What to do when You are stuck in Perfectionism

The Good and Bad Versions of Us

Do you ever feel like there is a good version of you and a bad version of you? Like you’re all on one side, and then all on the other? You do everything right, and then you throw it all out of the window and do everything poorly? This is an obvious sign of perfectionism!

Been there, done that. Especially with eating…

And honestly, this “all or nothing” mentality is exhausting. And absolutely counter-productive!

All or Nothing is fueled by Perfectionism

Perfectionism never lets you make a mistake. Nothing less than perfect is acceptable. So as soon as we “mess up” and aren’t perfect anymore, we throw in the towel and go to the other end of the spectrum.

All or Nothing concept on the road signpost, 3D rendering

But that’s not how life works.

Growth is a process

During the process of growth, there are setbacks.

When a baby learns to walk, he experiences lots of them. Nobody tells him that he is bad for falling down, so he is okay with that. He just keeps learning how to walk. Falling is part of the process of learning how to walk.

But when we grow up and become perfectionists, we don’t accept the setbacks. We make them mean that we are a screw-up or a failure, and these negative thoughts about ourselves cause us to throw everything out of the window.

So you did well for three months on your diet, and you mess up one day and you are back at square one.

But that is not how life works.

The toddler who falls down isn’t back at the very beginning of the learning how to walk process. He just fell down, that’s all. It’s time to get up and keep going.

Perfectionism is rooted in a wrong premise.

Perfectionism is all about our actions. Perfectionism says that our worth comes from what we do, what we achieve, how we act. So of course, we think that if we want to feel like a good person, we must be perfect. We make sure our actions are perfect in our misguided attempt to feel better.

Perfectionism is how we unconsciously seek to feel worthy. It is founded on the premise that the way we feel about ourselves has everything to do with what we do.

Behavior and Self-Worth

It’s a vicious cycle if you ask me.

We feel horrible about yourself because of something that we did, and therefore we throw in the towel.

Then we think that the way to fix ourselves is by doing everything right and never making mistakes, and this becomes exhausting and truthfully, impossible. So we mess up, and we start the cycle all over again.

We attach our worth as human being to actions: what we do, achieve, how we behave–therefore, the need to be perfect. We have to be perfect so we can feel good about ourselves.

Getting off the seesaw of “all or nothing”

Do you see how we need to get off this insane seesaw? But we can’t do it by being perfect!

We can only do it by questioning why we think you need to be perfect in the first place.

Worthiness is not in what we do.

The issue here is that the feeling of worthiness is not caused by what we do. It comes about because of what our thoughts. Because of our beliefs.

Worthiness is a feeling created by our thoughts.

It may be too difficult to consider what creates our personal worthiness as a human being. But it might be easier to answer the question, “what creates someone else’s worthiness?”

Is his or her worthiness connected to what they do and what they achieve and how they behave? Does your child, mother, best friend, husband have to earn their worthiness or is it innate?

You and I probably will answer by saying that the people we love do not have to earn worthiness. It just exists.

What if they make a mistake? What if they do something they said they weren’t going to do? Do they lose their worth?

Again, you and I probably will answer by saying that they are imperfect humans who did something wrong but are still worthy.

Our own personal worthiness

It’s interesting how other people get to be human, get to make mistakes, get to be imperfect, get to be worthy either way.

But not us.

Let me tell you the truth: your own worthiness is intact. We don’t have to earn it. Our worthiness exists because God made us.

Our worthiness has nothing to do with being perfect, and never making a mistake.

There is room for us to be messy, to be human, to be flawed. We’re not robots. We are human beings.

Let’s let go of “all or nothing”

As long as your brain believes that your good behavior is what allows you to feel good about yourself, you will be stuck. You will stay on the “all or nothing” seesaw.

But worthiness is not created by what we do. It’s created by what God says about us. It is created by what we choose to believe about ourselves.

Here is how to start changing perspective:

Here’s your challenge for this week:

  • Go ahead and list the people in your life that you believe are worthy. You can make that list as long or as short as you want.
  • Ask yourself: what makes them worthy? Where do they derive their worth? Why do I think that they have
    worthiness?
  • Then I want you to ask yourself: Do I feel worthy? And if not, why? What is getting in the way of you accepting yourself? What are you telling yourself that you have to do or you have to be in order to feel good enough? Answer in writing.
  • And then finally, once you’ve answered that question, ask yourself, how would I show up differently if I genuinely believed that I was already good enough, that I was already worthy of love, and that nothing I did could improve or change that fact?

All or nothing thinking is fueled by perfectionism and perfectionism is the idea that in order to feel good about ourselves, in order to feel like we are enough and we are worthy, it is entirely dependent on what we do. And
that will keep you stuck because we’re not robots.

We have to create room for us to be human. And that’s really how we can shake the all or nothing thinking.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments! Also, if you have a “perfectionist” friend or two, do them a favor and share this blog post with them!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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