Perfectionism-the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. That's the dictionary definition of perfectionism, but what is it really? Perfectionism is not allowing yourself to get or do anything less than perfect, in all areas of life. In grades, clothes, friends, family and of course appearance, everything needs to be flawless. In school, nothing under an A is acceptable. In fashion, you always need to have the newest, most fashionable clothes. Your friends needs to be the top, most popular girls. You're family needs to be the quintessential family. In appearance, you need to be the thinnest, most beautiful one in the room.
Notice that in perfectionism there are a lot of needs. Of course they aren't real needs like air and water, but to the perfectionist, they are just as crucial as the basic necessities are. This need puts immense pressure onto the perfectionist and makes her feel inadequate. The perfectionist is one who feels no matter what she's doing, it's never enough to live up to the standards she sets for herself. 'So,' you may be thinking, 'Lower those standards and everything will be fine,' but to the perfectionist, that is impossible. Every time a perfectionist doesn't live up to the standards she made for herself, she feels it physically in the churning of her stomach.
I am a perfectionist who's learning to extract myself from perfectionism. My perfectionism, as many peoples' do, led to my eating disorder. The constant voice in my head telling me that I'm not good enough and that I need to be thinner, caused me to stop eating. Before I knew it, this voice of perfectionism controlled me and I couldn't rid myself of it. I thought I was controlling myself by restricting, but really the voice was controlling me.
A big part in my recovery is learning to recognize that voice, and not letting it control me. This is very difficult, but I know that it is possible.
Being a perfectionist isn't pleasant at all. On the contrary, it's awful. You're constantly consumed with a voice telling you that you aren't good enough. You constantly have a twisting and turning in your stomach. The mere fact of knowing that getting rid of my need for perfection will make me happier, is one way I learn to let go of the voice. It's so hard to let go, but if letting go means getting my joy back, then it's worth it.
I'm also learning that perfection doesn't exist. No one and nothing is flawless, not me and not you. However, that doesn't mean that we're not beautiful. Things are beautiful despite their imperfections, and not only that, but their flaws contribute to their beauty. In Japan, they fix broken items with gold, so the flaws in the item don't decrease its value, but increases it. So too with us. Yes, we have flaws and are imperfect, but those things only add to us and make us more beautiful. We live in a society where everyone is taught to be perfect, but that's not right. We should be teaching instead that perfection doesn't exist and there is beauty despite the flaws.
Another way I'm learning to deal with my perfectionism is through self talk. Self talk is a very powerful tool. It's being your own cheerleading team. Once you've decided that perfectionism isn't worth it, and you're ready to get past it, self talk plays a big part. It's talking yourself off the ledge every time you aren't perfect. It's reassuring yourself that you're still amazing and beautiful albeit your flaws. It's calming the churning in your stomach. It's the most powerful tool in perfectionism recovery.
Perfectionism isn't a choice, but getting over it is. It isn't easy but it is so worth it, and it will help make life easier in all areas. Being a perfectionist isn't a life label. You can remove that title from yourself. Yes it will take a lot of hard work, but all your hard work will pay off, and you will definitely be a happier, calmer you!