It started off innocently enough…
The days of my perfectionistic tendencies were amazing. Truly. I felt like I could conquer all of my doubts and insecurities. I would put all of my energy into doing something insanely well, you know – perfectly, and whatever I put my mind to, I would accomplish.
I didn’t understand that it was about the focus, not the action.
So I got into the habit of thought that created some pretty damaging beliefs.
I believed I had to be perfect to get attention (because hell, look at all the positive attention I was getting!).
I believed I had to be perfect to get anything good accomplished.
I believed I had to be perfect to be loved.
And there was more to the downside.
If I didn’t think I had everything under control, I was miserable. Because in my mind, I had to control all the external conditions in order for me to be perfect (and get attention, and feel accomplished, and be loved).
It didn’t make intellectual sense to me, because I could see so many people around me who weren’t living “perfect” lives but were happy.
My reasoning mind totally got it that things didn’t need to be perfect in order for me to be happy, but my heart? Not so much.
For a while, I would take massive action and it would all be what I thought was perfect. Of course, I would then get exhausted. I mean, for real. A human can only keep up that kind of action, and charade, for so long.
I suspect the charade of it all is what exhausted me the most.
The exhaustion didn’t stop me from trying to be perfect though.
Instead, it made me procrastinate. I didn’t always have the energy to try to be my idea of perfect.
So I would put off doing anything I felt needed to be perfect.
This cycle of procrastination and perfection was maddening. I no longer thought anything was amazing. I didn’t understand why I was putting all of my effort in and getting no happy return out.
What the hell was going on?
Perfectionism is fear in action.
It’s fear of not doing the right things to be loved.
And fear is poison. Fear is inverted faith – it happens when we don’t believe we’ll get what we truly want, so we act on the next best thing.
So when perfectionism stopped me from moving forward – I thought I had to look just right and do something else just right … I could never actually do things “just right” because just right is subjective.
I was playing to an audience that would never hear me.
I didn’t love myself enough to JUST BE, so I tried to do what I thought others would perceive as perfect, or give what others needed from me to give love in return.
But love has no conditions. It just is. The conditions can always change – those are malleable. Easily malleable. Love is always there, the undercurrent of it all.
And let’s be honest with ourselves. Any perfect action we take is never truly what someone else thinks is perfect because we all inherently know that perfection is unattainable.
When we feel as though we have to be perfect, we think we aren’t good enough as we are. Then we procrastinate. Then we worry that we’ll miss out on what we truly want.
And then come the decisions based on fear.
Procrastination in and of itself is not a bad thing. When it’s inspired procrastination. When it comes from a place of knowing you aren’t ready to take certain action, and your intuition, your gut, tells you to pause.
Procrastinating from taking action aligned with your true self, though? That comes from thinking you have to be perfect, and that kind of procrastination is poison.
The best results come from true inspired action – action that has your heart and soul behind it.
What happens when procrastination comes from perfectionism?
Toxic crap. That’s what happens.
Case in point:
I thought I would fail a term paper I just couldn’t get started writing during my sophomore year at Boston University. So I left college.
Up and left. I officially took a leave of absence, but life happened and I never returned to B.U. All because I had allowed myself to get so ramped up in trying to be perfect (grades, job, dance team, life), that one little paper brought me down. It triggered a “give no more fucks” moment. We all have them, but I lost some damn good scholarships because of that one.
Another doozy from my life:
I thought I wasn’t good enough to handle life on my own with two kids after my first divorce. So I attracted a man who posed as a knight in shining armor. That relationship proved to be insanely toxic for me. (Go here and here to read more about that.)
So here’s the deal.
There’s a big difference between waiting to do something because you are guided to wait, and waiting to do something because you are terrified that you’re going to mess it up, or it won’t be perfect.
What I’ve learned is that we can forever manipulate conditions by choosing our mindset – and it has nothing to do with the things we think need to be “perfect.”
Why you need to love your imperfections to stay toxic-free.
The only way to break that shitty cycle of perfectionism and procrastination that leads to toxic hell is to actively love the parts of you that you fear no one else will love.
First, you have to love the part of you that thought she needed to be perfect. She had her reasons. If you keep ignoring her, she’ll try to be perfect again.
Next, you’ve gotta take a good, hard look at what you think are imperfections. Do you even really care about those things? Or are you focusing on them because you think others think you should? Make a choice to focus on what makes you excited to live every day, not the things you think you should be doing, or you think will make someone else love you.
Lastly, and most importantly, you have to love yourself right where you are. With all of your so-called flaws. I guarantee you, what you consider flaws are the very reason someone else looks up to you. The reason someone else can see your strength or your uniqueness. And those seeming flaws are gifts. If you make the choice, you can find the good side to them, the benefits to them, and how they make you the best version of yourself.
We aren’t here to try to live up to some crazy standard of perfection. We’re here to be imperfectly ourselves.
With love and light,
When has perfectionism caused you problems? How did you overcome it? Share in the comments below!
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