Transforming Perfectionism by Kelley Grimes at Cultivating Peace and Joy

“Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites.” ~Brene Brown

 

In exploring what inhibits our ability to be compassionate and forgiving to ourselves we find perfectionism. Our need to be perfect fuels our very high expectations of ourselves and when we are unable to meet these expectations we perceive it as evidence of our inadequacy. Since these unrealistic expectations can never be truly met, we inevitably end up feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and filled with an unsettling sense that there is something wrong with us.

 

Having unrealistic expectations of ourselves fuels a feeling that we never quite measure up, which reinforces our belief that we are not not good enough. This sense of unworthiness then feeds our inner critic who then judges and shames us, which contributes to the cycle of perfectionism in the hope of avoiding the painful experience of shame.

 

I became alarmingly aware of my own problem with perfectionism years ago when I saw how the message I was sending myself to be perfect was being unconsciously sent to my children. My daughters would say mom you expect so much from us.

 

Wow that stopped me!

 

I had spent so much time and energy being a mindful and nurturing parent, only to find that the unrealistic expectations I had for myself were still negatively impacting my girls. After a process of forgiving myself for modeling this unhealthy practice for my daughters, I began to explore the beliefs that were feeding my need to be perfect.

 

When I was able to identify that those beliefs no longer served me, I began releasing them and replacing them with more affirming and empowering beliefs that supported me in being my authentic self. In this transformative process, I often repeated the affirmation – I am doing the best I can.

 

I also found that disclosing my mistakes to other trusted people was a very liberating practice. It allowed me to air out any shame I held about not being perfect and reinforced new healthy expectations for myself. I also intentionally modeled sharing my mistakes with my daughters and talking about what I had learned from the experiences and how I could make different choices in the future.

 

In the process of transforming my perfectionism, I admitted my mistakes more and more quickly and established ways of repairing relationships with my girls, my husband, and friends.

 

And although I still strive for excellence, I honor that I am growing, changing, and always becoming more and more of who I am as I embrace my courage to be imperfect.

 

Another empowering mantra – I have the courage to be imperfect – was inspired by a Ted Talk I listened to by Brene Brown. After researching shame for years, she found that people who were shame resilient lived wholeheartedly and had the courage to be imperfect.

 

In her amazing book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown writes, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” She reminds us that to live authentically we have to show up and be real.

 

For me having the courage to be imperfect allows me to show up more authentically, be vulnerable, speak my truth, and trust that I am exactly where I need to be. Transforming perfectionism is a liberating experience and creates more and more space in my life for curiosity, compassion, gratitude, and growth.

 

Here are some questions to support you in the process of transforming perfectionism:

 

  • How would having the courage to be imperfect change your life?

 

  • What unrealistic expectation of yourself could you let go of today?

 

  • What affirmation or mantra would support you in this healing process?

 

As Anna Quindlen reminds us, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

 

May you transform perfectionism and embrace your authentic self as you nurture peace in the world from the inside out!

Kelley Grimes

Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,

Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker

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Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Laura says:

    Beautiful journey Kelly. Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable post. It takes courage to challenge our old belief systems to create the change we want especially when it’s about ourselves. What a beautiful gift you are giving your daughters to allow them to bare witness to this amazing shift.

    • Thank you so much Laura! My daughters have been my most amazing teachers over the years and hold me accountable for sure! I really appreciate you highlighting the courage that is necessary to change old beliefs systems and for your kind comment!

  • Leila says:

    I love this “For me having the courage to be imperfect allows me to show up more authentically, be vulnerable, speak my truth, and trust that I am exactly where I need to be. Transforming perfectionism is a liberating experience and creates more and more space in my life for curiosity, compassion, gratitude, and growth.”
    Perfectionism can indeed affect us and those around us. Am glad your girls brought this to your attention.
    Thank you for inspiring us.

  • Kathleen says:

    Such a beautiful post, Kelley! I too struggle with perfectionism and I know it holds me back from being my fully realized self. Thank you for the thoughtful reflections. Kathleen

  • ana says:

    Beautiful. I love the question of “what unrealistic expectation can I release today?” So important to ask those questions of ourselves and allow ourselves to be whoever we are in the moment. We compare ourselves to other people who we barely know and place them on an unreachable pedestal based on false perceptions and then expect ourselves to reach these heights that don’t even exist!
    You’re also totally right, that sometimes we don’t realize it or think it matters until it starts effecting the people around us, especially the children in our lives. (I don’t have kids, but I have nieces who really look up to me).
    Great article thanks for sharing your wisdom of experience!

    • Thank you so much Ana! I think it is totally empowering having a nurturing practice around these challenging issues and love reflective questions. This perfectionist ideal is so celebrated in our culture that we have to constantly challenge it within ourselves. I really appreciate your comment!

  • Debra Reble says:

    Wow Kelley we are on the same page with our blog posts today! I have struggled with perfectionism my whole life and have also found solace in Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Thank you for sharing your vulnerable feelings regarding your children and perfectionism. I know from own experience those feelings as well . I’m still a lovely work in progress and embrace my imperfections as ways in which to spiritually grow.

    • I love how in sync we usually are Debra! I look forward to reading your blog. I really think vulnerability around our need to be perfect and transparency when don’t live up to our standards or make mistakes creates the compost for our growth. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Heather says:

    This is a wonderful quote and so very true. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” It’s important to not try and be someone you are not. I see this all too often. If everyone learns to embrace who they are, it would be better for all.

  • The day I realized that there is no such thing as being perfect was the first day of the rest of my real life!

  • Andrea says:

    Excellent post. Life got so much easier (and more fun!) when I began to strive for excellence rather than perfection. Thanks for sharing.

  • As a high achiever in school, college and then my profession, somewhere along the way I found myself living up to others expectations rather than my own. It wasn’t until my parents pointed out to me that I had to do things my way, that I woke up to smell the coffee. Thankfully I was still young when I embraced a mantra based on what my parents told me – My best is good enough. Imagine what would have happened otherwise.

  • Great article and awareness around perfectionism. What helped me understand my drive for perfectionism was to observe the underlying values that were at play. Everything we do, is for a reason and these lie in our values and trying to match them. Since them I am content knowing that I am perfect in my imperfection and imperfect in my perferfection. Thank you.

    • Beautiful Trilby! Exploring what motivates our need for perfection is so important and acknowledging that we are perfect in our imperfection is empowering. Thank you so much for your comment!

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