In my post 14 Signs Perfectionism Might Be Sabotaging Your Dream I talked about how proud I was to be a perfectionist — until I realized how much it was getting in the way of what was important to me.
Only when I royally screwed up my own (and God’s) standards did I stand face to face with my imperfection. In one humble moment, filled with shame and regret, I realized how striving for perfection would always keep me from what I truly wanted.
What is your core desire?
The things my heart desired the most were:
:: Inner peace
:: To feel loved and valued
:: To become my best self without worrying about what others thought
:: Relationships where I could be fully me — and where others felt the same
:: Freedom and the adventure of new experiences
Tired of perfectionism getting in the way of what you long for? There’s hope for you! Your transformation can begin by adopting 9 mindset habits of a recovering perfectionist that have helped me:
1. Accept soul-level grace
The first step is admitting you’re not perfect.
Of course, you already knew that. But as perfectionists, there’s a part of us that tries to protect our heart from finding out this devastating truth.
After reading Searching for Significance by Robert McKee, I see four common ways people shield their heart’s core from this truth — including me.
:: Performance — “I am what I accomplish so I’ll just try harder”
:: People-pleasing — “As long as someone is happy, all is well”
:: Shame — “I’ve missed the mark and I’m a mistake; I deserve this pain and guilt”
:: Blame — Judging and condemning others and yourself as unworthy when a mistake is made
When all that is stripped away, we feel vulnerable… maybe even terrified.
That’s the moment when you can truly accept soul-level grace. It’s the point when I understood grace for the first time.
When you fully receive grace at your heart’s core, what does that feel like to you? Peace? Relief? Rest? Love?
2. Find the reason you need perfection
It wasn’t until I messed up big time and I accepted I wasn’t perfect that I realized why being perfect was so important to me. Despite growing up in a loving family and loving God with all my heart, I had felt the need to earn their approval and love.
At the time, this realization devastated me. I knew better than that.
What are you trying to earn through your perfection at a soul level? Accepting grace in this desire acknowledges your lack so that you can receive what you need regardless of your performance. It will do wonders for your self-worth.
3. Recognize the difference between perfection and excellence
Brene Brown describes perfection this way: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
A healthy striving for excellence moves towards something, instead of avoiding. It encompasses the thrill and pride of creating an experience or accomplishment that someone can enjoy. You get the satisfaction of saying, “I/We did it!” and becoming resourceful and creative with what you have.
4. Believe that your accomplishments are not your identity
Choosing to not claim perfectionism as my identity has its tough moments when something I achieve or try doesn’t turn out well. Receiving soul-level grace was the foundation to reminding myself that what I feel in a moment doesn’t equal my worth as a person.
When you feel like
“I’m not enough”
“I don’t have what it takes”
“I’m a screw-up”
You don’t have waste energy believing it, arguing it or affirming it. Just accept it in that moment, and say, “So what? I’ve been called to do this anyway, so let’s do this.”
5. Focus on the why instead of the end goal
Determination is both my strength and my weakness. There are times when I can be so determined to see something through that I forget the big picture.
If you get lost in the striving, remind yourself of why you want to accomplish this. Keep paring it down to the simple goal. This will help you:
:: let go of unnecessary extras
:: see new perspectives along the way
:: diffuse arguments that don’t matter
:: release stress over details that don’t really matter
:: cancel the critic in your head
:: relax through changes and surprises
What matters most in the task or the dream you’re hustling?
6. Use failures to deepen your relationships
Perfectionists take failure pretty hard. Usually, that means we withdraw from others rather than lean into the deep connection our hearts long for. When you mess up or things don’t turn out the way they were supposed to, admitting these to the safe relationships close to you can deepen the connection your heart craves.
These are also the moments I’ve learned to go to God for “a hug.”
Weird? Maybe, but that visualization helps me navigate my emotions and gain perspective. These are some of my most memorable moments with God!
Being real about your failures can also deepen your relationships with family, friends, biz besties, mastermind group, coworkers.
7. Prioritize what’s most important
Whenever my To Do List begins to overwhelm me, that’s my cue to evaluate the list. It’s hard ranking what is most important when I want to get it ALL done! But it’s time to get realistic.
If overwhelm freezes you, list what’s bugging you to get done. Jot down how long each task should take (and if you’re like me and underestimate everything — double that time). Then, pick 3 to focus on, and release or reschedule the others.
Whether you work yourself into a tizzy or choose what’s most important, you won’t get your entire list done. This exercise gives you the choice to release what you can’t control and work from a state of peace so that you can be more present in the process.
8. Face fear head on
One year I got sick of staying safe and comfortable because of fear. So I made a decision that if fear was the only thing holding me back from an idea or opportunity, then I’d do it. I could choose not to take a risk or opportunity because it was unwise, not a priority, or just plain dumb, but I would not avoid it just because of fear. That meant I accepted opportunities like speaking in front of groups, going on a blind date, and stepping into conflict. And I became better for it.
What would you say yes to if fear weren’t in the way?
9. Embrace the process and the journey
Don’t you love the thrill of arriving at a destination you’ve been anticipating! After all your planning, hard work, and experiencing the surprises and mishaps along the way… you’ve finally arrived!
The harder the journey, the greater the thrill and appreciation once you get there. The memories you treasure, however, aren’t usually the arrival point. The whole experience becomes sacred. The challenges that shaped you become your treasures.
Find ways to enjoy the journey of learning, discovery and stretching, and expect nothing less when taking on a new goal or stepping into your calling.
There’s good news: You don’t have to call yourself a perfectionist any longer!
You are so much more than that label. You are someone who has an incredible part in God’s story. He’s invited you into it — not because you’re qualified, worthy or equipped. He’s invited you into a life of purpose and hope because He loves you and knows your story and message will bring that same hope to someone else.
So which mindset habit of a recovering perfectionist will you invite into your life today?
For more support, read 7 Action Habits of a Recovering Perfectionist or take some times with the Prayers and Affirmations of a Recovering Perfectionist workbook.