Little Miss Perfect

I remember a time when I thought it was cool to ‘confess’ I had a perfectionist streak. Like I was some perfect ballerina princess in her pink twinkly castle who would only be satisfied when something was 100% as I wanted it and everyone would approve and clap and go YAAAY.perfectp

Now with clients I can often hear myself saying things like perfectionism is the height of insanity, being perfect is just another form of procrastination and perfectionists have no standards. Ouch.

My  ‘tendency’ tends to rear its head towards things I value. There is no perfectionism issues when it comes to cleaning my car (quick drive when it’s raining does the trick doesn’t it?) or ironing my clothes (love cheap dry cleaners) however recently when it came to finding the perfect couch it took me two years! I am not kidding. And guess what, it’s not perfect! Obviously this goes much further than material things – relationships, careers and health are all affected by perfectionism.

So. Newsflash. At the end of the day aiming to get something completely 100% perfect is just not possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating a stretch target or two but when the goal has an ever increasing ‘perfect-o-meter’ you’re setting yourself up for failure. And quite often on purpose. Scary.

Falling victim to perfectionism can also mean you wait for exactly the right time, for all the ducks to be lined up in a row before you make your move. But the damn  ducks will never line up quite right and time will pass and you have missed an opportunity that may never come around again.

Reality check. Sorry it’s brutal.  When acting in a perfectionist mode you are demonstrating your need to be in control of everything. This usually comes from a fear of not being good enough, not belonging and not being loved.

So here’s some questions to ask yourself – some based on work by Dr Phil (yes another fave).

  • Who are you trying to control? Often people who are trying to control external chaos are in actual fact attempting to control their own chaos.
  • What is driving your need for perfectionism? What are you afraid of if you don’t control everything? Are you worried about what people will think about you if you don’t keep up this perfect façade?
  • Consider how it feels to be around you when you are in perfect pants mode. If you have children they may feel like they will never be good enough and consequently you are passing on your perfectionist tendencies to them. Ever had a perfectionist boss? No matter what you do, it is never quite enough.
  • What are you getting from being a perfectionist? Do you get to excuse yourself from committing to something you’re passionate about for fear of not getting it ‘right’?
  •  How much energy are you using in attempting to control your world? It’s exhausting right. At some point you need to trust your universe enough to say I am comfortable to let this go and let it be as it will be.
  • Be rational. What happens if you let go of controlling others?  Nothing. Because deep down you know it’s not possible to control the world. You are not Dr. Evil from Austin Powers people!

The best way to give up your perfectionist streak is through acknowledging what fear you are feeding and then you make a choice. Have no fear of perfection - you'llYou can either try to control everything and everyone (good luck!) or focus on what YOU really want. Rather than consuming energy with controlling,  focus on all the good qualities within you. Your desire to live life to the full, to learn and grow, focusing on appreciation, your courage, love, tenacity or  determination to succeed.  Give yourself the permission to let go of your perfectionism – as cool as it sounded when you were 14 and I’ll think you’ll find it a lot more rewarding.

Sign up for some lovin’ this Valentine’s Day.

So, yes yes it’s Valentine’s Day this week. And as the smug happy loved up ones prepare in excitement and the not so in love ones make plans to avoid it, I decided to go on a completely different tangent and make a big deal of SELF LOVE. Before you barf in a bucket or think I’m going on some vain rant please hear me out.

A quick google revealed a few stories around the origins of Valentine’s Day but the most consistent is based on a Roman priest from around the 3rd century who allowed soldiers to be married against the Emperor’s law. He was martyred and later canonized. The first actual  Valentine’s Day card professing one keen punters true love however was not send until around 1840.

Controversially this Saturday I’m proposing we all take a little moment for ourselves –  whether you’re loved up with someone or not – give yourself some self-love time.  Without sounding particularly dodgy or suggesting you buy yourself a new Audi Quattro or Tiffanys earrings let me explain.

Every week I meet many resilient, good looking, smart men and women single and in relationships who often appear very self-confident. However somewhere along the way they have decided that they are not worthy or loveable and look for ‘evidence’ to help prove their point – “No one looked at me at the pub” “I never heard back from that chick, I must be a loser”, “I’m not smart enough to have my own business”   and they build up a big database of ‘facts’ to fall back on when rationalising their situation. And then when someone does say something nice about them it means the absolute world because they are in a habit of looking for external validation to make themselves feel good.

And how do I know all this so well? Yes, from my clients but also that was most certainly me for quite a long period in my twenties and early thirties.

I would cringe when people said ‘you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else’, I would run if people said ‘just start by loving yourself’ and eventually I gave in and just said yeah, of course I do. But like a wise woman or two have told me it is not what you say but it is the action you take that counts.

And when I look back, those actions they were not too great. I loved to go out, have too many vinos and then become ‘entertainment on wheels’ by getting people to laugh at my ridiculous stories of encounters with blokes, a faux pas at work or just a general public embarrassment like walking around the city with my skirt tucked into my undies.  I loved the laughs I received, the validation I felt from making people say “Oh my god Bec, you are hysterical” and the popularity I felt.

speakself

The problem with this was over time these stories were wearing down the Bec love. Every single bad word/story I said about myself my ego heard. Like a good quote I read the other day “Be careful what you say about yourself, you are listening”. And my mind didn’t get to hear it just once. Oh no, I have a large circle of lovely friends across the globe so each story was retold like a stuck record numerous times.  And as we know the survival part of our mind absorbs negative thoughts like Velcro and any positives are like Teflon which allowed the old ego to gather plenty of repetitive evidence over time to say Bec, you are not worthy of your own lovin’. While others were being entertained I was starting to feel like rubbish.

I was also not ‘being’ true to myself about what I really wanted to do in terms of career. I stayed in a ‘safe’ job for years but I knew it wasn’t where my passion lay and I felt disappointed and frustrated with myself that I didn’t have the guts to get on with something I found more fulfilling.  I was also trying to gain the approval of others close to me to ‘do the right thing’. Worrying about getting approval from others is very debilitating.  As I read somewhere once  – the amount of approval you require from others is in direct correlation to how you feel about your own self-worth. The less you have for yourself the more you require from others.

Once I let go of trying to be the entertainment dolly bird and getting approval from everyone (self-acceptance is a big part of this but that’s another blog topic) and focused on what was going to make me truly happy in a career and then actually doing the gutsy out of comfort zone stuff that made me proud, the self-love and respect slowly began to build. Becoming more mindful and present, taking good of my body, staying centered and holding myself to my values and boundaries all contributed. Going a little easier on myself when life wasn’t going to plan, being open to learn from my mistakes and surrounding myself with ultra supportive family and friends were key too. It’s very much still all a work in progress but the self-love odometer is look a lot healthier. Though yes, I still share the odd ridiculous story now and then. You have to be able to laugh at yourself right?

But wait. Isn’t all this self-love getting a bit selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed and self-oriented? Sure, there are some folk who can take it a little far, giving themselves a sense of entitlement and being unable to learn from their failures. However for the majority of us the more self-love you have, the more you encourage others around you to express themselves in a similar light, allowing for healthier relationships and welcoming in people and situations which support you on your life project.  It’s a win-win.

So this Saturday set aside some time for thinking about where your self-love is at. Does it need some tweaking or re-engineering? I know of a few friends who have a good half hour of self-love every morning (!) with exercise, journaling or meditating just to keep them focused and centered especially when they are feeling a bit off balance. As a famous kiwi icon Rachael Hunter said (in a Pantene ad no less) “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”.

Valday