PERFECTIONISM and Imperfect Action: as written by the TCMB Health Coach Suzanne.
I have to laugh at myself as I sit here struggling to write an article about perfectionism because I just can’t seem to ‘get it right’ (oh the irony!).
I have struggled with perfectionism my whole life.
I like to do things ‘exactly right’ and if I can’t do them right then I don’t do them at all. For the most part I have been able to hide this about myself, but the one area in which this behaviour is extremely obvious externally is my weight.
There is no sugar coating it, my weight has either been going up or going down. With the exception of the last year I have never once maintained my weight in my life.
My eating behaviour has been very much ALL or NOTHING. I am either following a diet ‘perfectly’ or I am eating everything in sight. No in between.
In other areas of my life it is much easier to hide my perfectionism. I can give up on a project because ‘it no longer interests me’ (when the real reason is I am failing at my unrealistic expectation so I throw it out entirely). Or I can pass up opportunities by inserting an excuse, for example “I don’t have the time / money etc.” When the truth is I won’t risk failing so I don’t even try.
It is interesting to reflect on this, because it makes me realise that I have two benchmarks, those being perfection or failure.
Basically if I am not the very best version of myself then I feel sub-par! It’s little wonder I struggle with procrastination, self-sabotage and fear of failing.
But despite all of this, perfectionism is so alluring.
We become motivated by the promises perfection makes to ‘be the best’ to have finally ‘made it’ to achieve financial success, or recognition, or to simply feel worthy. I think that is what it primarily boils down to for me, the sense of worthiness. Part of me feels that unless I am perfect I am not worthy.
Wow, what a realisation that is!
Ultimately perfectionism is a time waster.
Because if I don’t feel worthy in myself then I will waste time procrastinating, self sabotaging and basically not even trying anything, because I am so scared I will fail (and so I end up sitting on the couch watching TV and eating junk food and thinking about how I will ‘start tomorrow!’)
I spent years (ok decades) of my life like this. I would have a big dream, idea, or project that I wanted to pursue.
I would get stuck in paralysis by analysis and overthink it. I would freak myself out because I didn’t know how to do it ‘perfectly’ and ultimately I would end up not doing it at all, and on the coach knee deep in tim-tams dreaming about how I would do it ‘one day!’ (This may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not. I literally ate myself to in excess of 150 kilograms by avoiding taking action - perfectionism to the extreme!)
How did I get from there to here - from dreaming of one day, to releasing over half my body weight, starting a coaching business to help others to do the same?
I embraced my imperfections! And this is how I suggest that you do the same:
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO TRY
- If you don’t give yourself permission than you will never start, and instead will remain in paralysis by analysis forever. Seriously, allow yourself to simply start!
REMEMBER PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION
- Remind yourself that imperfect action is so much better than no action at all (this is literally written on a post it on my desk so I can refer to it each day).
- They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you overcome perfectionism in a day. But take ONE small action each day towards your goals. When I say SMALL action I mean it. For example walk one block, drink a glass of water, invest in some multivitamins, hire a coach, find a friend to go to the gym with you. Pick ONE thing and do that TODAY (no more waiting for tomorrow).
REFLECT ON YOUR PAST BEHAVIOUR
- Get yourself a journal (or voice recorder) and ask yourself the tough questions, such as
- Has perfection EVER brought me the results I was after?
- What promises have I made myself in regards to perfection that I KNEW were false? (hello I will start tomorrow, Monday, next month etc)
- What is it that I think being perfect will give me that I don’t have now?
- Why do I need to be perfect to be worthy? Why am I not worthy now?
In summary, imperfection action trumps perfect inaction. Pick your one thing and get started today.
You may not notice a difference in what you do today, tomorrow, or even next week. But, if you take this action consistently, imagine where you can be in as little as six months from now?
The time will pass anyway, are you ready to make the most of it?