The Recovering Perfectionist

Since when did “perfectionism” come into our lexicon?  If you care to know the answer to this, take a look at the graph below.  It started to rise in popularity in the early 50s and has only gained momentum every year since most of us reading this post were born.  It is true that being “perfect” a lot of times can help us reach our goals, but how do we know when to say when?

I am not sure where my perfectionism came from but I am almost certain it is tied to my anxiety.  My stress increases because of it.  I think we believe being perfect helps us in some way, maybe by trying to please others or please ourselves.  Because, if we are “perfect”, everyone is envious of us and cannot say anything negative of us.  It is almost a coverall for me in that if I am flawless and have dotted every ‘I” and crossed every “T”.  Only then I can take a break and allow my mind to be at peace.  This happens both at work and at home for me.  Instead what is happening, my anxiety only increases because I am working tirelessly to get whatever it is done that I am trying to be perfect at.  This may be planning a project at work, putting together a guest list for a party, holding a yoga pose, or making my daughter’s lunch.  Something ordinary that should not take much time, brain power or frustration will inevitably take all of my effort.  I’m left exhausted both mentally and physically.

The solution I have found is to be authentic.  Be authentic.  Give up being perfect and embrace authenticity.  Stop your mind from falling into the trap of comparisonitis in which you attempt to keep up with the Jones all the time or worse, compare yourself to others.  Everything does not always have to be all or nothing.  Some action items can be done well and done to completion.  It can just be done. 

All of these feelings and unrealistic ideals can create cognitive dissonance and lead to depression, anxiety and chronic stress in addition to low self-esteem. 

Remembering my core values brings me back around to what is real and what really matters.  I will spend ten minutes and assess my core values from time to time with myself just to remind myself and reassess my priorities.  One way to do this is to write down a list of 10 words.  These can be nouns, verbs, adjectives, or whatever you wish.  These words describe you and the things (tangible and intangible) that matter to you.  These could be even values you aspire to.  From the ten words, it’s even more helpful to narrow your values down to only 3-5 from that list of ten.  This keeps you more focused on what matters most.  Some examples of core values can be found at this core values list website.  My list consists of family, health, wellness, integrity and authenticity.

Poses to help with perfectionism leading to stress relief:

Child’s Pose

Spinal Twist

Forward Fold

Yoga Nidra

Stress Relief poses


Helpful treatments outside of yoga:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Food and diet:

Anti-inflammatory foods (e.g. Mediterranean diet)

Gut-healing foods (e.g. Fermented foods, Kombucha, bone broth)

Adequate amounts of regular sleep

Removal of toxic people and relationships from your life

Delegation of tasks (in work environments)

Think about your values and if something doesn’t align, drop it and let it go

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