Life as a perfectionist: 3 steps to freeing yourself

Hey! If you’re reading this then I’m guessing you’re an overachieving perfectionist like me! As long as I can remember I’ve been competitive in all aspects of my life. I didn’t just want to go to art school at age 18, I wanted to go to the best art school in the country! I didn’t just want to pass my classes, I wanted to be the best in my class and graduate in 3 years instead of 4 by overloading my schedule. I didn’t just want a relationship, I wanted the perfect guy and the perfect life together. Well, let’s just say trying to achieve these unattainable goals of perfection has led to a lot of anxiety and unhappiness in my life.

I’m quickly learning that we don’t have a lot of control over our lives. We have control over our choices, actions, and thoughts but there is so much that we cannot predict or control. Our happiness often depends on our ability to react to unplanned situations with calmness and acceptance. If you’ve ever failed at something then you know you usually have two options in that situation… 1. to accept it as part of your journey and keep failing forward or 2. to get frustrated and admit defeat. As a recovering perfectionist, I admit that in many situations I’ve taken route two. I used to have the mindset that if I couldn’t be perfect or I couldn’t be the best, then I didn’t want to do it. Here’s the thing, route two will not get you closer to your goals. You do not need to be perfect. Persistence will take you further than perfection ever will because perfect doesn’t even exist. I am going to share my top three tips for how I’m learning to overcome my perfectionism to live a more carefree and joyful life.

Step 1: Stop comparing yourself and seeking approval

Social media is literally a perfectionist’s worst nightmare. It is far too easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and feel like you’re somehow inferior or not doing enough. This will drive you insane!!! Stop looking at what everyone else is doing because we all know that social media is most peoples highlight reel anyway. Write down your goals and don’t even tell anyone. Just wake up every day and keep grinding away at them. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your choices. It matters what you think!!! Trust me, none of us have it figured out. So when you see that girl on facebook and you think her life just looks so much more put together than yours… know that you have no idea what struggles she’s facing.

I know this first hand because as a recovering perfectionist I’ve made sure that my social media platforms appear as though my life is freaking fantastic. And you know what, sometimes my life is fantastic but other times it’s a total hot mess. The good news is that the messy parts make life interesting. You can’t learn to appreciate the moments of joy, love, and flow if you’ve never felt disappointment, heartbreak, and chaos.

2. Be Vulnerable

Yep, this one is scary! As perfectionists, we tend to have a shield up that protects us from feeling shame or embarrassment. We want to be perfect and appear perfect which closes us off from being real and vulnerable. The quickest way to let go of our perfectionist facade is to start letting people see past it. This is hard because we often fear that if people see all of the cracks in our armour they won’t love or accept us. Truthbomb: people will love you MORE when you speak your truth and show up as your perfectly imperfect self.

About six months ago I shared a story on my blog about the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. It was a story that I had held onto for four years, unable to share it or come to terms with how people might react to it. I was scared they would see me differently. But the craziest thing happened when I finally decided to write that part of my story. I had a huge outpouring of love from friends and family who said they wished I had shared sooner. They wished that I had leaned on them in that incredibly difficult time. I also had messages pour in from women who were strangers or acquaintances that thanked me for sharing because they had gone through the same thing. They resonated with my words and they were comforted to know that they weren’t alone in their struggles.

Lesson: however alone you think you are, someone out there is going through the exact same thing. If we are silent about our struggles and vulnerabilities, we give them power. When we start talking about them, we are able to free ourselves of them and move forward.

3. Practice self-love

As we continue to fail forward and make mistakes on this crazy journey it is so important to speak to ourselves with kindness. You know that voice in the back of your head that tells you that you’re not good enough? Well, it’s complete bullshit. Our ego gets in the way of our happiness. Our ego compares ourselves to those around us and is kind of a bully. Our ego is the reason we hold back or never make the leap. We are so scared of failing and then having to listen to that little voice say “I told you so! I knew you couldn’t do it”.

Practicing self-love means being conscious of how we are treating ourselves and talking to ourselves. It’s catching that negative self-talk and choosing to say something kind to ourselves instead. Whenever I’m in a negative self-talk spiral because I’m afraid or nervous or feeling defeated I say to myself “You are allowed to be perfectly imperfect. You are enough. You have enough. You do enough. Keep going.”  Yep, I know, it sounds silly. But isn’t silly so much better than letting our inner shit-talker beat us up? A lot of my negative self-talk comes from the fear of not being good enough and not being perfect. When I talk to myself with love and kindness, I silence all of the other bullshit swimming around in my head.

How did I get to a place where I’m able to be this self-aware? Personal development. I’m constantly reading books that are changing my life. If this post resonates with you, I’d recommend reading Mastering Your Mean Girl by Melissa Embrosini and the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Let me know in the comments if you found this post helpful! Thanks for reading!


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