Despite what you may have been told growing up, by your parents, teachers, coaches, you’re not perfect. Here’s the thing… That’s Awesome!
The world today has a way of congratulating and praising everyone, especially as children for being special. While this praise may be backed by good intentions (you know what they say about the road to hell…) there are long-term consequences to this constant and expected praise. You get used to receiving it, and even start to believe it!
It wasn’t always like this. I’m sure most all of us have heard at least one story about the “good old days” of hard work and awarding performance alone, before the mass equality movement. “The first response to the “self-esteem” movement of the 90’s really screwed a lot of us up…now everyone gets a gold star, everyone, you’re the best, you’re perfect!” notes Megan Bruneau during a recent interview. In the real world, the world we are all forced to eventually grow up to, there are no medals for trying.
But we’ve been told we are perfect for so long! “This can be really terrifying especially to people who struggle with perfectionism, where their self-worth is very dependent on believing they are better than other people.” It’s oftentimes parents telling their kids, and believing themselves that they hung the moon.” Says Bruneau.
But this seemingly self-confidence boosting exercise can have a lasting negative impact. “Then they get in the real world where they realize they’re not the best and they’re like “Oh my god. I’m worthless, in not the best. Then who am I?”” This can cause individuals to develop and extreme case of perfectionism that is constantly trying to affirm what you’ve been told.
Oftentimes, we are our biggest critics. We feel as though everything we do must be a success, but as Megan points out, that’s not usually the case. When you begin to feel frustrated with yourself the key to combating this impossible need for perfectionism comes down to the three steps of true self-compassion.
The first is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a buzzword that is thrown around a lot these days. Megan adds some clarification into what this truly means. “Mindfulness is essentially being aware without judgment, with compassion, with acceptance, and just really noticing what is happening almost like you’re watching a movie. Don’t over-identify with it.” The idea is to take a moment to be in your head. Realize you are experiencing these emotions and feelings and don’t judge yourself for feeling them. Then deciding what the proper reaction should be. Without acting out or impulsively, stop and think, ”What’s going to be the best reaction here?”
The next piece is to practice Self-Kindness. Megan recommends changing your inner dialogue to match how you would speak to a friend. She gives the example, “Am I going to tell a friend of mine that they are a huge screw-up and they’ll never amount to anything. No one loves them and they are pathetic? Definitely Not!” So then why would you talk to yourself like that? The first step is to realize you’re doing this, then course correct and treat yourself as you would your best friend!
The last piece to overcoming perfectionism is thinking of Common Humanity. Everyone in the world experiences negative thoughts, emotions, and doubts at times. Even the most famous and successful people in the world feel doubt, anxiety, stress, disappointment, grief, etc. “All of these painful feelings are just part of the human condition and part of what it is to be alive” explains Megan. “It doesn’t make you broken that you’re feeling them, it makes you human and that is what unites us.”
So next time you begin to feel worthless or tell yourself you’re not good enough. Stop, take a breath, accept your emotions, change your inner dialogue as is speaking to a friend, and realize what you’re experiencing is part of being human.