One of the things that can keep us feeling good about ourselves is the need to be perfect. I’ve struggled my whole life with setting such high standards for myself that I always felt that I was falling short. I’d beat myself up because I wasn’t quite achieving what I thought I should, I’d be really tough on myself for making a mistake. Part me would say, "Everyone makes mistakes and another part would say–but you shouldn’t make any. You should be better than that!"
I see this battle in many of my clients who are all intelligent, competent, lovely and loving people. I ask them to think about all the expectations they have for themselves–all the rules they’ve created for themselves like never losing their temper, having the perfect body, never missing a deadline or being late and the list goes on. Then I ask them, "would you be comfortable telling someone else, these are the rules I expect you to live by?" Most people shake their head no and have a small "aha!" about how hard they are being on themselves.
Why is it so hard to let go of this internal drive for perfection? Perhaps it comes the human desire to grow and be better. I believe we can still set our sites on achieving and excellence without beating ourselves up for being what we are–human beings who are doing the best we can on any given day and trying to figure out who we are and just what we are capable of doing.
As I write this, I just got my blood work test results back from a physical I recently had. My blood sugar was at a pre-diabetic level and my cholesterol was elevated. I started to beat myself up about how I let myself get out of shape by not exercising enough and eating less healthy foods. Then I thought, all I can do is work from here and make better choices. Beating myself up isn’t going to lower the glucose level in my blood or take off the weight I want to lose.
I can learn the lesson from my past behavior and choose something else. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to choose something else. Whew! That’s a relief. I know this moving away from perfectionism isn’t going to be easy. After all I’m human–no one is perfect–even at trying to move away from perfectionism.
PS. If health and weight loss is an issue you are working on, check out livewellstressless.info, a blog that Karen Maleck Whiteley and I write about our adventures in losing weight and living well and stressing less.