I’m not sure when it started, but it did. It’s that little thing called perfectionism. This rascal ends up costing you more time and more stress. How do you know you have it? You know or at least your friends and family know! Just in case you don’t recognize the symptoms, here are just a few.
I’m a recovering perfectionist….at least I try to be as I re-read this article to make sure everything looks as I want it. Through the years of teaching mindfulness, I realize I’m not the only one. A major reason many take my mindfulness courses revolves around the fact that they feel the stress of society to be the best at work, family and more. Because there is only so much time in the day, they’re stressing themselves out. In fact, I had a mother in class tell me that she wanted to get a promotion this year and was working overtime to make this happen. She was also a PTA parent and sat on many of her children’s organizations. Instead of buying something in the store for her kid’s class parties, she would go home and cook something until midnight. This was leaving her exhausted, not enjoying life and she realized that she simply wasn’t present. It wasn’t until she had a fender bender from lack of focus that she decided to get off the treadmill of life. That’s when she reached out to me and discovered mindfulness. After two months, she is a new person. Her kids say that they enjoy being with her. She isn’t grumpy. When she’s at a soccer game, she leaves her phone in her purse. She doesn’t bring work to games and now she purchases healthy food options instead of cooking her own for school parties.
Children are also feeling the pressure of society to be the very best. Yes, we should try to be the best version of ourselves but we shouldn’t sacrifice ourselves in the process. My daughter fell into the trap of perfectionism. She made straight As in elementary and middle school. My husband and I always congratulated her but never had to tell her to do her homework or made comments that would make her strive to get perfect grades. Sometimes it just happens. We can be wired that way but we can also re-wire our way of thinking. When my daughter was a sophomore in high school, she finally realized that getting things perfect was stressful. After receiving her first B, she was fine. It was as if she let out a big sigh! The world didn’t crumble and this was an insightful moment and one that I wish many adults would recognize.
When we’re rooted in perfectionism, we miss out on life. We think about future activities (our to-do list) and/or we ruminate on how we could have done something in the past differently. We miss the present moment and can miss out on making memories. If we continue down this path, we may find that our growth to learn new methods is stunted. We may not be as open to other ways of achieving something because we believe we know best. We may also lack the ability to delegate a task to help someone else grow. It takes a great deal of energy to be perfect!
Here’s a helpful tip that has worked for myself and many others. The next time you’re working with someone, avoid sharing your ideas and let them go first (work and at home). Be open to their approach. If they are new to a task, listen to their ideas and share your own without dominating. Work together to find the best method. This can be an excellent teaching moment for all. You provide growth and mentoring to them and for yourself.
If you are a perfectionist, recognize and admit it. You’ll be glad that you did. Be present, mindful. Check in with your breath and your body. Is your breathing calm? Is your body tense? Recognize what’s happening and take a deep breath. Another way to practice mindfulness is to prioritize what’s important to you. Take time for yourself daily. Whether it’s sitting in stillness, meditating, taking a mindful walk in nature (without earbuds, phones or distractions) or doing something you love like cooking, drawing or reading. Have fun and be in the moment. Let go of the belief that your soufflé should taste a certain way or your art should look like Picasso. Let it go and simply enjoy. Do something new...something you're not sure if you'd be good at. Embrace whatever happens. Know that by taking care of yourself, you also take care of the others around you. Believe me, they will recognize your efforts when you’re calmer, less reactive and happier. Be in the moment…moment by moment….breath by breath and live life! #celestecooperpeel #mindbodyou #mindfulness #perfectionism