The Antidote for Perfectionism

June 16th, 2022

The challenge of being seen is that in order to be seen, we need to show our true, messy selves. The self that we aren’t sure others would find acceptable, the one we tell ourselves others might reject or dismiss would need to be shown.

Showing up in an authentic, imperfect way is a practice for me. I can be so edited it is like my face becomes one with the mask at times – the mask of perfectionism, of not risking saying the “wrong” thing. It takes repeated effort to chip away at the mask, take risks in small ways with emotionally safe people to trust that its safe out there to be myself.

Culturally, there are many messages out there with grand sweeping expectations – “just be yourself!”, “be authentic!”, “don’t worry what anyone else thinks!” – but these things are actually much more nuanced than just simply deciding to be yourself. It’s not like you can wake up one day and say oh, okay I hadn’t thought of that. Contrary to these popular phrases, sustainable growth happens in small, teeny tiny moments rather than just deciding one day to be another way.

Perfectionism is a survival skill. We learned somewhere along the way that we need to be a certain way to be loved. That feeling shame was really bad and must mean that we are a bad person, or maybe someone would leave or reject us if they knew the real us. These childhood experiences and interpretations from our innocent little minds get carried into adulthood, and at some point this skill starts to hurt us more than it helps us. It can leave us lonely, lacking true connection, or forcing our way through life’s tasks.

Here are some questions for reflection..

How do you know when you’re editing yourself in front of someone? aka. how are you doing? good.
How do you practice hiding? with others? with yourself?
How can you practice surrendering in small every day ways to what is?
How might life or relationships change for you if you started showing more of yourself?

Therapy is a wonderful way of practicing taking the mask off – being able to sit there with someone else who can gently help you to lift up the rocks and take a look underneath. Group therapy is another way to practice and challenge your relational patterns of how you show up in relationships. Both require safety and trust in your practitioner and fellow group members, which is established over time – as is becoming more of yourself.

Amanda Bowers
Amanda Bowers Counselling
Coquitlam, V3H4Y5

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