Are you someone who needs to get a 20 out of 20, even on things you don’t care about? If you can’t do something perfectly, you won’t do it. If you can’t get a task done immediately, you feel flustered. You get a promotion and a few months later you want another one.
If you are, you are not alone in today’s driven society.
Being a perfectionist is useful to a point, but it can become a trap. For example, if everything you do must be perfect, your precious energy will get burned out on unnecessary things instead of focusing on the few that are important to you.
To relax the internal pressure, we need to understand where it comes from.
If you listen closely, you probably have a voice in your head egging you on with statements like, It has to be perfect, or That's not good enough or I can’t fail.
You may not even have noticed the voice if it's been running for many years. Or perhaps you were keenly aware of it and convinced that it was the truth, or that was necessary keep you in line and make you a better person. The voice is different from your intuition because it feels fearful, hot or shaming instead of wise and calm.
The good news is that it is not the truth. In psychological terms, this voice is the superego, or the internalization of cultural rules, that develops around age 3 or 5. Sometimes called the inner critic, it was created protect you from getting in trouble or upsetting your parents because as a child you feared upsetting them or others would make them stop taking care of you. The voice seeks perfection and has the emotional intensity of a scared child.
So how do you soften in?
1. Identify it for what it is — the internalization of social standards stuck in a childlike perspective. It's not who you are as an adult.
2. Breathe and acknowledge the voice briefly. Like a child, it wants to be heard.
3. Instead of reasoning with it, which can be useless, take a step back and reframe the situation. What is truly important here? Doing every task or focusing on the big picture and what’s most important?
If you find the voice too powerful, consider doing inner work to release the source of the pressure, which is often feeling we must be perfect to earn love or worthiness.