I Release the Need to be Perfect


19 May

"Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go. Surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience. Transcendence! Very few have it in them." - Thomas Leroy in “Black Swan” 

We can all be too hard on ourselves at times, especially women.  Women tend to think they need to be perfect in all areas of their lives all the time. Firstly, we feel expected to excel as a mother.  We do most of the shopping, cooking, and cleaning while raising children.  Secondly, we feel expected to be good at our jobs.  We tend to go above and beyond to get recognition in the form of a raise or promotion. Thirdly, we feel expected to be a good friend, always available to lend an ear, offer a shoulder to cry on, and remember a birthday.  And, lastly, we feel the pressure to stay young and look beautiful for our husbands.

As a "recovering" perfectionist, this is a topic I know very well from my own life experience.  As a wellness professional, I also have experience working with women who felt the pressure to do it all, and to do it all perfectly well.  I’ve heard the same stories from women of all ages and walks of life.

Living in quarantine can trigger our perfectionism even more.  Full-time working women who are also wives and mothers can feel more stretched by the demands of their jobs, homeschooling children, and running a household.  Before this pandemic, women would run from one place to the next to get everything checked off on their to-do list.  But, in quarantine, it’s all happening under one roof at the same time.  There is no place to run or hide.  While one might think it would be more convenient to have everything in one place at the same time, for many, it’s not.  The pressure can build.  And, some may feel like a pressure cooker about to explode,  especially when they don't feel they can be perfect.

As one friend told me the other day, “I can’t even go to the bathroom without one of my children knocking on the door, asking if she could have yogurt." "Even though my husband is right there, they come after me!" she added.  "Some days, my only real escape is if I get in the car alone, and take a drive away from this place!”

These are unprecedented times. Quarantine living has not only pushed us to our limits, but it has also taught us that we all have our limits.  It has also taught us that we need to cut ourselves some slack.  We are only human, and there is only so much we can do, especially when so many things are out of our control. However, we can still control our attitudes and actions.  Therefore, it would serve our health and well-being best if we chose the attitudes and actions that support our goals.

In my experience, there's only one certainty I’ve seen that results from striving for perfection.  Perfection can lead to health issues, such as anxiety and depression.  The need to be perfect is a need for control. Losing control of situations that affect your daily life can make you feel anxious, scared, lost, confused, and depressed.  As a result, your body can also start showing symptoms, such as insomnia, headaches, and digestive issues. In other words, your mental, emotional, and physical health can suffer.  In other words, your mental, emotional, and physical health can suffer.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do or be your best.  In fact, many jobs require a high level of attention to detail.  Getting the details right and doing a good job creates a sense of accomplishment.  But, if you’re feeling more overwhelmed than satisfied with your accomplishments, it's time to take a step back.  Consider how you can better balance your drive for excellence with your well-being.  Re-think your priorities, goals, and strategies for success if you're unhappy or if your desire for perfection undermines your health.

Now, more than ever, we need to be able to shift our thoughts and change how we do things to survive and thrive during these unprecedented times. Here are some tips to help you release your need to be perfect:

  1. Stop putting pressure on yourself.  Just stop!  It can slow you down and make you less productive in the end.  Of course, you want to put your best foot forward, but at some point you just have to let go and move on.  “Done is better than perfect,” they say.  Putting pressure on yourself also takes too much energy.  Reapply that energy to a doable action plan that satisfies your priorities instead.  In other words, pick your battles!

  1. Replace self-criticism with positive self-talk.  Being so critical of yourself can also slow you down and even paralyze you. Replacing unwanted thoughts with positive thoughts lead to positive actions.  Saying positive statements out loud can move you forward.  Poet and civil activist Maya Angelou said, “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.”  If you are struggling with quarantine living, then you need to change how you see it before it consumes you.  If you can change your mentality, you can change your reality.  Positive affirmations shift your mindset, improve your attitude, and move you to action.  Therefore, positive self-talk is the game changer you need to think better about yourself and your circumstances.   

  1. Practice self-care.  Self-care is the key to achieving optimal health, happiness, and success.  If a worldwide crisis isn’t enough of a wake-up call to action for more self-care, I don’t know what is.  We need to nurture ourselves more than ever.  Think you don’t have time?  Make time.  The consequences of neglecting your mental, physical, and emotional health are far riskier than you think.  If you run yourself into the ground trying to be everything to everyone, you will burn out and be no good to anyone.  Then, who will take care of you?  Say your daily affirmations, do breathwork, listen to guided meditations, try some yoga poses, go to bed earlier, drink more water, vent your frustrations to a trusted friend, find something to make you laugh, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, get some fresh air, and move your body.

  1. Focus on positive action steps. It doesn’t matter how small these steps are or where you start. They all add up!  Life is not about being the best.  Life is about doing your best as often as possible.  All your best efforts will lead to more work-life balance, better health, more happiness, and more success.  Your results are based on the accumulation of your efforts. Therefore, the more positive steps you take, the more positive your results will be.

  2. Choose progress over perfection.  Evaluate your priorities.  Perhaps you need to change your priorities given the difficult times you're facing.  If you re-prioritize and create new goals, commit to action steps that support them, and trust the process.  Also, give yourself time to adjust to any changes you make to your daily routine or health habits.  

  3. Use a journal to track your progress.  You can even use fun stickers to celebrate each step you take that moves you closer to your desired results, whether it's a step toward hitting a sales goal or weight loss goal.  Review your journal often, especially when you’re feeling unmotivated or upset about a less-than-perfect step in your journey.  This practice will help you see all the efforts you’ve made so far and encourage you to keep going.

  4. Practice aloha and patience.  Love yourself.  When you love yourself more, you tend to be more positive.  When you’re positive, you’re more likely to follow through with actions that support your goals.  You are also able to embrace your faults, shortcomings, and imperfections.  Be kind to yourself.  Be your own best friend.  Think a little more kindness and a little less judgement.  Be aware of negative self-talk because it will affect how you feel, what you say, how you react, and what you do. So, talk positively to yourself.  Kindness matters.  It will lift your spirits, keep you going, and support you in the most difficult times.  Be compassionate with yourself.  Compassion leads to an awareness of our needs and a desire to fulfill them without the pressure of being perfect. For instance, if you make a less-than-perfect choice, who cares?  It won't derail your results; it will only delay them. Your life is not over.  You can make another choice that better supports your goals every minute, hour, and day.  So, be gentle with yourself.  Focus your energy on recovering with the choices you make next, and end your day, week, and month stronger.  You are not the only one facing this pandemic.  You are not alone.  We are all in the same ocean with you but in different boats.  We all have unique circumstances in our own homes.  You’re doing the best you can with what you have, just like the rest of us.  You are good enough!  Be patient.  So, your routines were pulled like a rug from under your feet, forcing you into a whole new lifestyle practically overnight.  You deserve the time you need to adjust, especially when changes happen at lightning speed.   Some of us might adapt and adjust faster than others, but understand that your circumstances are unique and different.  So, give yourself time.  

    Release your need to be perfect, my Pineapple. Focus on being present instead. It can help improve how you see and handle your circumstances until your circumstances change.

    Live, Love, and Lead with Aloha!

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