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Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

I spent many a day beating myself up for doing it wrong. And “it” refers to just about anything. I played the “I am not doing it right” game, or worried that I would make a fool of myself if anyone saw that I wasn’t as good at something as they were. I was in college before I started to break out of that, and even then it was still an issue. I told myself that I couldn’t long before I even tried. And the vicious cycle began.

I couldn’t let go of it and by the time I realized it was happening, I was out of control.

I have always said that perfectionism has been my best and more often then not my worst quality. It has made me take pride in my work, but more importantly, it has held me back. And that, in the sports psychology world, is no good.

When I took the time to study confidence a few years ago, I found the correlation between perfectionism and confidence to be stronger than I even knew at the time. I understood quickly that the lack of confidence I struggled with as a kid was incredibly evident and often misunderstood. And as I started to grow and stretch my comfort zone, in those moments I began to understand why it was so.

I was a perfectionist, and anything less than perfect was never ok. Not in sports, not in school, not in social situations.

I was in my thirties the first time I played pool. For most of my life I would stand against the wall and watched. I would shake off anyone who asked if I would like to play. I just answered with a simple, “No thanks, I’ll watch.” And yet, the truth is… I just never knew if I was any good. I never used to play pool as a kid and grew up just never knowing. Others would pick it up by just messing around shooting balls into the pockets and I just watched.

Perfectionism lends itself to the word “can’t” and to the self-doubt that surrounds our abilities to do things. And quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. We hold ourselves back because we are afraid of making mistakes. We don’t want to mess up in front of others. We don’t want to fail. We spend so much of our time and energy worrying about what it will look like or worrying about what other people think, because that is of critical importance, that we forget that each of us is human and has varying abilities to do things. And that’s just fact.

The problem often comes from our need to attach emotion to everything we do. We either do it well or we don’t. We judge. We assume. And we compare. And the truth is that while we are so busy worrying about what everything else is thinking about us, we are our own worst enemies. WE are the ones we actually have to worry about. We judge ourselves more than anyone else combined ever will. And we beat ourselves up for not doing it perfectly.

Perfectionism is so often a brick that holds us down. We suffocate and we don’t even know we are doing it. We so often blame others for “making us” feel judged or compared, yet we do it more to ourselves than to others. So when we finally stop… and create an awareness around what we are doing and accept that we will NEVER be perfect, there is an exhale that makes us feel a sense of calm and peace. While we may strive to be perfect, we can do ourselves many favors the moment we accept that we never will be.

And that acceptance allows us to let go of the need to be perfect, and to judge ourselves for our shortcomings.
I am a recovering perfectionist.

It will always be a work in progress.

And for the awareness and ability to figure that out….

I am so very grateful.

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