Letting Go Of Perfectionism

I know I’m a little late for just now posting these- but over Christmas, Kyle and I visited my parents in Augusta, and we had a great time hanging out by the  Riverwalk, taking photos,  and just hanging out with the family and talking.

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L1005010I always appreciate our times we get to share and have always enjoyed our candidness and ability to just talk about anything and everything that’s going on in life. They’ve always been very open, understanding, and supportive of me and are always there to lend a listening ear or give some good advice.

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I tend to be a HUGE sucker for nostalgia- so sometimes when I visit my childhood home I like to raid my old dresser/closet and see what kind of ancient relics I can find. You see, my mom was somewhat of a hoarder when it came to my school stuff/achievements. Which I’m thankful for, now, since I get to enjoy digging up my old stories and assignments which tended to err on the wonky and truly bizarre side (One was a 5 Chapter story about my pet Brontosaurus named “Lindsey Da Boo Pa.” )

However, this time I found a folder that I’d actually never seen before. Inside was certificate after certificate of “Awards” I’d won, A+ Report cards, Honor Roll reports, etc. As a child I was always the over-achiever and teacher’s pet- which generally resulted in me winning ALL THE AWARDS possible most of the time. I thrived on being “the best.” If I ever had to “flip a card” for sub-optimal behavior (it only happened like, one or two times, total) I would have a total meltdown. I’m not even sure where this inner motivation to succeed came from other than I hated disappointing my parents, teachers, or any other authority figure, really. And I just wanted to be the top of the pack at everything.

But in the real world, you don’t get a “Certificate of Excellent Attendance” for showing up to work everyday. I won’t get a “Creative Writer’s Award” for writing this blog post. I don’t get “Certificates of Achievement” for helping a client meet their goals. If you’re lucky (and I am!) , you’ll have an employer who appreciates the hard work you do and tells you every now and then, but that’s it.

I know I’ve had my fair share of employers who took advantage of my willingness to go above and beyond to get the job done. It definitely takes a toll on you. I still believe in doing “the right thing-” but the lesson I’ve had to learn is that sometimes doing the right thing is NOT just pleasing everyone. In fact- that’s a fast track to feeling your self worth plummet when the people you’re trying to please aren’t worth it.

These days, it would be impossible for me to live up to the accolades I received in my younger years. But wouldn’t you know it- somehow it feels like I still try to?

I struggle everyday with the notion of being “good enough.” As I start new endeavors or projects it can be exciting, but at the same time I wonder, “Am I good enough?” “What if they don’t like me?” “What if I fail?”

Lately I’ve realized- without some of these outside indicators I was showered with in my younger years, it can be hard at times to realize that I’m doing a good enough job in anything that I do. I think back about in my life how much I’ve bent over backwards and sacrificed my mental health and happiness to do “good” on projects, assignments, jobs, etc. for some sort of affirmation that I “did good.” But for what? An imaginary gold star?

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I tend put so much of myself into everything that I do that any indication of it not being “enough” sends me reeling. Even if it’s not something that ultimately matters. The notion of disappointing ANYONE just tends to be extremely anxiety-inducing. More and more research is coming out about how perfectionism can be an ultimately negative thing- and I definitely agree with that.

It’s something I’m currently working on in myself and I’ve begun to really take steps to overcome this. If it’s something you deal with, maybe you too can use the following tips for overcome crippling perfectionism:

1.) Realize that NOBODY is perfect, 100% of the time. We all make mistakes- and it’s OK! The people that care about you won’t disown you because of it. People will sometimes be annoyed by you, or think you’re wrong about something. But the world won’t end because of it. Life goes on!

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2.) Realize you can only do so much. You’re not a robot, and you can’t read people’s minds. You also don’t have all the answers. And it’s OKAY.

3.)Take time for yourself and invest in the little things that brighten your day. I don’t *need* them- but I’ll go buy the fresh flowers. I’ll go take that walk if I need to clear my mind a bit. My to-do- list can wait a few minutes.

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4.) Make sure to take care of yourself. Staying consistent with my workouts/yoga, and eating nutritious food helps me manage stress and anxiety in many ways. I don’t know what shape I’d be in without those things.
5.) Disconnect from stressors. Since my work is computer/social media based- it’s so important for me to GET AWAY from it all every once in awhile. Yesterday I went hiking up Kennesaw Mountain with a group of friends and it was just so fantastic to get out in nature, breathe the fresh air, and not think about the digital world for a bit. Since e-mails tend to stress me out- I also make sure to take off all push notifications on my phone and just check things manually. I feel so much better.

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Do you have any strategies that you’ve learned for dealing with perfectionism and “letting go?” Let me know in the comments!

[Most of these photos were taken by my husband, Kyle at the Augusta Green Way in Augusta, GA]

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