Imperfectly Nativigating Perfectionism

“Just give yourself permission to do less.” 

If this idea terrifies you, then you’re either a high-achiever or a perfectionist. My guess is actually that you’re probably both. 

Welcome to the club, girlfriend!! Perfectionist Anonymous in the house.

We’re hard-working, ambitious, and admittedly competitive. We’re competent, motivated, and…we secretly believe that our self-worth is tied to our achievements. 

We cross every “t” and dot every “i”, then go back to make sure that every single “t” and “i” are actually crossed to a satisfactory standard. (And probably double-check others’ work too)

So what the fork…Perfectionism is supposed to be all good right? Perfect is right there in the title! 

Well, here’s the thing…our brains are lying to us when it comes to perfection because, well, perfect doesn’t actually exist.

Perfectionism is a personality trait based on striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards paired with critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. At the core of perfectionism lies thoughts like, “I’m not enough” -or- “If I’m not perfect, I’m not worthy” -or- “If it can’t be perfect, why even try?”

The maternal saint of vulnerability, Dr. Brene Brown, says “Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking.” (Amen, Mother Brene, amen)

As a recovering perfectionist myself, I know the deep shame that comes from not getting it juuuust right…the feelings of worthlessness and intense negative self-talk erupt to the surface of my mind from even little mistakes. The fact is that when you’re trying to be perfect, nothing seems good enough. We end up on a hamster wheel, chasing something that doesn’t exist. It. is. exhausting. 

So, say it with me…I have permission to do less. 

I have permission to do it just ok. To prioritize my happiness over what the world measures as success. 

You’re allowed to say “screw it”, flip the bird and do “just good work.” 

Because guess what? When you do your version of good work, that’s the highest, healthiest place to work from…your best self. 

You’re more than what you do. Your worth is not based on extrinsic metrics of productivity, success or achievements.

You are a human with thoughts, feelings, goals and dreams, skills and unique bomb-ass qualities. These are things that can’t be taken away from you and make you, you. 

And guess what! Life is awesome. Or at least it can be when we let go of unrealistic standards and unachievable objectives. When we start to look at “failure” as data collection on how to do it better next time and setbacks as lessons teaching us how to adapt, improve and make it better in the future. By focusing our full effort in the moment – rather than the possible unmet outcomes – we can be empowered, energized and see the full value of our contributions to this spinning ball of atoms. 

When I say do less, I don’t mean do nothing. This is not an all or nothing scenario (which is another mark of being a perfectionist btw). 

I’m saying, “done is better than perfect” and “good enough is really, most of the time, good enough.” Start to slowly release what makes you unhappy and costs you time, loss of sleep or harm to yourself and others. Get all Marie Kondo and do more of what brings you joy, fills you with energy and allows you to share your gifts with the world…just as they, and you, are. 
Overcoming perfectionism ain’t easy, baby. But it’s a hell of a lot better than staying in the thought tornado of guilt, shame and doubt.

The journey starts from understanding what you lose from being sucked into perfection and everything you can gain from shifting from maladaptive to adaptive perfectionism (google that and get some great articles).

If you wrestle daily with priorities, self-image and self-worth, hey, you’re not alone! The rest of our little club is right there with you, imperfectly navigating how to release ourselves from the death grip of perfection, too.

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Errin Weisman DO

Errin Weisman, DO is the self-proclaimed wellness guru on Authentic Medicine. She is a life coach, podcaster and fierce advocate for wellness in medicine. She faced professional burnout early in her career and speaks openly about her story in order to help others, particularly female physicians and working moms, know they are not alone. Dr. Weisman wholeheartedly believes to be a healer, you must first fill your own cup. She lives and practices life coaching and medicine in rural Southwestern Indiana, loves her roles as farmer’s wife, athlete and mother of three.You can find out more about Dr. Weisman on her podcast Doctor Me First, her website or hang out with her on social media @truthrxs. Her podcast is “Doctor Me First”.