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Catch the Perfectionism Spiral

Jul 21, 2022

I don't consider myself a perfectionist - I know it's unattainable and actually think it's boring.  At least, that's the story I tell myself.  And then that pesky perfectionism shows up! It shows up in the standards I hold myself to and how hard I judge myself to execute against them.  It shows up whenever I'm doing something for the first time, which is just crazy. How could I be perfect at something new? There's always a learning curve! And if I happen to drop the ball on any of the other roles I play in my life, while incorporating this new thing...that perfectionism SPIRALS!

No matter how much work we do on ourselves, old habits & programming show up, especially when you're an ambitious, first-gen, overachiever.   The key is to catch the spiral, reframe and pivot toward a kinder (to self) approach of managing whatever it is you're navigating along your journey.

Here are 3 Things that help me, and might help you, Catch the Perfectionism Spiral:

  1. Awareness of the Body: it usually starts in my body; for me the pressure to achieve feels like angst, rapid heart rate, and some tightness in the chest. I used to think of this as an adrenaline rush that served as motivation (sometimes it was) but mostly it's stress hormones that can quickly spiral into feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Questioning the Thoughts: Instead of engaging in negative self-talk like, "Ugh! Why can't I figure this out?" "If I don't do this really well, they'll think I'm a terrible leader" "I have to excel at this!" I now pause to find proof. Where are these expectations coming from? Mostly me. Why am I being so hard on myself, again? I keep a journal and use it as a "container" for these thoughts.  I quite literally let these thoughts go by releasing them from my mind onto a piece of paper. I then work through them to prove to myself, that it's an irrational stream of consciousness. No one else is holding you to these unrealistic standards! Move on. Sometimes this means actual body movement to release the stuck energy from my body.
  3. Gracious Self-Love: usually at the end of the day or early the next day, I carve out a few minutes of "me" time to take a few breathes to calm the nervous system, journal some more to release the rest of that mind chatter & work through what practical steps I need to take to complete the task (not overachieve on the goal).


Whenever perfectionism shows up for you, try these steps; catch the spiral and focus on your intentions & impact.  And give yourself more love!