Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

Woman's face covered with hands

Hello beautiful people, 

I’ve thought about writing this post for a while and decided today is the day! Today we are going to talk about letting go of the need to be a perfectionist. We all know perfection does not exist, so why do we strive for it? Like many Type A people I have often struggled with the need to excel in every aspect of my life. Setting ridiculous standards and deadlines for learning new skills for work or myself. While there have been multiple studies stating it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a new skill, I have often tried to accelerate that timeline and accomplish becoming an expert in various skills in two months. Which in some cases I have been successful, but insanely stressed out for no reason other than my own self-inflicted asinine standards. In other cases, I have not been successful in my conquest and ended up asking for help, letting someone else show me the ropes, or putting the hobby on the back burner for a few months. 

Evaluate where the need to be perfect comes from

As I have reflected on where this comes from, I realize it was never feeling like I was enough as a child. In order to gain my father’s attention, I thought I had to be the fastest kid in soccer, the smartest in school, the most beautiful, the skinniest, the goofiest, the most charismatic. Then one day when I was eleven and he called to ask why I had gotten a B in one class it clicked for me that it would never be enough. That I was chasing validation from someone other than myself. That day I promised myself that I would be my own hero. That I would work hard and be the best Keri I could be because I wanted to not because of other people’s expectations. 

Try Meditation

When you start to feel the need to obsess over every detail take a minute to slowly breathe in and out. Remind yourself that even though you have a lot to do, remember that you are capable of handling any task. That you are smart, you are kind you are important – oh wait that’s from the movie The Help!

Seriously though remember you are valued, that what you accomplish is a small part of who you are. That you are also loved because of your personality, humor, the joy you bring to the world by being you, your kindness, and your ability to see the beauty in the little things.

You do not have to please everyone 

This is important so I am going to say it again, you do not need to please everyone. It is exhausting, it is impossible, you do not need to please anyone other than yourself. People-pleasing is exhausting, can lead to burnout, stress, and never feeling like you are enough. Throughout my work career, I have been the youngest or only ethnic person in my office which added additional pressure. I even had one boss say I was opening the door for other people who looked like me. Another hiring manager mentioned they were trying to get more young and diverse people added to the company. While this should have been a compliment, it felt like if I made a mistake instead of getting a pass for having a human moment, I would be preventing other women of color or young people from getting an opportunity. I have had many jobs where there was no training and I was expected to figure it out and help my executives. While I managed to do this there were many days I went home completely drained and feeling defeated. Unless you are working in the medical field there is no reason to put life or death stakes on your office job, anything can be corrected and no one will die. Two years ago, it hit me that I do not have to represent every other person of color. I am not supposed to be a representation for everyone, I am merely here to do an amazing job and be the best Keri I can be. That is all any of us are expected to do. Show up every day trying to be a better person than we were yesterday and execute the task given to us to the best of our ability. While every job I have worked for has raved that they loved my work ethic and are sad to see me go I can’t help but think it’s due to my need to exceed expectations instead of doing just enough to get by.

Your best is more than enough 

Once I realized I just had to be the best me I could be I felt so light! I asked for help when I needed it and most of the time the questions, I asked no one else knew the answers too so together we searched for an expert. I was afraid to ask for help because I thought that would be a sign, I could not handle the job when in reality asking for help is a strength. I’ve learned to reach out to co-workers to collaborate on projects and delegate different tasks to help my team run smoothly. By putting my perfectionist qualities aside, I have been able to enjoy work with less stress, not have a migraine that lasts for days, and have enough time to enjoy my personal life. Learning to let go is the greatest gift you can give yourself. When you focus on building upon your strengths and delegating tasks to others that excel in them you can save yourself so much time and stress. In the end, the team works better by playing up one another’s strengths instead of constantly focusing on one another’s weaknesses.

In the end, the only person you have to please is yourself. You do not have to drive yourself insane trying to build Rome in a day. You have to learn to love yourself 110 percent and know that you do not have to impress anyone. You are more than enough. More than your past and no one can limit you except for yourself. 

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