I, Jennifer Laurent, am a recovering perfectionist and this is my story…
I have been hard on myself throughout my entire life, setting impossible standards and aiming for perfection. Always wanting to be the best and never wanting to fail. I somehow came to believe that I had to be perfect in order for others to accept me. If they saw my shortcomings and imperfections than I would not be loved. The real me, flawed and certainly not perfect, was not worthy of love and acceptance. I quickly mastered how to figure out what others expected of me and set out to fill those shoes.
To make my quest for perfection even more impossible, I used others opinions of me as markers for my success. I was constantly hyper-focused on nonverbal communications from those around me so that I would be aware of how I was measuring up. Adjusting accordingly as I went along. Sounds exhausting right?
As I look back, I am able to see that there were many consequences to living life as a perfectionist. I quit many things prematurely, fearing that I might fail and be judged by others. I remained in many situations and relationships that were uncomfortable and even harmful, fearing what others would think and say of me for leaving. I spent a ridiculous amount of time comparing myself to others, never feeling as though I measured up or was quite as good as they were. Most of all, I wasted energy hiding my true self and silencing my voice, ashamed of my flaws and my darkness.
What I have learned is that the greatest cure for perfectionism is the willingness to stand courageously in my vulnerability. To put myself out there, willing to take risks and move toward my fears, no matter how afraid I am to do so. I have learned that I cannot make everyone happy, nor do I want to. That of course it feels good to have others like the things I put out there, but that their opinions do not effect my own belief in who I am and my own worth. I am perfectly perfect in all my imperfections and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
There are five essential behaviors I have learned as I have let go of perfectionism and its hold on my life.
1. I have given myself permission to be who I am and I have stopped comparing myself to others.
2. I have practiced self-forgiveness for the lack of love and kindness I displayed toward myself for so many years.
3. I have learned to stay present to each moment, aware that this present moment is all that is truly real.
4. I have committed to the life I am living, without judgment or shame.
5. I have learned to stand courageously in my faith, knowing that I am exactly where I am intended to be.
Being a recovering perfectionist is not easy and I remind myself daily of all that I have learned. It has taken time, patience, and kindness toward myself to break free of my quest for the impossible. There are days I find myself slipping right back into old habits and I must kindly ease my way toward a new way of being. Each day is an opportunity to grow and become more courageous in my willingness to be vulnerable. As Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, “Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”