Perfectionism is when we believe we have to achieve/accomplish/become/get better at/improve X in order to deserve/be Y.
For example, I have to lose weight in order to love myself/be happy with my body.
X and Y could literally be anything.
We all have different weird things we believe about:
- what we need to achieve in a day
- what we need to achieve in our life
- what we need to change about our appearance
- how hard we need to work
- how much we have to endure in order to be deserving of Y
Y is worthy. Y is deserving of the “you’re a good person” stamp of approval.
You did enough.
You’re finally good enough now.
NOW you can finally:
- deserve a break
- deserve that cookie
- deserve to buy yourself something
- are ready to be seen by others
You can finally accept yourself.
Because you have value as a human being.
Because you accomplished X.
You feel me?
The crazy part is that when you hear someone else’s version of what X and Y is for them, you’d be like “what the fuck?!” You think you’re not hard working enough at this job so you should't ask for a day off?
Me and my friend would have this conversation at work all the time.
I’d come in and be like, “Omg, this thing happened, and I just feel so bad about it because like, I’m just worried I don’t work hard enough or I’m not doing a good enough job at X…”
And she’d be like “Are you kidding me!?!?!? You’re the hardest working person EVER!”
And then she’d come in the next day and be like “Ohhh my gosh… this thing happened and it just made me feel like I’m the worst person and a;sldfkja;lskdjf;alksdjflkj”
And I'd be like, “Are you KIDDING ME?!?!? You did what!? I do that all the time and I think I’m the worst person ever! And you’re wayyy better at that than me!”
I feel like you know what I’m talking about. It’s like when your coolest/prettiest/smartest friend reveals they think they’re the lamest/ugliest/dumbest person ever and it's like, dumbfounding.
THIS IS PERFECTIONISM.
Well, it's a lot of things, but one of the things it is is a manifestation of perfectionism.
One of the beliefs that underlies the train of thought that we're not good enough yet is that we need to perform better in order to be good enough.
Which brings me to my first truth to identify perfectionism in your life:
1. You can be 100% sure that you’ve got perfectionism going on if you ever catch yourself saying “I should X.”
“I shouldn’t eat that.”
“I shouldn’t be so silly.”
“I should really go to the gym.”
or slight variations of this same language such as:
“I wish I wasn’t so emotional.”
“I hate that I’m like this.”
"It's really bad that I do this."
And hold up one second. Let me just interject to say - I don’t have a problem with any of the above statements inherently.
What I have a problem with is where they’re coming from. I have a problem with the feeling that they’re motivated by.
Saying, “I should really go to the party,” can be a noble call to duty when you’re following through on a commitment you made and taking action would mean staying in integrity with yourself.
That would be an act that I support.
But what I don’t support is when it comes from that groan-y, self-criticizing, fear that if you don’t do X, something reallyyy bad is gonna happen.
Like you’re going to get fat.
Or it means that you’re lazy.
You’re not hard-working enough.
You’re a failure.
You gave up.
You're not trying hard enough.
You know what I’m talking about???
Which brings me to my second truth about perfectionism:
2. When you hear yourself having thoughts similar in nature to any of the thoughts that I just listed under number 1, know: THESE ARE NOT YOUR GENUINE FEELINGS.
Anytime you’re talking to yourself in the language of
“I’m a failure”
“I don’t work hard enough”
"If I don't I'm going to get fat"
“I need to be better”
know that this is not your genuine voice.
The “should” voice is the sum total of all the voices, messages and perspectives that you have internalized from what other people have told you, either about yourself or what it means to be successful or worthy.
This voice stifles your true voice and authentic self and keeps your true feelings buried.
Consider for a moment: does that voice or those thoughts remind you of a character in your life?
Maybe an ex? An old friend? A parent? A teacher?
Do you remember someone making a comment that caused you to feel or think this way?
Then consider - who’s perspective really is that? What did they really mean? Do you, grown-ass, present day, rational, intelligent adult YOU agree with that voice?
A great question you can ask yourself to determine if this thought is really coming from you or the "should" voice is:
Is this something you would tell your child if they were in this situation right now? (If you don't have a child, use your imagination).
It helps to connect the voice or thoughts to the actual moment in time or person who it reminds you of.
This takes away the mystery and authority of the thought and takes away the sense that it has arisen out of the ether and is a part of your conscience.
(Sidenote: we’re not always aware of the “should” voice in our head. If you’re not sure you're having perfectionist thoughts, you can tell that perfectionism is present if you sometimes get into a funk, feel like you’re dragging, lazy or don’t want to do anything and it feels foggy. This is our genuine self resisting the crap out of the subconscious belief that we better get going, or we’ll turn into a lazy piece of crap).
Now for (possibly the most important) truth.
3. When these thoughts are happening (or you’re in that lazy, foggy funk) we are CUT OFF FROM HOW WE ACTUALLY FEEL, and therefore we CANNOT ACCESS OUR TRUE SELF (therefore we will never experience intimacy with others).
The way we access love, connection, freedom and compassion is by embracing our true feelings.
We cannot have compassion for others if we cannot empathize with how they feel.
And we cannot empathize with how they feel if we have not felt it ourselves.
And we cannot access our genuine feelings if we're trapped in the world of "should."
When we're always responding to what we should do, versus how we actually feel, we keep our true feelings buried.
We are not allowing our true self to speak up and be like, "you know what? FUCK this job. It's NOT that I'm not trying hard enough. It's NOT that something is wrong with me. It's that this job SUCKS and I WANT TO QUIT."
(Yes, sometimes our true voice gets angry and has a tantrum because we haven't listened to it for a minute).
(PRO TIP: if you are getting irrationally angry or upset at someone or something in your life THIS IS A SIGN YOUR TRUE SELF IS TRYING TO SPEAK WITH YOU and either set a boundary or send you a message).
Our job is when those true feelings surface (like anger, frustration, sadness or guilt) is to allow them to say their piece, then give them a metaphorical hug and accept them for who they are (yes, I'm talking about your feelings as if they're a person).
And some times, our job is to actually listen to those feelings and do what they say (i.e. leave the job or relationship).
If we don't get comfy experiencing our true feelings and learning to have acceptance for them, GOOD LUCK in your relationship!
Always living from a place of "should" and burying how you really feel will stifle and KILL your relationships and cause you to feel perpetually unable to deeply connect with others because:
You cannot really love others if you have not practiced loving yourself.
And you cannot practice loving yourself if you don’t allow your emotions to surface to be witnessed & loved (this IS loving yourself).
And you CANNOT allow your emotions to surface if you are constantly running around controlled by what you “should do” BECAUSE the “should” voice pushes down how we actually feel.
I'm going to repeat this extremely important point one more time in case you didn't catch that.
If we don't allow our authentic feelings to surface, we cannot offer ourselves the compassion that we require and therefore we cannot receive love and compassion from others.
Stop listening to that voice and embrace how you really feel.
(If you need help with this, check out my program).
(Also, embracing how you really feel doesn't mean screaming how you really feel at everyone within proximity. It just means YOU get intimate with how you feel, and allow yourself the time and space to process it before shouting it from the rooftops).
Embracing your authentic feelings is the doorway into freedom in our bodies, in our relationships and in our lives.
Because only by feeling what we authentically feel can we access who we really are.
And only by embodying who we really are can we find authentic connection with others.
Don't stay buried.
There’s more to say here but I’ll save it for another post. Cause that was a journey.
What's your X and your Y? Send me a message if you figure it out!