"You're in prison and you don't even know it."
As I shared with my followers on my #SoundingBoardSaturday post on Facebook, Envision Coaching & Consulting LLC was a whisper of a dream 8 years in the making. I began my work in behavioral health working at a residential facility for at risk girls ages 12-18 who had been referred by my state's child welfare agency or juvenile court system. I gained experience providing basic living skills, stress management, and behavioral education to youth many in society had written off. Overtime, I felt that I had to get to start or root of the problem. I transitioned to a child welfare agency thinking if I could just get in and help families before the problem gets too far gone maybe more kids in my area could be spared ending up in a facility. I learned many valuable skills collaborating on treatment plan development, providing crisis intervention, providing family support and education on behavioral health and child development, and linking families to community resources.
I desired to reach more youth and families before the crisis that led so many of them to child welfare agencies, or facilities, or detention centers. The combination of skills I had gained more than qualified me to do just that. However, I didn't know how or where to even begin. Doubts began to creep in. Because of this, I never made a move. Which is sad. I had the experience. I also had the training (a bachelor's degree in psychology and then later a master's degree in counseling & psychology). I had the desire to make and inspire change. Yet I couldn't get out of my own way. Each and every idea I came up with, I would scrap. This won't work because of this. That won't work because of that. Many a conversation were had with friends and colleagues (whose opinions and insights I valued) about providing some form of self-esteem building or coping skills building. Yet my dream was never quite ready for takeoff. There was always a reason why now was never the right time. Until one day in 2019, I took the leap. Really on an impulse actually. Afterall, what was I still waiting for? Truth be told it was fear of failure that imprisoned me from acting on my dream.
Can you relate? Is there a dream that you have that you have been holding back on? Perhaps you want to start a city league for athletes who don't make the grade in school but still need a safe haven of positive adults to assist them in learning discipline, team building, and enjoying recreational pursuits. Perhaps you have a desire to start your own concierge service. Maybe you want to begin your own cleaning service for residential or commercial properties. Maybe you have your eyes set on the real estate market but haven't taken the plunge. Perhaps you have your heart set on writing and desire to start a blog like this one (or better than this one insert winky face). There is a business in you. There is something that you desire to do and know you could do. However, you are paralyzed to start. Because it has to be perfect. You may be saying, "I can't just launch any and everything with my name attached to it. It has to be done right." Problem is, it won't ever start. You're in prison and you don't even know it. That prison is perfectionism.
Perfectionism is the drive to appear, feel, and be perfect. Individuals who struggle with perfectionism have a tendency to set exceedingly high expectations for themselves, often to the point where their goals may be unattainable. They think what they do is never good enough. Perfectionists may unnecessarily redo projects because of minor imperfections, and while perfectionism can provide temporary relief from life's uncertainties, it ultimately limits choices and freedom.
Perfectionism keeps us in an emotional prison by creating a cycle of self-criticism and fear of failure. This cycle can bring about feelings of discontent with one's life, resulting in a host of negative mental and emotional consequences such as depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and self-injury. In some instances, even mild cases of perfectionism can create disruptions in an individual's personal relationships, education, or professional pursuits, impacting their overall quality of life. Over time, it can cause a loss of motivation and a reluctance to attempt further achievement.
Signs you may be trapped in the perfectionism prison:
Are you someone who postpones beginning a task because you feel it needs to be flawless?
Do you delay starting or put off finishing tasks because you know it must be perfect?
To what extent do you fear the opinions of others regarding your work?
Do you tend to be overly critical of yourself, always thinking that you could have performed better?
Do you hold the belief that any endeavor that falls short of 100% effort is a failure?
Have people ever told you that you are overly critical of them?
Perfectionism can cause us to avoid risks and opportunities for growth because we fear failure or making mistakes. This can lead to a sense of stagnation and missed opportunities, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and dissatisfaction with life. Furthermore, perfectionism can create a sense of disconnection from others. When we are constantly striving for perfection, we might become overly critical of ourselves and others, leading to strained relationships and a lack of connection with those around us.
In essence, perfectionism keeps us in an emotional prison by creating an unrealistic and unattainable standard for ourselves and others. We become trapped in a cycle of fear, self-doubt, and self-criticism, which can limit our potential and prevent us from experiencing the joys of life. By letting go of perfectionism and embracing our imperfections, we can break free from this emotional prison and live a more fulfilling and authentic life.
But how do we break free? How do you stop fanning the flames of perfectionism in your life? Afterall, it is easy to get trapped in the idea of perfectionism, especially in a culture that values success and achievement. However, this mentality can have a negative impact by promising the ability to control outcomes and avoid the pain of disappointment, failure, loss, and rejection. While avoiding pain may seem like a good idea, it's not possible to avoid loss in life and it's impossible to maintain perfection.
Free yourself from the perfectionism prison:
Understand pitfalls of perfectionism
Identify your triggers so you can prepare for them
Set SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Achieveable, Realistic, Time-based)
Don't focus on end results only; celebrate small victories
Accept your mistakes and learn from them
Show yourself some kindness
Seek support from your village
Striving for perfection and avoiding failure comes with a great emotional cost, including anxiety, fear of failure, and loss of joy. Embracing failure doesn't mean giving up on excellence; rather, it's an essential step toward personal growth because it teaches resilience, perseverance, and optimism. It's through dealing with life's unexpected challenges that we learn these valuable lessons.
We'd love to hear from you in the comment section. Is there a dream that you have that perfectionism has hindered you from pursuing? To avoid the trap of perfectionism, it's essential to focus on what can be controlled and to learn from failures. Rather than striving for an unattainable goal of perfection, it's important to embrace imperfection and use it as a tool for growth. Please remember though, wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!
"Serenity is knowing that your worst shot is still pretty good." ~Johnny Miller
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