About 3 months ago I decided I was going to release my tendencies to be a perfectionist in all of my endeavors. In the classic perfectionists mindset, I thought that once I eliminated this perceived character flaw that I would be a better, more perfect, version of myself. The journey has been nothing short of a quake, that has ruptured my entire idea of my psyche and lead me to myself, once more.
I decided to harness the energy of the New Moon to aid me in my venture. I began my New Moon ritual by saying a prayer, cleansing the space, journaling my intentions and then I ended it by using my sound bowls. For a few short weeks following this night, I began increasing my gratitude practice naturally, and felt significantly more grounded throughout the day. During this time issues between my employer and I began to arise as I noticed how disrespectful she was towards me, in addition to her lack of communication negatively affecting my ability to perform my job. I began to really struggle, and our interactions together highlighted my issues with perfectionism and all of the ways that I tend to overwork myself and bend my boundaries in order to meet their expectations. I slowly realized that my perfectionist tendencies were tied to many other aspects of my life, including how I viewed myself.
I never really felt like I had low self esteem until I began this venture. I look back at my life and see my inner child wounds, which help me to understand my current wounds and the cycles around them. Now I can see that oftentimes there is a correlation between lower levels of self esteem and the overachieving archetype that perfectionism subscribes too. I too fell into this trap, in part due to my childhood.
I slowly realized that my perfectionist tendencies were tied to many other aspects of my life
After the realization and acknowledgement, I was feeling a little bit of a spark, for the first time really since before the pandemic. I decided that I was not going to actively work on any kind of self growth, and instead I started to do things that I always knew were me but had stopped doing, like drinking tea instead of coffee and coining phrases for the eras of my life and creating a sound track to go with it. I coined this era “digging,” because I was digging to remove what no longer served me so that I may ground myself and assert my presence. At the time, I thought I would develop some miracle confrontational attitude and always stand up to those who questioned me. I believed I would instantly understand my boundaries and ensure that everyone was respectful of them.
Of course that did not happen. Instead, by simply being myself without judgement, I began to notice my own patterns. I noticed that I was adaptable, creative, flexible, and possess an open mind. I always put my best into what I did, and paid great attention to detail when I had the space to do so. I also noticed that I had a tendency to be a bit judgmental when I felt threatened and that I had a challenging time opening up with loved ones in detail about specific aspects of my life, such as mental health (“I shouldn’t be struggling anymore!”). I also utilized my vision board, began drinking tea again, and decided that my education was more important than my current career, as it was unfulfilling to me while my trade school education was not. In these small practices of self care and mindfulness, I began to notice the aspects of myself that I despised were oftentimes my biggest strengths.
Finally, I understood that I could not please everyone. I realized this with my boss first, when her expectations contradicted themselves and I was unintentionally being set up for failure, in addition to beginning to really dislike my work. In reflection, this lesson highlighted itself in the different and oftentimes changing expectations that different bosses, teachers, parents, and friends had overtime. Although it may sound obvious to most it finally became ingrained in my mind that I can’t be everything to everybody. What a freeing lesson this is!
Aspects of myself that I despised were oftentimes my biggest strengths
My tenderness, my sensitivity, my attention to detail, the ability to adapt and be flexible as change occurs, all of these were immensely positive attributes that I was not able to see before when I thought that I was always failing myself and those around me. These things that I’m now embracing about myself are aspects that all perfectionists possess! Now, when faced with a task or a new venture, I know that as long as I do my best and give a healthy amount of my effort without compromising my values, then I am succeeding, even if someone else disagrees with me.
Are you a recovering perfectionist too? What mindful activities help you to be grounded and empathetic towards yourself?
Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical (holistic) health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.