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Inside: Clear signs you might be a perfectionist, why and how perfectionism is hurting you and your family, and tips to free yourself from this stressful state of mind.
“Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence.” ~Rosalynn Carter
Is there a fine line between having a meticulously organized junk drawer, and putting way too much pressure on ourselves and our families?
In trying to make ourselves better — better parents, better lovers, better cooks (whatever matters to you), some of us are stuck in a never-ending pursuit of perfectionism.
For me, I’ve been struggling with trying to be a perfect parent.
If I lose my patience with my son I beat myself up for days afterward and want to hide under a thick blanket of guilt and shame.
And we all know what that perfect parent looks like (just browse Facebook for a while…):
Perfect looks like, the parent who’s always loving (never yells) and is always around when their kids need help with their homework. The parent who takes glossy photos and organizes them chronologically into perfect, pretty albums. The parent who never loses his or her temper, who never desperately craves time to be alone, never misses assemblies, and who ABSOLUTELY never lets the “F” word slip out.
For some reason, there is a stigma in our culture that we MUST be perfect or we have failed our children.
And just to clarify, setting high standards and goals for ourselves and our children is not the same thing as striving for perfection.
It’s not the desire to change or the desire to achieve goals that are the problem, it’s over-doing it and obsessing about it and projecting these obsessions and expectations into our kids and partners.
All good changes and even goals can become harmful when taken to an extreme.
Being perfect can replace any sense of fun with a nagging, soul-sucking endless effort that never gets anything quite right.
We need to find the delicate balance between making positive changes and obsessing.
This is not saying that you shouldn’t strive for excellence!
(We still need literary geniuses and Olympic athletes!)
Okay, so let’s look at signs you might be a perfectionist, how it’s hurting your family and what you can do about it!
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9 Signs You Might be a Perfectionist:
- You judge yourself harshly
- You judge others harshly
- You obsess over lifestyle commitments
- You get highly competitive with others
- You obsess about a mistake
- You feel an intense need to do something right or not at all
- You demand perfection from yourself and others, perhaps you have trouble delegating because you feel no one else can complete a project as well as you can
- You persist with a job or task beyond reason; when everyone else has long given up or you can’t even complete a task because you feel you can make it better.
- You’re self-conscious when making mistakes
How Being a Perfectionist is Hurting Your Family
No perfect parents exist. No perfect kids exist.
If you are striving for perfection research suggests that you are doing your kids more harm than good.
If you can’t tolerate your own imperfections, how will you be able to tolerate your kid’s imperfections?
Your child will feel as though you are dissatisfied with them. They will pick up on this, even if no such words are spoken.
While it’s ok to set certain expectations for the people you love, it’s not ok to project your own unrealistic goals and crazy standards onto your kids (or your partners).
You can control your own actions and behaviors, you can not control what others do, feel and think.
6 Ways Being a Perfectionist is Hurting Your Family
1. Your family feels unheard
So we get it you’re an awesome planner.
You’ve triple-checked every reservation and planned your itinerary right down to where you will have coffee each morning.
No detail is left to happenstance.
But, wait a minute…
…how much fun is that?
For one, your family might have some ideas or might enjoy taking part in the planning, and secondly, not everyone wants a play by play itinerary.
Spontaneity is fun too! Your way isn’t the only way.
Consider that maybe your family feels stifled or unheard, they might grow to resent you!
2. You are fostering anxiety in your family
Being a perfectionist causes you to overthink everything. And this grows anxiety worse than an unwanted foot fungus.
It’s normal to think about how everything will go. It’s normal, too, to worry about your kids or partner and fuss over details.
But, here’s the thing:
You are most likely worrying about things that will never happen. You are compromising your mental health for scenarios that will likely never come to fruition.
“Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” – Emma Bombeck
Check out 25 more uplifting quotes on worry.
If your kids are feeding off your anxiety and becoming anxious themselves then we’ve got amazing resources for you: 73 Powerful Tips to Calm an Anxious Child and/or check out our Ultimate Guide to Anxiety in Children.
If you are struggling to control your worry or anxiety you don’t have to go at it alone, check out our helpful 3-month worry journal. This will become your new bestie to get your perfectionism under control!
Chances are if you are a perfectionist then your kids are as well, check out our handy anxiety printables for kids!
3. You can’t admit when you are wrong.
I know, I know. It’s hard to hear this, but it’s true:
Everyone is wrong sometimes.
Have you ever tried to argue with someone who can’t be wrong?
Seriously, no matter how hard you try, everyone makes mistakes and everyone screws up sometimes.
If you’ve made a bad decision and feel unable to discuss this with your family you aren’t building trust. And to make matters worse, you are pushing your loved ones away by being unapproachable and unable to say sorry.
This will alienate your partners and your kids.
4. You are putting stress on everyone around you
Perfectionism is often associated with procrastination and a lack of self-worth.
And this fires up the BIG silent killer: Stress
Stress is linked to a whole basket of issues: Depression, low self-esteem (projecting an image of yourself as a failure or loser), pessimism, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, guilt, belief that it’s never good enough, sleep disorders, strained relationships, and compromised mental health.
If you feel stressed, I promise you, those around you feel that stress by osmosis.
It has a way of leaking into all areas of your life.
And there is no doubt, being a perfectionist is stressful because it’s an unachievable goal.
Just think about how you snapped at your kids? Or rolled your eyes at your partner…
5. You are being a Negative Nancy
Perfectionists often expect the worse.
(sorry, but is your cup half empty?)
Well, think about what effect this has on everyone around you?
Think about what it’s like to be around someone who is constantly nervous or negative. It’s not very much fun, is it?
Bad things happen, but not as much as your mind thinks. Try to see the bright side of life!
6. You family is at the mercy of your judgment
You may think you are open-minded and all zen and accepting.
And perhaps you even are to some extent, but if you are a perfectionist, you are part of a process that is constantly evaluating everything that is going on around you (your kids, partner, co-workers) and you compare it to your high sky standards.
It can be daunting for others to be around you, under your constant scrutiny.
Accept others are different, accept that others make mistakes, accept that life isn’t perfect.
When setting goals and putting expectations on yourself remember the following:
- You are only human
- Forgive yourself for your mistakes
- It’s just a goal
- Develop patience
- Realize learning comes from making mistakes
- Reward yourself for progress
- Love yourself
- Recheck your priorities
For an amazing resource to overcome perfectionism, check out this awesome article from Very Well Mind chalked full of helpful tips: How to Overcome Perfectionism
With Brené Brown’s game-changing New York Times bestseller The Gifts of Imperfection—which has sold more than 2 million copies in more than 30 different languages, and Forbes recently named one of the “Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook On Life”—we find courage to overcome paralyzing fear and self-consciousness, strengthening our connection to the world.
My answer to the painful job interview question, “Please describe one major flaw?” was always, “I’m a perfectionist.” It’s one of those character traits that could be construed as positive or negative.
Maybe in my industry, the accounting world, it’s construed as a good character flaw, but even within a numbers-based, logical set of standards, it’s an unachievable goal.
Stop grasping at perfectionism, it’s only driving yourself and everyone else mad!
Are you projecting unrealistic expectations on the objects of your grasping, being your kids, spouse, parenting, exercise, diet or work?
If you can’t relax and have some fun, then why are trying so hard in the first place?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, what are your perfectionism demons?
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As a recovering perfectionist, I can really appreciate this. We think that if we obsess over our past mistakes, and keep ourselves in check, we will be “bulletproof.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. If we are so hard on ourselves, we really just keep our brains bathes in stress hormones, and limit our potential. We won’t be perfect, and obsessing over the past does not prevent us from repeating our mistakes. We need to see that we did the best with what we had at the time, and move on.
I totally agree Bethanny, I am constantly battling my own perfectionism, I need to remind myself that obsessing over so many details provides no benefits and doesn’t matter! It’s true it is limiting our own potential.