According to Brené Brown, author of several New York Times bestsellers including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, the definition of perfectionism goes like this: “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels the thought, ‘If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.'”
Brené goes on to explain that perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal and is in fact really only about perception. We want to be perceived as perfect but it’s unattainable because it doesn’t exist and there’s no way to control other people’s perception of you, regardless of how much time and energy you spend trying.
Perfectionism is addictive because when we do experience being judged or blamed or feeling shame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough so rather than question the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more committed to our mission of living, looking and doing everything just right.
So how do we overcome perfectionism?
We need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and practice self-compassion. When we become more loving and compassionate with ourselves and we begin to practice what Brené calls “shame resilience,” we can embrace our imperfections.
And it’s in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts and create our most meaningful connections and deepest relationships.
1. You feel compelled to be the best in everything you do, even if it’s something you don’t care that much about.
2. You’re hyper-critical and highly conscious of your and other people’s mistakes.
3. You spend much of your time to perfect something even at the expense of your health and well-being.
4. You set absolute ideals. There is only black and white, no grey.
5. You beat yourself up over the smallest thing that goes wrong.
6. You obsessively mull over outcomes and how you could have done things differently if they didn’t turn out as perfectly as you had envisioned.
7. You’re hyper-sensitive and defensive towards criticism.
8. You are so obsessed about achieving your goal that you seldom, if ever, enjoy or even notice the journey.
So I invite you to let go of the need to be perfect because the opposite of perfection isn’t imperfection or mediocrity—it’s reality.