Perfectionism is an attitude that can get in the way of reaching our goals. Although you would think that striving for perfection is admirable, more often it stops us from taking the actions necessary. How do we know if we suffer from perfectionism and how can we dissolve it?
I was recently reading a forum thread. In it, the topic starter asked how he can begin his project when he feels he has to know everything before starting. In other words, he wanted everything perfect before taking his first step.
This example shows us that perfectionism can make us freeze and not do what we want to do. It can cause procrastination as we search for more information but without taking any action. It can even make us feel depressed and anxious when we constantly feel that we’re not good enough or don’t have enough, so why even try in the first place?
There is a degree of perfectionism that is healthy, but it isn’t perfectionism at all. Wanting to excel is different from wanting to be perfect, because excellence is achievable, while perfection isn’t. That’s what Mary Ayers, from TapIntoAction.com, says in the 2012 Tapping World Summit workbook.
The important distinction between wanting to excel and wanting to be perfect is that excellence involves a desire for improvement, while perfection comes from fear of failure.
In other words, excellence is driven by love, while perfection is driven by fear.
How do we know whether we are striving for excellence or wanting perfection? Mary gives a few questions you can ask yourself to see if you are suffering from perfectionism that is stopping you.
Here is one of the questions Mary asks in the workbook: How do you feel about mistakes?
a) I view them as opportunities to learn and grow
b) I laugh and make jokes about them
c) I feel like a failure whenever I make them
My honest answer is that I respond in all three ways. Sometimes I feel like a failure and want to give up when I make a costly mistake. Sometimes I also laugh and joke about it after some time passes. But mostly I view mistakes as opportunities to understand how to do it correctly now.
Your response to the quiz above can give an indication if you have perfectionism. Mary takes it deeper and explains a few underlying beliefs that causes us to hold on to wanting to be perfect.
Check these beliefs below and see if they are true for you:
- I’m not worthy unless it’s perfect
- I’m not lovable unless I’m perfect
- If it’s not perfect it’s not worth trying
The three beliefs above may have a strong root in your childhood. If you had parents who forced you to be perfect, who wouldn’t love you fully unless you were perfect, then that can affect you. You feel not worthy of being loved unless you became the perfect child for your parents.
But that is the problem right there, the perfection is according to other people’s standards. We may even end up using their standards as our own and making ourselves feel not worthy of self-love. The question is where do these standards come from, and do they have any connection at all with being perfect?
That is a question worthy to think about. Are the standards of perfection I follow based on someone else’s standards, and if yes, where does it come from? If not, where does it come from too?
Simply finding the clear answers to the origin of your standard of perfection can help ease the depression and anxiety you feel, and make you worry less about not achieving those standards.
Of course, Mary Ayers provides several Tapping scripts to help you dissolve perfectionism step by step. If you don’t have the workbook, here is a Tapping session from Judy Lynne of Harmonic Living Now about releasing perfection:
Once you begin to shift your feelings about perfection, you can plant the new belief that done is better than perfect. Getting things done, even if they’re not perfect to your arbitrary standard, is much more valuable to you and the people around you than waiting until it’s perfect.