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  • Sarah Rossmiller LPC

Perfectionism vs. Good Enough



Perfectionism is a common defense against the discomfort that vulnerability brings us. For many people it's still considered a positive characteristic - it's what you laughingly call yourself at a job interview when asked what your weaknesses are, believing "perfectionism" to be a secretly desirable quality in an employee. If you understand how perfectionism really works, it's not something you'd ever desire another human being to experience.

Perfectionism is actually a very painful and crippling state of mind. It doesn't promote those things often associated with the word: growth, success, self-improvement, healthy achievement, etc. In reality, perfectionism is all about fear - it's an attempt (and a poor one at that) to avoid shame, judgement, rejection, and failure. Perfectionism is destructive, paralyzing, promotes shame, and is addictive in nature. The more one tries to perfect and inevitably still experience some sort of distress, this distress is then attributed to not being perfect or not being "enough." Further attempts at perfection are then made to avoid ever feeling that way again. It's a nasty and pervasive cycle of fear and silent suffering.

Perfectionism is all about pleasing, performing, and proving. One belief underlying perfectionistic behaviors is something along the lines of "I will only be loved and accepted if I please others and meet everyone's needs and wishes." This belief results in the subjugation of oneself and neglect of self-care and personal boundaries. Perfectionism may look like a performance - always striving to get the best grade, the promotion, being the "best" wife or husband, the "best" son or daughter, the "best" employee or student, etc. The thing is, it never feels like enough and you hardly have time to enjoy your accomplishments before you are tearing yourself down for what you didn't do or what you need to do next. Perfectionism involves trying to prove one's worthiness and value by DOING and GIVING, never feeling content in just BEING and not believing just being is enough to deserve acceptance and love.

Perfectionism comes from the belief "I'm not good enough." So the best way to combat perfectionism is to work on improving our connection to our inherent worthiness. It's always there - our worth is never depleted, it's just a matter of seeing and believing it exists. Challenging those critical inner thoughts that cause shame and fear by replacing them with truth-based, balanced thoughts is one way to strengthen the mind muscle that promotes a healthy, rather than fear-driven, pursuit of success, growth, achievement, and self-improvement.

Consider how you would speak to a friend who's struggling with self-doubt, often fearing mistakes and the worst possible outcome, and worrying they will be rejected for not being "enough"... most likely you would approach them with kindness, compassion, and encouragement. We should speak to ourselves the same as we would to a dear friend.

When you come from a place of knowing you're "good enough" just as you are, you will find you are actually able to get things done. You will probably get things accomplished sooner and with more effectiveness because you believe in your worth, you're willing to accept that perfectionism isn't reasonable - good enough gets the job done so you can go on and LIVE your life. Living is messy, being human is messy - let's embrace this messiness, see it for the beautiful art form that it is, and not only tolerate it but LOVE it.


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