Written by Rachel Larsson | Wednesday, 25 March 2020
I’ve got to be honest with you, it took me a long time to identify and understand my relationship with perfectionism. As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t realise that my all or nothing approach to life, self-critical tendencies, unrealistically high standards for myself, depression I felt when expectations were unmet and pain I felt when I received criticism were all guises for the same thing… perfectionism. Perhaps you can relate?
My perfectionism meant that my years of study were filled with fear, pressure and anxiety rather optimism, patience and inquisitiveness. To no surprise, this mentality came at a big cost to my physical, mental and social wellbeing as my need to be perfect trumped all rational thought.
But it is only through this experience that I have the insight that I have today and am grateful that for the next stage in my life, running a business, I am developing a healthier, more compassionate and realistic approach to life.
I want to share with you three of my biggest personal lessons in dealing with perfectionism in the hope of helping you in your journey.
I have learnt that perfectionism is born from a feeling of inadequacy and is motivated by our ego and its need to hide something.
Adopting a perfectionist mindset is how we compensate for not feeling good enough. These feelings of not good enough are a reflection of our personal inability to provide ourselves with the fundamental human needs of approval, security, acceptance, hope, encouragement, fun, attention, rest and love.
For example, a lack of self-approval may cause you to look for approval from external sources. Your way of trying to obtain approval is by striving to get perfect marks at college in the hope your teachers, peers and family will give you words or gestures of approval.
Unfortunately, our striving for perfection, only reinforces our belief of inadequacy, and so the vicious cycle continues.
I encourage you to challenge your self-limiting beliefs of inadequacy and start questioning if there is a fundamental need that is being unmet. Identifying and addressing these are incredibly powerful in breaking the cycle. Teaming up with a professional to help this process has been of huge value to me.
For a time, I believed that for me to be ‘smart’, I would have to achieve 100% on an assessment. So in true perfectionist form, if I only achieved 90% my thoughts defaulted to self criticism and beratement.
Perspective and self-compassion had clearly left the building.
Since college, I have adopted a new approach to life called the Good, Better, Best approach. The Good, Better, Best approach encourages me to create tiers of achievement for which I can celebrate my wins more often, rather just one benchmark of achievement.
In keeping with study, if I were to have adopted the Good, Better, Best approach, I could have said good is considered a ‘pass’ (very achievable), better is 65% and best is 80%. I would have given myself the chance to celebrate my wins, feel accomplished and be proud of my efforts.
Adopt this approach to anything and everything, whether it be trying to increase your relaxation time, reduce coffee or encourage a meditation practice. The trick is to keep the benchmarks small and achievable so you feel less threatened doing a task and can finish feeling proud and confident.
I still struggle with this at times, especially when it comes to Instagram aka the big magical platform of smoke and mirrors. You see, I still experience rosacea flares which is an Instagram nightmare when needing to look like ‘the picture of health’.
However, my resistance to reality in my strive for perfection has only led to more pain.
With time, I have learnt that embracing, celebrating, loving and accepting my life for exactly where I am on any given day is the only antidote.
That means whole-heartedly accepting reality even if you have a pimple breakout, your clients cancel their appointment, your business isn’t in profit or you publish a blog and later notice a mistake. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but accepting it rather than fighting it will do wonders for your mental health.
Life is so much easier when you realise that we are all imperfectly perfect. It’s our imperfections that make us unique, interesting... human.
What you are doing is not who you are. Being a perfectionist is not part of your identity, rather you have chosen to adopt perfectionist tendencies. This slight change in perspective empowers you with the ability of choice, and with each choice you can start to create a life that embraces and celebrates your perfect imperfections.
Rachel is a warm and passionate BHSc Naturopath, BPH Nutritionist and creator of The Gut Feeling To Gut Healing Program. At the of core of her approach, she aims to facilitate meaningful change in others wellbeing through increasing an awareness of mind, body and spirit.
Her love for empowering others with the knowledge and skills needed to live their best life has led her to collaborating with the likes of I Quit Sugar, Food Matters, Nourish Melbourne and The Mind Body Spirit Festival.