“If we just try hard enough we can avoid all these situations that make us feel so vulnerable.” — Caroline McGraw
How many of us can relate to the above statement? I know I can. For the longest time, I thought if I do everything just right, no one will call me out or criticize me. I’ll get to stay in “the club”. I thought if I do everything as I should, my parents will love me, my teachers will love me, my sister won’t have anything to tease me about, my friends will keep me in the gang, I’ll attract a good boyfriend and I’ll get a respectable job.
High sensitivity = more perfectionism?
Do highly sensitive or introverted people have a deeper need to exhibit perfectionism? Do we have more fear and worry about standing out, especially negatively? I personally do. Standing out negatively is also the crux of social anxiety — the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people.
Never 100% safe
But, as Caroline McGraw says in her Tedx talk, Perfectionism Doesn’t Protect Us, “We are vulnerable no matter how we perform.”
Being perfect does not make us invulnerable. It could make us tired though. Perfectionism covers up our real selves. Not showing our genuine feelings and needs, drains us. We work so hard to smooth over all the rough spots, that there is not much energy left to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We don’t let ourselves relax. It’s vital to perfect ourselves or whatever endeavor comes next.
Underneath our sheen of perfection, our soft vulnerable core resides. It’s always there open to scrutiny and unpredictable outbursts.
Real self endures
If we only knew how strong the imperfect us truly is. When we make mistakes our perfect mask slips off. That is when we learn our true selves can survive. The more we survive mistakes the stronger and more confident we get. We know we can withstand imperfection and its accompanying fallout. The fallout becomes more feedback and less criticism. We don’t get as drained because we are no longer hiding our real selves.
You were so good, I forgot to pay attention
Here’s another thing to think about regarding perfectionism. Sometimes it makes our performances so seamless that no one notices. When everything goes well, it is easy to move on without appreciating the work put into the task.
Or in the case of people, the ones who always perform perfectly often get overlooked. We expect their perfect contributions. Growing up, I did as I was told. I never got in trouble in school. I did not argue with my parents or ask for help very often. I took care of myself and everything so well — covering all the bases all the time— I was the kid no one worried about.
Sometimes perfectionism can make us feel invisible.
Flaws give you character
As a paraprofessional in the school district, I have noticed the perfectionist, teacher’s pet students almost seem annoying and boring (and I was one of them!). They don’t have any character. They just color within the lines like they are supposed to. I could be biased because most of the students I work with are outliers and in some cases, outlaws. I like them for their imperfections and uniqueness. It’s hard not to see them.
I want to tell the perfectionist students to loosen up. Blow off an assignment or two and have fun with your friends. Fail a quiz or two and see how you survive.
Having just gone through the college admissions process with my son, I saw how many colleges reviewed applications from students with perfect grades and perfect extra-curricular experiences, with a yawn. It was like they said, “We’ve got a million perfectionists just like you. We can’t take all of you. Bring on someone who stands out.”
Perfection not worth it
Knowing perfectionism can’t protect us from vulnerability and that making mistakes and surviving actually does fortify us, gives us reason to dump our drive for perfection and embrace our mistakes.
Are you a perfectionist? If so, how would your life be different if you let go of being perfect? If not, how does it feel to be free?
Photo by Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash
You all know I love to help people find clarity and strength in their relationships. I’ve researched, written about and experienced first-hand, the benefits of relieving self doubt and improving connections with others. Well, Caroline McGraw (mentioned above for her Perfectionism Doesn’t Protect Us Ted talk), asked me to present during her FREE video series titled, The Clarity Course: How to Handle Doubt, Get Unstuck, and Live Your Purpose. It’s designed to help you handle doubt, get unstuck, and live YOUR purpose … not anyone else’s.
There are over 28 speakers including Amy Cuddy, whose helpful talk on body language and confidence I featured in The Engaging Introvert: Socializing Admirably. The course launches on October 15th and runs through November 4th. My interview will run on Friday, October 19th. Click here to find out more and claim your free ticket to this special event!