Subscribe to our mailing list
“But maybe this the way things will always be… You might always think this way. Perhaps it’s just who you are? Maybe you should just accept it?”
This is something along the lines of a recent conversation I had after publishing my last blog, which was about how perfectionism isn’t actually the need to have everything perfect at all. It’s the constant need to get things right. Get things right, because ridiculous, humiliating and terrible things may happen if you screw up.
Perfectionism is FEAR. Fear of getting things wrong. Yes, I know, these thoughts are in my head and perhaps in yours if you’ve practised as often as I have. The thing about this, is that we are all responsible for our own thoughts. No shit! Nobody can make you think in a particular way, and, at any one moment, we have it within our control to view a situation differently.
Simplistic? Perhaps. But what if you tried it out? What if you decided to give my whacky idea a shot? Now common sense says that as a starting point, it’s perhaps not the best plan to try and change your thoughts around something which causes you major distress. Perhaps aim a little lower down the emotional scale, see where it gets you.
Anyway, I digress, back to the comment at the top of the page. A lot of the work I do is around values and beliefs. The heart of who we are and the reasons why we often think or behave in a particular way. They form our ‘map’ of how we view the world. We can sometimes get stuck in a way of unhelpful thinking, which in turn, prevents us from doing particular things or limits our way of thinking. As a coach I’d refer to that as a ‘Limiting Belief.’ When you hold beliefs which limit you, you may say things like, ‘It’s difficult to change’ or ‘I can’t help the way I feel…”We’ve all been there, we’ve all told ourselves a story about how tough it’s going to be to overcome some mental habit or traumatic memory. We then prove ourselves right, by repeating and re-telling ourselves the story, until we believe it is ‘absolutely’ true. Thus continuing to be affected by the very thing that is hurting us. YET, at the same time, we can get over other situations, which may appear equally traumatic or difficult in an instant.
Why is that?
Why is one thought weighted so much more heavily than another? Who is controlling the weight of those thoughts? Who is choosing to prioritise one thought over another? So surely if you can choose to value one set of thoughts, you can learn to value another more helpful set? YES? So, I’m challenged by perfectionism. I’m aware, I’m taking steps to get out of my own way and ask myself if this is really my story. Yes, I’m simplifying, but you get what I mean. The real interesting point is the opening couple of lines. The conversation I had. The belief, that change is hard. The belief that ‘it’ may never happen and perhaps ‘you should just accept that’s the way things are.’ Those are real limiting beliefs. Those are the kind of thoughts which prevent us from moving forwards. Now I know the conversation was aimed my situation, but were these really my beliefs, or the person speaking the words? You are only ever one thought away from a totally different life.
You might need to practice that thought a bit, your brain may want to try it on a few times before it accepts a new way of thinking as a habit, but hey, if I can practice perfectionism, I’m sure I can practice some other cool and more helpful thoughts too.
What about you?Read More
My name is Katherine and I am a recovering perfectionist……
Actually, perhaps let’s lose the ‘recovering’ bit of that sentence and just let’s consider the possibility that maybe, I have particularly high standards and expectations of myself. Oh balls to it – I’m a perfectionist. There said it!
Now in order for me to be good at this perfectionism shizzle, I evidently had a fair amount of practice. In fact for as long as I can remember, I’ve had this thing going on that ‘good enough’ isn’t really good enough.
Now, I’d be the first to agree with you, if you said that that doesn’t sound such a bad thing. I mean it’s good to strive to do better isn’t it? And it’s perhaps good to look at a situation and learn from it and decide the ways in which you may tweak things were you in that same place again, right? And we can always improve can’t we?
The difficulty with this search for Nirvana, whether it be applied to career, relationships or maybe even yourself; is that it doesn’t actually achieve anything does it, other than the necessity to benchmark yourself against impossible standards? And because these standards are so high, really they can only serve to point you in one direction – The Procrastination Pit.
The Procrastination Pit is where you can totally screw yourself over in the search for the perfect solution to your problem. It’s the place where you question yourself. What if I’m not good enough? What if people don’t like me, or my work? Maybe I should start again or think about this a little more? Maybe I shouldn’t do anything, until I’ve worked out how to climb over these ridiculous standards I’ve set for myself….
This pit is also place of fear, the place where we tell ourselves we aren’t enough. Where we worry over the judgement of others, mould and adapt our behaviour into some other unrecognisable being that we feel will be ‘enough’ for ourselves and or others, whatever that ‘enough’ is.
But just let me clarify a little, these ridiculously high standards aren’t aimed at you or you, or even you. I, and probably you, if you’ve been practising your own form of perfectionism; wouldn’t dream of casting my eye and judging you with the harshness that I reserve for myself. Why? Well, because that would be massively unfair. It would be ridiculous of me to expect you to be perfect, wouldn’t it? And because I’m realist, I know that as humans, we all make mistakes, so no, I don’t expect you to be perfect… Just me!
There are two points to my story. I’m a coach, I deal with this stuff all the time, yet I missed it in myself. I missed what I was doing. So, I wondered if I missed these signs of self sabotage, then perhaps you may miss them too – easily done when you get closely involved, when you’re passionate about something or someone. Sometimes you need to take time out to check in with you! Check out if the story that’s running through your head is actually true, or if it should perhaps start “Once upon a time…” You know in your gut if something is off kilter. You know if you take the time to listen to your truth.
Truth is often a very quiet voice easily drowned by the clamour of life and busyness. By the need to do more and be more. Slow down and take time to listen, take time out from the chaos, it’s usually where the best answers are, not in the trying and pushing harder, which is instinctively what we seem to do in times of stress and worry.
My second point is based around the idea of feeling the fear. Or maybe as the late Susan Jeffers says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” See, much of what held me back, was the fear. The fear of what if…… Procrastination, faffing, generally coming up with a hundred valid reasons (excuses) not to do something, is all fear based stuff – and that could be anything from producing a newsletter to ending a relationship. From leaving a job you hate through to sorting your finances. We all have our own stuff. The trick is, to find out which one is yours. To notice you’re faffing, you’re putting things off. Your need to make things bigger and better in an attempt to distract yourself from the original issue. To not then be scared to peel back the edges and wonder what is going on underneath! To face your fear and do it anyway!Read More
What if they find out that I’m only me?
What if they find out that some days I feel like I’m totally winging it? That I struggle to remember the date, perhaps work all day in my pyjamas, forget to brush my hair, or that perhaps my super cosy office can sometimes look as though there has been a hurricane going through it.
What if ‘they’ realise that, sometimes I yell at my kids and can be a full on narky cow?
What if they find out I have doubts? What if they find out that despite lots of experience, loads of practice and a shit load of training, that sometimes I’m not sure? That I forget I’m actually bloody good at this coaching malarkey, that I studied and worked damn hard to get here.
What if somebody were to know that?
What if they were to know how I inwardly seethe at the bad coaches, the ones who don’t give a f*ck and have no idea what they’re doing, yet are so much better at the winging and blagging thing than me?
How do they do that? Where is their self doubt? More to the point where is their integrity?
Am I ranting?
Well maybe yes slightly, but the focus of my rant isn’t other people. It’s aimed at me, my frustrations at myself and perhaps you, if you’ve ever felt like this. If we’re honest, we’ve all suffered periods of self doubt. Angela Merkel, Sheryl Sandberg, Hollywood actresses, British icons, have all owned up to having the dreaded Imposter Syndrome – At least I’m in good company!
Imposter Syndrome is that little voice that pops into your head and says “You don’t deserve to be here…” Or perhaps is the “Who do you think you’re kidding, you’re a fraud and everyone knows it.” We seem to be full of self doubt, these feelings that we’re not quite good enough and that someday, somebody else will discover this too, and, rather than put a comforting arm about us and lead us off to a quiet corner, they’ll pull faces, point fingers and let everyone else laugh, join in and agree, that actually we’re not ‘all that’ after all! Oh the horror!
OR, perhaps, you, me and all the other women affected by this, can remember to dust off that kick-ass feeling…. The one you get when you know you nailed it. However crappy times have been, we’ve all had that feeling at least once. Find that feeling and tap into it now. Feel all the great things about that time, how powerful it made you feel, how capable, how able.
Store up that feeling and put it away safely, in that place where you keep kick-arse feelings. Then next time you feel like you’re not up to the job, cos of some crappy story you’re telling yourself; choose that feeling and remember how freakin awesome you actually are.Read More
Maybe it’s because it’s because it’s the beginning of a new year. It could be because I had a pretty big milestone birthday at the end of last year. Perhaps it’s the fact that my eldest is leaving for university later this year. Maybe I just need to eat more greens! Whatever it is, I’m in a fairly reflective mood.
It’s inevitable at some times isn’t it, to consider the person you could have been? What if I’d turned a different corner? Gone to university at 18 instead of 40, how would that have made my life different? In that life, would I have had my kids earlier or later? Would I have had them at all? What about the ONE who might have been? Would I have worked harder to sort that out? Would I have married the man I chose, remained single or would there have been someone else? The friendships that fell away alongside house and work moves. The friends I have now, would they still be there? We perhaps may have met in some parallel universe? The job, the career, was as my becoming a coach inevitable? All roads leading to Rome?
The lives that might have been, the choices we didn’t make, would they have made me a different person or would I just be a different version of the same me?
We lie awake at night contemplating the options, sometimes giving ourselves a metaphorical kick, as we view a portion of our past with nostalgia or regret and wish we had acted in a different way. Other times remembering the nerve of my youth, I wonder where that girl went? Was she replaced by choices, or did I just grow up and grow into the woman I am now?
I wonder if these lives are presented like doors off a corridor. Choosing and then opening that door, being akin to walking through the back of the wardrobe into a whole new Narnia? Is that how this works?
I suppose the answer is that none of us knows and not to confuse reflection with melancholy, I’m largely more than happy with the way things have turned out. Sure I’d give a couple of tweaks here and there, but who wouldn’t? And who knows what I’d have got in return? I’m not looking over my shoulder with regret, it’s just that sometimes, like the rest of us, I wonder…Read More