Perfectionism is something other than giving your best.
It is an attempt to avoid judgment. Judgement of others, judgement of yourself. It is the thought process of: if only I work perfectly, live perfectly, care perfectly, I can prevent other peoples’ judgment and (perhaps more importantly) my own. Then I can avoid being hurt, avoid feeling vulnerable.
Of course, you know, it doesn’t work that way.
I know that.
I give keynotes on the topic.
And suddenly I notice how insidious that works. How I am creating a perfect picture of how I will get through this crisis, together with my family, my loved ones, my clients. Because this is the insight I suddenly realize on the fifth day of COVID-crisis. What I think I should think, do and feel, looks very different from my reality right now.
I think I can be thankful that I have a financial buffer and don’t have to worry about whether I’ll have food for the next few months like so many fellow entrepreneurs. The reality is that I feel powerlessness and worry and frustration about my savings that are actually meant for realizing my children’s dreams.
I think I should trust.
That there will be new opportunities and that it will really all work out. That we don’t yet know exactly how and when, but that a deep trust in myself and in life, should be my guiding principle now. The reality is that I am worried because my agenda has been swept empty and future projects are in jeopardy, and I feel the responsibility as the main breadwinner is palpable.
I think I should make good use of this empty time in my schedule to finally tackle all those projects on my list. Giving my doctoral research an extra push. Reading that stack of books. Updating that online training. The reality is that I find it difficult to focus with all the distractions around me. With my family at home all day, not to mention my news addiction going crazy.
I feel I have a contribution to make to people struggling with insecurity and vulnerability in this unfamiliar time, because right now the work I do can be especially helpful. I think that right now holding space is important and I can contribute to that more than ever. The reality is that I already need a great deal of energy to be able to face my own emotions, take good care of myself and uncover who I want to be in that, and put my values into practice.
I think that this period of mandatory social abstinence calls for the use of online opportunity to connect and create connection with each other, and that this is the best opportunity ever for me to explore and harness all those opportunities. The reality is that organizing online calls and mastering the technology, adds extra stress and tension to the already existing stresses of this out-of-ordinary life.
I think I should do my best to create structure and rituals within our family, so we will look back one day on a special and warm time when we really had time for each other. For playing games, good conversations, making the best of it together. The reality is that we are having uncomfortable conversations in our family with adolescents who are learning to make their own choices, who themselves had uncertainty enough to bear without all this extra ballast. Who are themselves searching for how they try to manage their own health physically as well as mentally.
I think so much of what I should be thinking, feeling and doing.
And none of it helps.
I know that.
I give keynotes on the topic.
You teach what you need to learn.
And now I’m also learning again how firmly those patterns stick to your system. And that it is heart-work to let go of that and learn new ways of being.
Things like breathing. Like allowing myself to feel unsettled by lack of clarity. Like realizing that taking care of myself is much harder than taking care of others. Like not losing myself in the worrisome news, but neither in all the positive energetic actions that some people seem to spread around and that feel like something to measure up to. I need to give myself permission to be in the middle of this storm for a while. A storm that does not yet feel like slowing down or pausing at all, but rather like a whirlwind in my head and my heart. It makes sense. It’s okay that this is the case right now. I do not have to solve it.
I do not have to go through this crisis perfectly.
Staying true to myself in the middle of this crisis, that’s enough.
Do you want to become more of yourself and suffer less from perfectionism? Read the book: The Perfection Paradox.