So many of us are self-diagnosed perfectionists, type ‘A’s’, control freaks, autocratic. Covid was scary to the perfectionists of the world because perfectionism relates directly to certainty – and it feels terrifying when there is so much unknown. I talk so much about Pivoting and Covid was definitely a forced pivot. And when we are forced into a pivot, we demand answers, we want to know what is happening, and more importantly what is going to happen.
Stopping the Treadmill
It’s like running full speed on a treadmill and then suddenly and without much warning, the treadmill stops. The first thing we do is demand to know why. Why did this happen? How long will it take to get back to normal? How will you manage the time it takes to repair the damage? My podcast guest this week sat down with me to talk about perfectionism, pivoting and how important it is to pause. Julian Reeve has been all around the world working on various musical theatre productions, including Hamilton, which sadly ended abruptly after suffering from a heart attack. Now, he focuses his mission on perfectionism management and even authored a great book for kids, Captain Perfection & the Secret of Self‑Compassion: A Self-Help Book For The Young Perfectionist.
Perfectionism, Pivoting and Pausing
In my most recent book, Change Proof, I talk a lot about the power of a pause, building on my work around pivoting and how to be more resilient. Julian shared in my pausing sentiments and told listeners, “I often encourage people going through a forced pivot to allow time to be their friend. Time is tricky because if we have been pushed off the treadmill like I was with my heart attack, I was running 100 miles an hour, that feels weird. A month of not doing much, when you have been running at that pace, can feel like 100 years. I’m a big fan of allowing the silence to provide the answers.”
Perfectionism Management 101: Create space and be okay with not controlling, planning or knowing what might occupy that space. It’s leaning into space and the unknown to let the universe speak to you in ways that it’s never spoken to you before because you have never allowed the space for it to do so.
Surrender to Yourself
When I began building rituals and meditation and intentionality into my days, after a huge somewhat forced pivot in my own life, I learned so much about myself that I never knew and to me, that is one of the coolest experiences. I took the time to listen to myself and it was not easy – because to do that you have to stop – you have to pause and listen and be okay with not knowing where those moments will take you. And the real pivot happens when you realize how great of a thing it is to go into that unknown. Surrendering to yourself means being here right now and experiencing whatever you are experiencing and not wishing it was different. Surrender doesn’t have to be attached to these negative connotations.
Perfectionism Management 101: Every day is an evolution that provides the highs and lows. There’s no constant and that is a beautiful thing. It’s about leaning into the fact that you aren’t always going to know what will happen and that is a positive, not a negative.
All or Nothing Something
Perfectionism oftens comes with an “all or nothing” mindset because perfectionists think there’s only one way to do something because a fixed mindset keeps them in that zone. This doesn’t leave any space for a growth mindset because there’s no space to pivot or create – the walls are concrete, the floor is concrete and the entire space is closed in.
Perfectionism Management 101: Pivoting from a fixed to a growth mindset creates all the space we need for anything to happen. It’s about eliminating negative connotations and expectations attached to uncertainty and instead, using that uncertainty to pause and create space for the Universe to speak to you. If you cringed a little bit reading that, it is definitely time to jump off the treadmill and take pause. Get okay with not knowing and get good with letting life serve up a little magic.
You ARE Worthy
I want you to read this statement and sit with it for a few seconds: Self-worth is the absolute root cause of perfectionism. When we have no self-compassion, we get into some pretty rough territory and that causes us to need to know everything, what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, what it’s going to look and feel like… and when it doesn’t we blame ourselves too.
Dr. Kristin Neff is the leading psychologist in self-compassion and she breaks it down into three components, self-kindness, mindfulness and common humanity. Self-kindness is where we learn to be warm and understanding to ourselves. Mindfulness is when we discover to observe thoughts and feelings as they arise but not necessarily suppress, deny or react to them. We have a common humanity, which is the understanding that suffering and imperfection are all part of the human experience. Those three categories combined are a powerful tool.
Perfectionism Management 101: Self-compassion and giving yourself grace is required. It’s about looking for fear of certainty in the face and using that desire for perfection to be good to yourself instead. Rather than control and force, pause and ask.
If your inner perfectionist is telling you to put this article down, you might be in the right place. Listen to the full episode here and learn more about how perfectionism was the root cause for Julian’s heart attack and how he healed his inner critic.