When I got out of the Navy, I went back to college. I distinctly remember calling my husband in tears because I got an A- in Philosophy. I was distraught and can recall how I felt like such a failure because I no longer had a 4.0 GPA. I look back on this now and can see how my fear of being judged “not enough” drove me to that reaction. I did not see how that was good enough even though I held many other roles at the time: wife, mother, and daughter.
Perfection is a story we make up, my friends. Everyone’s interpretation is different so therefore it is a thought.
You might be thinking, Holly, I have a very high standard for myself. I get that, but if you have feelings of urgency, judgement about your self worth, or procrastinate because something is not perfect, that’s not what you are doing.
There is a difference between doing the best you can and searching for perfection.
Perfection is a pressure cooker and is chased after as a way to not be judged by others or to not disappoint others. Operating from a sense of urgency or pressure does not end up with optimal results. It ends in less satisfaction and not being able to relax or have fun. It takes up a lot of mental energy because you are always either judging yourself or figuring out how to achieve some unrealistic expectation.
If you can answer yes to any of the following, you are displaying perfectionistic programming:
- I have a black and white mentality; I either do it perfect or not at all
- I have a hard time completing projects because my standards haven’t been met
- I have no sense of humor when doing something I’m not good at
- I am preoccupied with details, rules and schedules
- I don’t like to delegate because I like it done my way
- I focus on what’s wrong all the time
- I think that failure is something to be avoided at all costs
- I over-argue that my way is the right or only way
Why do we do this? Somewhere in our past, we associated perfection with love and acceptance. This habit equation was programmed into our brain. It became a belief; i.e. our default programming.
You can use this 3 step process to upgrade your default programming.
- Journal. Ask yourself why you feel the need for everything to be perfect. Dig deep and do this over many days. Here’s the key. Go back and read everything you wrote at the end of the week to see if you can discover a thought pattern that you are having. Keep doing this until you find one.
- Once you are aware of your default thought, get curious about what feelings and actions you are creating by thinking that thought. What are you going to have to be feeling and thinking to stop aiming for perfection? What could you think if you were aiming for the feeling of calm or non-judgemental? This takes a lot of practice and must be repeated many times to enhance your default programming.
- Assess each day. Take a look at how you did each day. Write down three things you did well and celebrate those. Look at one area where you could improve and brainstorm ways to improve tomorrow by 1%. Do not indulge in self-judgement; it’s not useful.
No one is perfect, my friends. Shooting for perfect at the cost of our well-being because we are afraid is no way to live. Decide right now that you will work on this. I guarantee you will start to feel lighter, have more energy and start enjoying things just a bit more.
PS: I can help you with this. Schedule a mini-session today to get started on the path of upgrading your default programming.