Why Perfectionism Might Be Keeping You Stuck

When Perfectionism Isn’t A Good Thing

So in the past, I’ve heard people refer to perfectionism and associate it with things like “excellent work ethic,” “goal-driven,” and “someone who is dependable, reliable, and will get the job done right.”  Brene Brown, who is one of my favorites (if you don’t know who she is, go check her out – and BONUS, she’s from Houston!), sheds a different light on what perfectionism is and the harm it can do.

In a recent Facebook post, she says, “Perfectionism is armor.  It’s not internally driven like healthy striving.  Its externally driven and fueled by ‘What will people think?’  Perfectionism is a twenty ton shield that keeps us from being seen.”  She wrote these words atop one of her graphics which reads “Shame loves perfectionists – it’s so easy to keep us quiet.”

What are your thoughts? Have you found that perfectionism actually keeps you from being your real authentic self?  Has it held you back in any ways or actually made you more anxious, stressed, and worried?  If so, you’re not alone. While a certain amount of “I need to do this and do it well” is healthy and keeps us moving toward our goals, too much of it, and doing it for the wrong reasons, can tip the scales in the wrong direction and send us spiraling into an abyss of anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and paralysis.

In fact, the overwhelming fear of failure can keep perfectionists from doing what they strive for and need the most – the need to succeed at any and everything they do.

And then of course they ultimately end up feeling like a failure anyway.  How does that work?  Think about it. If you’re so afraid of failing, if you’re terrified of embarrassing yourself, or if you’re nervous about what people might think… if you don’t think that you’re good enough, then why would you even try? Why would you even think about giving yourself the opportunity to not reach your goal… to fail? It becomes so much easier to just… not try.  To not start that project you’ve been putting on hold, even though it would make life so much easier.  To not apply for that job or the promotion at work that you’ve been dreaming about because it would be – well, perfect. To not speak up in group settings – at work or with friends or family – and to just go along with what everyone else thinks or wants, even though you’re cringing on the inside.

The reality is that one’s need to be perfect can also be the thing that keeps them from evening trying.  Often times it’s the thing that keeps them stuck, unhappy, and in a cycle of anxiety, depression, and self-loathing.

For some, perfectionism actually creates and perpetuates the low self esteem that keeps that voice in their head criticizing everything they do (or don’t do).

If this is hitting home at all, then I want you to try something for me… I want you to try to fail.  Yep, that’s right. I want you to practice giving yourself permission to fail.  Draw something ugly – I am the queen of ugly stick figures, and not the cute pretty ones, either.  Sing something completely out of key (which is the norm if you sound anything like me). Do a dance in your living room and know that it doesn’t matter what the heck you look like as long you’re having fun and moving to the music.

Give yourself permission to just be… you. To not give a damn. To be unapologetic in your quest to be free and authentic and you.  It won’t be easy, but I bet you can get better at it with time and practice.  After all, isn’t that what perfectionism is all about?

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