When I was growing up, “perfectionist” was a negative term. I understood it to mean that a person had a problem because they wanted everything clean, beautiful, and flawless—at any cost.
My mom wasn’t like that. If the house was messy or her hair didn’t look good or the dinner was just “okay,” it didn’t matter—as long as we loved God and loved each other.
There’s something really comforting about that perspective, and I genuinely wanted to adapt my mom’s self-compassion, but because I always HAVE loved things to be clean, beautiful, and done well, I’ve kind of thought of myself as a “secret perfectionist.” I’d feel upset about my imperfections, but pretend that it wasn’t a big deal.
(Eric thinks that living inside my head must be exhausting….)
If you’ve ever found yourself in that spot, I think you’ll like what I learned recently in the book, “Little Bets.”
There’s a whole section about “healthy” versus “unhealthy” perfectionism.
I’d never even heard about that distinction, but my mind immediately lit up as I read about it.
Essentially, it’s this:
- Healthy perfectionism is an internally-motivated search for excellence. It’s wanting to do our best work, serve in beautiful ways, and create an environment we feel excited about.
- Unhealthy perfectionism is an externally-motivated search for approval. It’s wanting other people to think we’re amazing, beautiful, talented, etc.
This has made a huge impact on me because I realized that most of my anxious moments come when I am on the “unhealthy perfectionism” side. It’s when I’m worried what my neighbors will think about the weeds in our yard, ashamed I don’t have the energy to do all I wish I could do at LearnDoBecome, sorry that I’m not as knowledgeable about health and nutrition as the people I follow on social media.
But the healthy perfectionism I ALSO experience actually brings me a lot of joy. I love leaving my bedroom clean and tidy each morning (even though no one but me will see it). I enjoy blending that perfect green smoothie that tastes like ice cream, and then savoring every last drop. I love tucking our children into bed and feeling that closeness we’ve cultivated over the years—or walking around the block, holding hands with Eric, and feeling safe and happy.
There’s also a podcast called Checking In by a woman named Susan David that I’ve really enjoyed. In her episode, “Self-Compassion for the Self-Critical,” she explains how to do that—especially in the midst of this pandemic.
Here’s a quote I particularly liked:
The knowledge that you will be kind to yourself and be there for yourself—no matter what–actually encourages you to take risks and try harder.Susan David
So that’s all I have for today—just a little reminder that seeking excellence can be a GOOD thing, when it’s internally motivated and done with a heavy dose of self-compassion.
LearnDoBecome Challenge: Take a moment to think about your relationship with “perfectionism.” Is there anything causing stress or anxiety in your life that is externally motivated? What could you do to make a shift?
We love you and wish you the best!!!!
Our free training gets you started—showing you 4 steps you can apply today to start creating YOUR Command Central. Sign up here (or share it with a friend!):