Perfectionism: Are you enough?

Collective Courage TV: Adelaide it’s here and we’re super excited!
December 7, 2016

Perfectionism: Are you enough?

Good morning and welcome to Collective Courage’s first blog.

Firstly, a big shout out of gratitude to the fabulous women of Adelaide!  Our 3rd December, The Daring Way™ program sold out within a day, and I’m pleased to announce we have now released more tickets .. if you’re interested book on Eventbrite.

Today’s topic is something that I struggle with daily – Perfectionism.  If you’re short for time, otherwise scroll down to the embedded Brené Brown video on this blog, stay with me as we explore the dangers of striving to Please, Perfect and Perform

Perfectionism: Please, Perform, Perfect.

Perfectionism is the belief that if I look perfect, work perfect, parent perfect and love perfect, I can somehow out run my real fears; criticism, blame, not belonging or being found out as an imposter. If you’ve ever had any of the following experiences, you’ve been hamstrung by Perfectionism:

  • Been promoted and had the nauseating feeling that you didn’t belong or that you might be exposed as a fraud.
  • Obsessed over the school Book Week kids costume because you don’t want to be “that mum”, that doesn’t have her kid looking amazing.
  • Not attempted something because, even though you’re good, you know you’re not “that good”. Or perhaps you find yourself thinking, if I can’t “nail it”, I’m not even going to attempt it. Why risk exposing my short comings or inadequacies if there’s no guarantee. (If I can’t win, I’m not “in”)
  • Obsessed over what to wear to an event. That nagging stress of finding the perfect outfit which declares “I belong here” or “I fit in”. It’s not easy dressing to be feminine but not bland, classy but not “over the top”, sexy without being a “sex bomb”, comfortable but not “frumpy”.

Brené Browns 20 Ton Shield

Brené Brown is a NY Times best seller and an academic researcher in the fields of shame and vulnerability. Over ten decades of research shows that perfectionism is one of the three most common ways people protect themselves from getting hurt.

When we are driven by the fear of “what will people think?” our pleasing and perfecting behavior keeps others at arm’s length. We effectively keep our real selves small and hidden behind our protective armor.

We unconsciously believe our shield is there to protect us from “not being enough” but the reality is, when we strive for the approval of others we keep ourselves small and partially hidden, making it near impossible for people to see our real selves.

Ladies, why is it that we so easily forget that we are all daughters, friends, mums, partners, leaders, jam makers, gardeners, artists, and occasional wild women (who like a sneaky gin!).

We all have dreams, and in pursuit of these we will wobble, fall and err in our judgement. When I see you being “all in”, when I see your struggle, your joys, your failings and your triumphs… your courage is contagious.

When you are authentic, you feel more real to me. More trustworthy. Perfectionism hides this.

What Drives Our Perfectionism?

I love this short lesson from Brené. Here are my key takeaways:

  • We all sit somewhere on a continuum of Perfectionism.
  • Perfectionism is not self -improvement. It’s about seeking others approval.
  • The perfectionistic hustle is more acute when we feel vulnerable

My inner hustle was never louder when I found myself going through a painful divorce, alone in a new country, with an 18 month old baby.

It seems crazy to admit, but I found myself one night huddled up on the couch, with tears dribbling down my face into my vino, promising myself that if I couldn’t be a good enough wife, then I would at least have a Perfect Divorce. (Truth Bomb, there is a crazy lady in me too!)

Looking back now I recognize humiliation and pain, was driving an inner deep need to NEVER EVER let someone see the depths of my brokenness.

To do that would be to admit I’m flawed and even scarier, perhaps unlovable and unworthy.

So instead I polished off my Perfectionistic Shield, told myself self to “get on with it” and hustled to keeping up appearances. My Perfectionistic mantra went something like this:

“We may be separating, but look how amicable, composed and loving I can be”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for amicable separations. But in my case my behavior kept other’s at arm’s length so they wouldn’t see my despair.

In doing so I made it tremendously hard for others to support me through my pain. It’s taken me a while to let go of my shield and get to the place where I acknowledge my perfect imperfections and recognize that my marriage status, or someone else’s inability to love me does not define my worth.

Is perfectionism a way to achieve self-improvement?

This is a question I’m often asked. So let me set the record straight.

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. It’s not healthy achievement.

  • Perfectionism is driven by the need for external validation and the dangerous thought that “I am what I achieve”.
  • Self-improvement and healthy achievement is striving based on our internal intrinsic values and motivations. Self-focused achievement says “I want to do this and be the best that I can be, even if this means not “being” the best”.

With Perfectionism, our self-confidence is attached to others approval. With healthy striving our confidence is anchored in aligning and honoring our values including our dreams, flaws and inadequacies.

Top Three Tips for avoiding Perfectionism.

  • I am enough: Shift your internal dialogue from “What will people think, to “I am enough”. Remind yourself that no matter what happens today, what you achieve or fall short on, you are so much more than your accomplishments.
  • Be kind to yourself: Kristen Neff’s work around compassion and resilience reminds us of importance of being gentler with ourselves when we fall short. You can do this by starting to talk to yourself like you would a good friend who we care about, and understanding personal inadequacy is part of being human. You are not alone.
  • Stay anchored in your values: I’ve found it incredibly helpful to explore my core values and keep these visible in my life. Values are the key principles that make me feel alive and whole. When my inner hustle to please and perfect starts ramping up I return to my values and ask myself:
    – Are my actions honoring my values and boundaries?
    – Who do I want to be in this situation and how do I want to show up and be seen?
    – Am I striving to be the best me, or am I hustling to appease others expectations of what “I should be” or “should do”?
    – Are my choices keeping me small and hidden behind my fears.  Or moving me towards others who help me grow, learn and succeed?

Once we start to answer these questions, we find our confidence and the courage to achieve rather than appease.

Live Brave, Show Up, Be Seen
To learn more about the work of Brené Brown, perfectionism and how to live or lead more courageously join us on the 3rd Dec for our Daring Way™ Program – Eventbrite. But hurry we only have three places left!

Check out all our courses here.

If you can’t make the program, but would like a copy of my Values with Soul worksheet please post your thoughts, questions or worksheet requests in the box below.

And remember, no matter what gets done, or left unfinished on any given day, you are perfectly imperfect. You are enough.  You matter. You rock!

With love