They say that having self-awareness is key. However, even though I am aware of my perfectionist tendencies, they still trip me up all of the time. I decided to write this article to really dig into what perfectionism was all about, and yet as I write, I find myself continuously editing before I have even begun. Words and whole paragraphs get deleted, sentences get changed and scrutinised, and before I know it, I am once again staring at a blank screen.
I see this all too often in women, and even young girls. Why are we still teaching our future generations perfectionism over bravery? Why are we encouraging women to be “good girls” and follow the rules? The only thing that rules do is deprive you of the vastness of your truest, boldest, bravest, most authentic self. We should be empowering women to have courage and take risks.
Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls who Code, sums it up perfectly in her powerful Ted Talk which you can watch below. She says, “women have been socialised to aspire to perfection and they are overly cautious.” She goes on to say, “Even when women are ambitious, the socialisation of perfection causes them to take less risks in their careers.”
How To Spot Perfectionist Tendencies
Chances are if you are a perfectionist, you’ll already know about it as I do. Additionally, the ted talk may have given you some indicators about where you allow perfectionism to lead your life, and play it small. That said, here are a few things that you can look out for in your own behaviour to help you recognise the extent of your perfectionism:
- Setting yourself unrealistic, high standards.
- Constantly finding faults in what you do.
- Looking outside of yourself for approval from others.
- Being incredibly critical of yourself when you make mistakes.
- Avoiding situations where you might fail.
- Finding it difficult to take compliments.
- Spending more time than you need to on tasks and projects (Or articles).
- Not taking action and feeling paralysed by your perfectionism.
As the mother of a young girl, I now feel a responsibility to find a way to overcome the perfectionism paralysis that I have come to know so well. I want to pave the way for her to feel comfortable taking risks. To feel comfortable to fail. Any time someone asks me if my daughter has been ‘good,’ I feel myself flinch a little. It’s because I know what being good means – I have been it for most of my life. It means polite, apologetic, compliant, obedient and perfect. Well, sorry to say it, but fuck that.
Actually I’m not sorry to say it. Fuck that.
The need to people-please is often interchangeable with perfectionism- the impossible standards we set ourselves are often not even for us. We have been socialised in order to get someone else’s approval that we forget how to look for our own. The thing is, your own approval is the only one that you ever need.
It is time for the narrative to change. It is time for us to drop the perfectionsim we have come to know so well.
The good news is that anything that is learned can be unlearned, with both conscious effort and purposeful action. So how do we do this? How can we begin to feel ok with being imperfectly perfect?
- Find your support tribe- A team of people that will champion you no matter what. If this isn’t something you have right now, just set an intention to find more of those kinda people.
- Write a stream of consciousness without editing or pausing. (Particularly useful if you write articles as you can save the editing for later!)
- Eradicate the words “I don’t know” from your vocabulary. Perhaps try “I’ll get back to you on that.”
- Take Social Media breaks- stop comparing and looking outside of yourself for approval.
- Take small steps in finding your “brave.” Do things before you feel ready. Cheer yourself on for every step you make.
Ultimately, perfectionism is about us wanting to have arrived at the final destination, when life is actually all about the journey. Not being where you want to be (I.e. not being perfect) can even be fun if you allow it to be. In her book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing”, Rachel Hollis says, “You are enough. Today. As you are. Stop beating yourself up for being on the beginning side of yet, no matter what age you are. Yet is your potential. Yet is what keeps you moving forward.”