Part 2 – Inside the Mind of a (Recovering?) Perfectionist: A Series

Part 2 – Doing Our Gosh-Darn-Best (You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup)

Okay, so in my last post, I discussed the fact that I am coming to terms with being a perfectionist and learning to practice a more balanced lifestyle. As they say, the first step is always awareness! Unfortunately, I think the next steps are the harder ones – the ones in which we actually do the work. (Why does it always have to require work?!)

Essentially, I think we have to take it one day at a time. Realize we’re human, and do what we can. It’s okay to let priorities fluctuate from day to day, month to month, and year to year. We’re supposed to be growing and evolving! In fact, I think it might even be dangerous if we’re only prioritizing the same couple areas of our lives with a perfectionist mindset (she said confidently, conveniently ignoring the fact that she is someone who consistently does exactly that) because it leads to the other areas of our lives not thriving at all.

I mean, you do have to stay focused and driven to achieve goals, but it can’t be at the expense of the things that help maintain that drive and focus. For example, my perfectionism manifests most prominently around my job. This is largely because I’m passionate about it, I believe in the importance of what I do, and I want to be the best I can be for those I work with! There is no issue with that – again, I’m proud of it! The issue develops when my need to achieve perfection for my job means that I’m neglecting other areas of my life – such as health and wellness, my living space, or relationships. My ‘all’ becomes my career and the ‘nothing’ applies to… well, most other things.

The catch? By being ‘all’ about the one area, I always end up actually slowly taking away from that area I’m privileging until it also becomes ‘nothing’. When I don’t give my energy to the other areas of my life consistently, eventually I end up totally drained emotionally, physically, and spiritually – and then I don’t have anything left to give to that thing I’m so passionate about!

So, if you’re a perfectionist, don’t feel bad about it, just take a moment to examine the areas you’re a perfectionist in and if your habits are harming or helping you. Maybe examine the areas of your life you’re struggling with right now, and see if maybe it’s just a misalignment of energy somewhere. Can you take some time and energy from one area of your life and transfer it to another? Are you taking time to recharge so that you even have energy to reallocate? The whole ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ thing is actually pretty legit. Self-care isn’t just a buzz word, it’s necessary. It doesn’t matter how hard working or passionate you are if you don’t nourish your life with ways to maintain your energy and well being. That might mean keeping your home or work space inviting, taking time to meal prep, getting enough sleep, spending time connecting with others, or even just having some alone time. If you’re truly passionate or ambitious about something, you have to also prioritize your wellness. The one cannot exist without the other.

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels the primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgement, and blame”

-Brené Brown

That being said, we also have to remember to be compassionate with ourselves. We’re already doing our gosh-darn-best! Generally, perfectionism is bred out of a combination of fear of not being good enough and being overly invested in the outcomes of our efforts. You deserve care and compassion for feeling that way, so please don’t beat yourself up if you are currently realizing that you are also a perfectionist (Also: I’ve got you! We’re in this together!).

Sometimes, it just comes down to being overbooked. Certain areas of our lives can have more demanding seasons. Maybe you just moved, started a new chapter in your career, or your relationship with your significant other is evolving in some way. Those things are going to require more of your attention right now and that’s okay. Maybe you’re being slammed with deadlines at work. Unless you change jobs, there is not much you can do about it and you are going to have to get the work done, which may mean spending less energy in an area you wish you could. I know that, as a teacher, this often happens to me and the only way for me to keep up is to spend time working when I would rather be seeing my friends and family, sleeping, or going to the gym. What I’m trying to get better at is not being a workaholic allllll the time. When it’s necessary, I will complete the tasks so that they are done, and accept that their lack of perfection will not make the world fall in. Doing your gosh-darn-best won’t consistently look the same. Know that that is also okay. You can’t compare your current best to the best of your past, or to the efforts of anyone else.

So get through your busy season as best you can. Recognize that this is a demanding time, be nice to yourself about it, and accept that you will not get it all in. There’s only so much time and energy available to you, so prioritize and know that your best does not mean perfect – it means showing up with the energy you have available to you currently.

This is only possible though, if you still protect your energy and fill your cup in some ways. Maybe you have to go to bed earlier, or say no to plans that are really enticing, or just drink enough water (even though you want all the caffeine!). Maybe you don’t do a full workout or yoga practice, but you get in 5 or 10 minutes. Maybe you just text a friend instead of fitting in a full coffee date. Maybe you just take more deep breaths! All the small things will still help because, remember, a little is better than none! You do not have to do it all fully or perfectly but again, for those in the back:

EVEN PERFECTIONISTS CANNOT POUR FROM AN EMPTY CUP. 
So go do something today that fills your cup, even if it’s something small. Know that your best is enough, even if it’s not perfect, and know that you’re not alone.

 

From my over-thinking-perfection-seeking-mind to yours – just keep doing your gosh-darn-best!

 

With love and gratitude,

 

Sara

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