Breaking Up with Perfectionism
By: Dr. Menije Boduryan-Turner
Dr. Menije Boduryan-Turner of Embracing You Therapy is a leading expert on overcoming perfectionism and building an authentic life. When she works with her clients individually or as couples, the goal is to turn the judgment to compassion and the pain into purpose. We all create narratives about our lives, giving meaning to what we have been through and what is currently happening. Therapy with Dr. Menije is to uncover these stories you have been telling yourself so that you are judgment-free. Dr. Menije knows that her clients are completely capable of busting out of their comfort zone, taking ownership of their dreams, and creating a new sense of self. Dr. Menije is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles, CA. She was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, and moved to Los Angeles with her family in 1999. She lives with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter. While raising a toddler can take up all of her time, Dr. Menije values the time she gets to spend on her self-care, which include spending time with family and friends, yoga and meditations, and listening to podcasts.
Have you been in a long-term relationship with perfectionism?
Has it been your partner in crime for a while? Would you like to end it but don’t know how? Whether it’s in our personal or professional life, everyone has been a perfectionist in one area or another to some intensity.
Perfectionism is a personality trait that has been learned and reinforced through experience. There are a lot of ways it can shape you and run your life. If you are experiencing perfectionism, you also like to be in control. You have a hard time delegating responsibility and trusting that others can do it well too. You may double or even triple check your work. Sometimes, you may never complete a task because there is always something more to add. Did you know that people who procrastinate also struggle with perfectionism? The reason you may be procrastinating is that it may never be the “right” time to start. The long list of to-do items can feel so daunting that you may never start.
As a perfectionist, you may also have a big fear of making mistakes. You come to believe that any mistake or a flaw is detrimental and signs that you are not good enough. You now have low tolerance for imperfections and want all results to come out flawlessly. So you may seem indecisive, have a hard time making choices or starting something new because of these fears and need for perfectionism. You have a very clear way of doing things. If there is a change in schedule or something doesn’t go as planned you get upset, and either blame yourself or others. Other fears that lead to perfectionism can be fear of disappointing others and fear of failure. Perfectionism seems to be the right armor to protect you from these fears coming true.
Perfectionism shapes the way you think. There is a common thinking error called Black or white thinking, also known as all or nothing that alters your perceptions. You think in extremes and can’t tolerate anything in between. If any outcome is less than perfect, then it is automatically a failure.
Most importantly, Perfectionism can influence your self-esteem and self-worth. You come to measure your worth based on your accomplishments and validation from others. Dr. Brene Brown has pointed out that perfectionist people may have dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it” (Gifts of Imperfection).
Initially, perfectionism acts as an innocent force that motivates you to “do your best” and keeps you on track. But behind the curtains, there is anxiety, feeling not being good enough and stuck. It brings along other “friends” like depression, irritability, addiction, co-dependency, and poor sleep. We now know that perfectionism is different than striving for excellence. And it’s time to break up with perfectionism!
Give yourself permission to do things imperfectly! Take any small step forward without over analyzing the final destination. You will get more down if you take an imperfect action and adjust your direction as you learn along the way. Because the perfect circumstance and the time will never come, something is better than nothing.
Try to let go of control by asking for help and letting others take charge of some aspect of a task. Remember, it takes a village and you do not have to do it alone. One of my favorite activities is to ask my clients “if someone you love had the same perfectionist thought, what would you say to them.” Since we are always nicer to other than ourselves, you easily figure out how to reframe and come up with a more rational and realistic goal.
At last, make time for you and engage in self-care activities. One of the best ways to combat perfectionism is to take breaks and get rest. When we take time to rest and connect with things that makes us happy, we become more creative, more energetic, and attentive to pursue our goals. You will become a better version of yourself when you have a balance in your life.