Battle with Being a Perfectionist – part 1

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Hi, my name is Hope and I’m a perfectionist.  There I said it.  The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem, right?   Well, there’s one of mine.  It’s never easy to admit when we have problems because we’re too busy pretending that we have none.  I have what seems like a continuous battle with being a perfectionist more so that I would like to count.  I have also discovered that I am not alone this battle.  There’s a countless number of people that have their own battle with being a perfectionist.

Battle with Being a Perfectionist

I guess for me it all started when the truth of my adoption came out.  That piece of information changed my whole life. Quickly, I started having feelings of rejection and abandonment that came with this news.

In the summer of 1984, I was 13 years old.  Enjoying part of my summer break until I had to go to summer school.  During that time, there was a book report that I was assigned to write and out of all the topics in the world, it was on adoption.  I sat down and started the outline of a paper that I had no idea would change my life forever.

“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.” ~ Ecclesiastes 11:4

While doing the research for this paper, that’s when I found it.  The Baby book that most parents keep on their child containing dates of their child’s first word, first steps, etc.  Except, mine didn’t have all that information as I was adopted at six months and it said it in all of its glory; “Spent first six months with foster family.” What is a foster family?  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure that out.  So, I confronted the people that had all the answers to my questions. Except, they weren’t ready to talk about it.

“Perfectionism doesn’t make you feel perfect; it makes you feel inadequate.” ~ Maria Shriver

Fast forward a week. My parents bought me all the information from the safe deposit box.  It was all laid out for me in black and white.  Needless to say, it was an overwhelming experience for me.  It was that moment, my battle with perfectionism started.

At that time I felt that I had to be more, do more, and especially, do things perfectly. I felt that I wasn’t good enough and I really needed to be and feel good enough.  After all, in my mind, I was no longer sure of what to expect from my parents.  Nonetheless, I started trying to be the “perfect” child.

“Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal.” ~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Now that I’m an adult, my battle with being a perfectionist was and sometimes still is a hard battle.  I’ve overcome so much, but I still fall down from time to time.  My hope here today is to help someone else who feels this same pain as I have felt.  I want you to know that you too can overcome this feeling.  It’s not an easy thing to overcome, but it is possible.

See if you recognize yourself in any of these ways of being a perfectionist:

  1. You have high expectations for yourself.  Talk about pressure.  Setting high expectations for yourself can be a very stressful thing. You won’t do it just once, it’ll be an ongoing thing.   You may find yourself setting that bar higher and higher.  That can be exhausting.
  2. Procrastination. You may find yourself overloaded with various projects or assignments.  With that overwhelm, you may shut down. At least I do.  When I find that I have too much on my plate, I go into shut down mode.  I felt like I’ve been backed into a corner with no choice but to deal with it.  Procrastination is a terrible beast.  I’ll have a strategy to combat procrastination in the next post.
  3. Have a Need to Please Others. This was huge for me.  I did my best to please everyone else rather than myself.  I felt that my own needs and desires weren’t important.  As I got older, I still slip every now and then for that need, but I remind myself that I don’t need to please anyone or try to gain approval from others.  It’s still a struggle sometimes.
  4. FEAR of Failure, Rejection, Abandonment. This is a hard one.  When I found out I was adopted, I experienced feelings of rejection and abandonment. I spent a lot of my teenage years dealing with this feeling that it caused me to try to be good and perfect.  I felt that I couldn’t be myself. Besides, I didn’t know who I was anyways.
  5. Being Critical of Yourself.  Self-criticism is a hard thing. When things don’t go right, we automatically assume it’s our fault. We speak poorly of ourselves.  This needs to stop.  We are going to make mistakes.  We’re human.  Not everything will be our fault and we need to stop taking that responsibility.

In my next post, I’ll discuss strategies on how to overcome perfectionism.  What causes you to be a perfectionist?

Until Next Time…..