”

“I failed!” –> “Mistakes help me learn.”

“I’ll never be smart.” –> “I grow my brain by learning new things.”

“I’m no good at this.” –> “What am I missing?”

“This is too hard.” –> “This may take me some time.”

“I can’t do this!” –> “With practice I will be great!”

“I can’t believe I’m in this mess!” –> “I can do something small everyday to improve my situation.”

Flip the script so you can move from being crushed by perfectionism to crushing perfectionism! You won’t always get it right; that’s completely normal and natural. Practice makes progress and progress is what we’re going for, not perfection. You’ve got this!

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