Did you know that some people don’t recognize they suffer from perfectionism?
I was coaching a client who is a very Type-A personality. They were telling me about how “out-of-control” they were feeling–that feeling that all the plates are spinning and are about to crash at any moment.
As they were telling me about some feedback they received from their boss and how terrible an employee and leader they were, I interrupted them to point out that they were stuck in black & white thinking. I asked if they resonated with the label ‘perfectionist’ and the response was HELL NO.
We continued our conversation and the black & white thinking came up again. This time I asked, “why do you not think of yourself as a perfectionist?” She responded something like, “Because I’m not. I know things aren’t perfect so I don’t expect them to be.” “Then why are you thinking the feedback you received automatically makes you sh*tty at your job and that your boss now hates you?” [Blank stares]
I then went on to explain that the need to control how they were perceived by their boss or others falls under perfectionism because it’s an all-or-nothing mentality. “You’re right! I never would have considered myself a perfectionist but now that you’ve pointed it out, I can see it in so many places in my life.”
How to tell if you’re stuck in perfectionistic thinking
Perfectionism revolves around things either being “perfect” or “imperfect.” When we’re stuck in that mentality, we think and communicate in a way that is black & white, good or bad, right or wrong, all or nothing. Here are a few more ways to identify perfectionism:
- Need to be in control and be “the best”
- Try to control how others perceive them
- Get frustrated or depressed when given feedback
- Constant need to overachieve and/or be productive
- Overthinks everything and/or hates making decisions
When we are in perfectionistic thinking, we rob ourselves of growth, compassion, love, and success. We end up blocking ourselves from accessing our own wisdom and not seeing all of the options in front of us. And ultimately create more pain for ourselves.
How to overcome the perfectionist mindset
Separate Facts from Stories
One of the best ways to overcome perfectionism is learning how to separate facts from stories.
Our brains are incredible at inserting opinions or thoughts that feel factual. But in reality, those statements or thoughts are actually truths. But aren’t facts and truths the same thing? Nope! Let me explain:
Truth happens on a personal level, meaning it feels true but not everyone would agree–spirituality or religion, politics, values, etc. When we believe in something so much, it FEELS like it’s the truth.
Facts are more global. They are things that can be proven in a court of law, scientifically duplicated or something that could be observed and agreed upon by everyone on earth.
Exercise of the Week
- Think of the most recent time when you noticed your perfectionism came out to play
- Write down all the thoughts and sentences that come to your mind regarding that experience
- Don’t censor yourself. Write down EVERYTHING until you can’t think of anything more to add.
- Take a break – whether it’s a few minutes or a few days, step away knowing that you’ll come back
- As you read everything that you wrote, underline/circle/highlight just the FACTS