By: Donna Jurney
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”— Anna Quindlen
I have spent most of my life struggling with perfectionism and buying into the belief that if things looked good on the outside, then I must be ok- maybe even more than “just” ok. My measurement of self-worth was attached to external outcomes, such as productivity, (checking off everything on my to-do list), achievement, recognition, and many more examples of “doing.” This pattern of striving gave me the illusion of being in control, and a momentary boost of self-esteem that I longed for, but it usually left me feeling exhausted. What I’ve come to realize for me, was that this “externally motivated” way of life was less about moving towards these external outcomes and more about trying to avoid things like judgment, criticism, fear, shame, and being seen.
I sometimes still struggle with taming the inner critic and the voices inside my head that try to dictate what I need to do, be, or accomplish in order to feel good enough. But today, I consider myself more of a recovering perfectionist. When everything on my to-do list isn’t checked off or things don’t go as planned or as I had hoped, my self-worth doesn’t take a nosedive.
My thinking on this topic has changed a lot over the past couple of years, largely due to the work of Dr. Brene Brown. Dr. Brown says, “Perfectionism is not the same as healthy striving. Healthy striving is internally motivated; setting goals that you want to achieve and doing/being your best.” She says, “Perfectionism is about one question… what will people think?” Dr. Brown describes perfectionism as “a defense mechanism or a piece of armor (20 ton shield) used to manage perception. It’s a hustle that we do to earn approval and acceptance. We carry it around thinking it will keep us safe when the truth is that it keeps us from being seen.”
Dr. Brown explained in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that “understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life.” For me, overcoming perfectionism is a process and belief that where I stand in my relationship with perfectionism is on a continuum. Some days are better than others and usually this is a direct result of how I’m feeling about myself on any given day.
There are several practices that I find helpful in managing perfectionism. These include:
Donna Jurney is the founder of Jurney To Wellness Life Coaching. She trained as a Life Coach at the Institute for Life Coach Training, where she completed a Wellness Program of study. She is a Board Certified Coach and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, certified by the State of Maryland. Donna has taken her coaching to a deeper level by becoming a Certified Daring Way Facilitator, which is based on the research of Dr. Brene Brown. She enjoys working with women in transition, women in recovery, and individuals seeking a higher level of wellness and wellbeing. To learn more about Donna, visit her website www.jurneytowellness.com, follow her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Jurneytowellness or reach out to her at [email protected].