My Battle Overcoming Perfectionism
My name is Cathy Yoder, and I am a perfectionist.
Over the weekend I was reminded how debilitating perfectionism can be. Perfectionism is paralyzing. It creates anxiety. Halts productivity. And I knew that I needed to address it. So today I’m gettin real and sharing my story of overcoming perfectionism.
Today I write, and don’t necessarily have a solution for you. This is pretty much the OPPOSITE of my intent for this “Life on Purpose” series. But I want to be real with you. Just because I’m sharing all these things I’ve learned, doesn’t mean I’m perfect at doing them 100% of the time. I struggle. I battle with that internal dialogue.
There are days that I feel like I’m failing.
I slide into a funk.
I think I suck.
Why am I even doing this?
Who cares about what I have to say.
I’m not anyone important.
It doesn’t even matter.
I’m just wasting my time and anyone else who even starts to read this.
Who do I think I am?
I’m Going to Do It Anyway
Because I’m going to prove to myself and anyone else out there that may care, that I will write and share what I’m learning about myself. About my struggles. And if nothing else, it’s therapeutic for me. And hopefully, the person that needs to read this, will find it. Even if thats me… 10 years from now.
So Let’s Talk Perfectionism
Even though I have NOT kicked perfectionism to the curb, I want to talk about it. GOOD NEWS: I am now able to recognize when perfectionism rears its ugly head. And sometimes I even conquer it! Writing this post today is me taking a step in conquering the battle. I’m going to share my struggles and what I’ve learned so far, in hopes that you might identify with me. AND more importantly, I would LOVE for you to share what you’ve learned or what has been key to help you progress in your battle with perfectionism.
Perfectionism vs Progression
I think there is such a fine line between perfectionism and progression. It’s important to give good effort, to try, to want to succeed, want to grow, to do better, and to be your best, is there? As long as I allow my best effort to be ENOUGH. It doesn’t have to be 100% perfect.
I don’t recall dealing with perfectionist issues when I was younger. I think it started showing up shortly after moving out of my childhood home and getting married. For example, in the early years of my marriage, my house HAD to be perfect before anyone came over. I’d be annoyed and irritated as I cleaned the house, preparing for guests. To be honest, I wasn’t really fun to be around! It stressed me out! I eventually got over that (it took many years) and now people can come over to my not-so perfect home and I don’t even care about it. In fact, I do FB Live for all the world to see in my not so perfectly clean home!
My kids don’t need to be wearing perfect clothes, have perfect hair, or act perfect in public. If my 3 year old comes to the store with me and doesn’t look like she just walked out of the Gap catalog, I’m 100% OK with that. I do have some standards…. we will NOT go to the store in our PJ’s with snot dripping down our faces and messy hair. 😉 But that’s my point. There is a difference between having to look 100% perfect before walking out the door, compared to desiring to look nice and presentable.
CONFESSION: I will NOT go into public without having makeup on. Is this my perfectionism issue? OR perhaps it’s a self esteem issue? OR what is it?? Still gotta figure that one out.
The Sides of Perfectionism
I think we all struggle in some degree. And perfection comes in many forms. We might try to achieve perfection in our looks, our grades, our kids, our marriage, our finances, our status, our job, our effort. That seems a bit self centered, doesn’t it? Perfectionism really is inward thinking! Yet, we tell ourselves that we just want everything to be perfect because we want to please others. Am I right?
Raise your hand if you can relate to any of these. ✋
You’re paralyzed. If you can’t do it perfect, you won’t even try. Or you start something but can never finish. You feel stuck. You can never “get it right”. Yeah, me too.
Done is Better Than Perfect
As I write this, I have so many confessions and secrets I could divulge (sounds so spicy, right?). I’ll share just one for now… we’ve lived in our home since 2013 and I still don’t have much decor in my house, or pictures hanging on the wall. In the beginning, I thought it was because I was so afraid to put holes in the brand new walls. Then I used the excuse that I didn’t have time (which is true… although we always have time for what we prioritize).
Now I recognize that the issue is just that I REALLY feel incompetent in home decor and would probably not get it right. So I haven’t made much effort to do it. At all. (Ugh. I’d much rather just have someone else do it for me!) So here we sit, in our home of nearly 5 years and it looks like I live as a minimalist. And ima be real folks, I’m still not ready to conquer it. 😑
So, in an effort to ACKNOWLEDGE my own struggles, because I can’t change what we don’t acknowledge… (thank you Dr Phil for ingraining that phrase in my mind a million years ago when I used to watch daytime talk shows), I’m sharing with you today my battle with perfectionism and a few things that have helped me through the battle. It’s an awareness. And I ALWAYS have to remind myself DONE is better than PERFECT.
Perfectionism = Fear
This was a big AH HA moment for me and a step in the right direction when I learned this concept. In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert states, “Perfection is FEAR in fancy shoes and a mink coat”. I love what she says about perfectionism:
“Perfectionism is a particularly evil lure for women, who, I believe, hold themselves to an even higher standard of performance than do men. There are many reasons why women’s voices and visions are not more widely represented today in creative fields. Some of that exclusion is due to regular old misogyny, but it’s also true that—all too often—women are the ones holding themselves back from participating in the first place. Holding back their ideas, holding back their contributions, holding back their leadership and their talents. Too many women still seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves forward at all, until both they and their work are perfect and beyond criticism. Meanwhile, putting forth work that is far from perfect rarely stops men from participating in the global cultural conversation. Just sayin’. And I don’t say this as a criticism of men, by the way. I like that feature in men—their absurd overconfidence, the way they will casually decide, “Well, I’m 41 percent qualified for this task, so give me the job!” Yes, sometimes the results are ridiculous and disastrous, but sometimes, strangely enough, it works—a man who seems not ready for the task, not good enough for the task, somehow grows immediately into his potential through the wild leap of faith itself. I only wish more women would risk these same kinds of wild leaps. But I’ve watched too many women do the opposite. I’ve watched far too many brilliant and gifted female creators say, “I am 99.8 percent qualified for this task, but until I master that last smidgen of ability, I will hold myself back, just to be on the safe side.” Now, I cannot imagine where women ever got the idea that they must be perfect in order to be loved or successful. (Ha ha ha! Just kidding! I can totally imagine: We got it from every single message society has ever sent us! Thanks, all of human history!) But we women must break this habit in ourselves—and we are the only ones who can break it. We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.) At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is—if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.” (source: Good Reads)
For me, perfectionism shows up as self criticism, self doubt, worry, and simply not finishing. Here’s another confession. I have TWO blog projects that are stalled at the moment. My perfectionist self is avoiding completing the projects because of this fear that I won’t get done “just right”. I really need to push past that wall. But it’s been HARD.
Writing this Life on Purpose series every Monday has definately pushed me. It’s been hard. And scary. I spend HOURS writing, editing, rereading, editing some more, self doubting, deleting, adding, pushing away fear before I can finally hit publish. Today I’m not allowing myself to go there. I’m going to hit publish and not read through this post one more time.
Why The Perfectionism Plague?
I could go so much deeper into this topic, but I think I’ll save that for another day. Sometimes the worry, stress and fear about not doing “it” right, or good enough can really shut me down. When it gets really bad, I turn to God.
I love this scripture from the Book of Mormon. If this offends you, you can skip this paragraph, but I love it, and this is my blog, so…. ya know. Anyway, it is found in the book of Ether, chapter 12 verse 27.
To me this means that God didn’t mess up when He created YOU or ME. He’s perfect! We were created with weaknesses and strengths so that we can grow, change, and progress. I
think know those little voices telling me that “it’s not good enough” or “no one will read this” or “you’ll never get it right” is in fact the adversary working against me to keep me from moving forward on something that will actually be a blessing to someone else. And in fact, it’s not about blessing someone else, it’s simply about ME accomplishing something.
I create. I complete.
The Perfectionism Mindset Shift
NOTE: Writing this out and pondering my battle with perfectionism has already been a blessing to me. I told you at the start that I had no actionable items to help you in your battle with perfectionism. But as I’ve been working on this, I’ve recognized a few things that have helped me in my battle with perfectionism. And because I was committed to not going back and changing and editing the heck out of this blog post, I’m not changing the intro paragraph. And to share something very personal, the fourth realization was enlightenment from above and meant just for me.
Recognize the Process
Celebrate finishing. Give yourself a high five for at least recognizing the debilitating power of perfectionism. Look at how you have progressed over the years. I told you how I used to never let anyone step inside my home unless it was my definition of perfect. Those days are gone. Yay for me! It was part of my journey and dealing with it allowed me to conquer it. Which makes me feel proud of my change! Which means I can continue to change and improve and beat this.
Unfollow People That Expire You
You’ve all heard, “comparison is the thief of joy”. And we know it. Yet here we are, watching everyone else live their instagram life and thinking ours really sucks compared to theirs. Here’s what I finally did. I STOPPED FOLLOWING people and bloggers that portray perfect lives. Looking at their posts made me feel like I sucked, I was a loser who could NEVER accomplish all that they did. I felt expired. Not inspired. I finally stopped following her. And her. And her. And that blog. And then my beat up sessions decreased.
Ask Yourself “SO WHAT”?
So what if your house doesn’t look perfect? So what if your blog post is too long winded? So what if you don’t have the perfect graphics? So what if someone sees you without your makeup on (yes, again… I’m still working on that one). So what if my family pictures are the prefect size in the perfect frames hanging perfectly on the wall… at least they are hanging!!
I Am Enough. You Are Enough
Let’s go back to that scripture. God did NOT mess up when He created me. He did NOT mess up when He created YOU. My effort is enough. Your effort is enough. It is by His grace that it is enough.
I’m going to take it one step further, and this was a beautiful moment this morning when I realized this.
When I beat up on myself for not being strong enough, pretty enough, good enough, or for not getting it done just right… aren’t I really just insulting my Creator? Am I not having GRATITUDE and accepting the atonement of the Jesus Christ? Am I not recognizing that through Him and His grace, I am already whole?
Recognize it. Accept that GIFT.
Remember WHO you are and WHOSE you are. Find peace in that knowledge. Have GRATITUDE for the gift. Have GRATITUDE for the life we’ve been given.
Do it anyway.
Even if we’d only grade ourselves at 68%. He makes it 100%.
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I loved this post Cathy. It is something I’ve always struggled with, even in high school. I’m slowly making progress too… Which is the point, right? Anyway, thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you for sharing that you struggle too, Summer. It’s always nice to know we’re not alone in it!
Thank you for sharing this! The message is even bigger than perfectionism. It’s conquering fear! We can let ourselves be held back or we can just say “the heck with it” and push through it. The magic is what lies on the other side!!!
Plus, your example of putting your self out there will hopefully inspire others to acknowledge and open up to their peers on issues they have a hard time with. It’s so much harder to make changes within yourself if you never open up to anyone about it.
P.S. I’ve followed this blog for almost 10 years! I’ll keep coming back because I love it!
Wow! Thank you for being a “lifelong” follower… sounds like you’ve been with FF since the beginning! 🙂 And YES you are so right… it’s about pushing aside fear and doing it anyway! I love your comment “the magic is what lies on the other side”! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here Michele!