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Perfectionism Manifests In These 5 Areas of Life | Our inner perfectionist can show up in one area of life and not another. Which of these 5 areas resonate with you?

Did you know perfectionism can show up in one life area and not another?

I always thought it was a package deal. A tough weed that invades every inch of your garden.

Then I stumbled on this study, where researchers reviewed perfectionism in 22 life areas, with work and studies being the most common among participants.

So I started to reflect on how my partner Loïc executes an architect’s plan down to a T. He can be perfectionistic about exact measures and the project’s budget.

But if you look at his closet? A wild mess of strewed shirts and crumpled socks!

On the other hand, I’ve tried to perfect every aspect of my life in the past, as if each one were a video game level to surmount.

Perfectionism was one of the main ways I protected myself from harassment at school and my father’s barrage of criticism. As an adult, it was eye-opening to see how this shame and fear of disapproval bled into every corner of my life.

Perhaps you can relate?

In this blog article, I’m going to focus on 5 areas where perfectionism can manifest in your life.

1) Work / studies

One night, I had to draw one of the elaborate 19th-century buildings on the campus for art class.

I had no desire to draw right then. So, I took a nap… that lasted until 6am! In a flurry, I scrambled to start and finish the drawing in 2 hours.

The result resembled the work of a child: rough lines, aggressive shadows and odd proportions.

I felt so ashamed during the critique session.

This wasn’t the first time my perfectionism caused problems. I knew I could do the work. It’d just take me 10 gut-wrenching hours, that’s all!

Upholding impossible standards meant I’d take much longer than others to finish tasks. If I felt unsure of my abilities, I’d procrastinate or avoid tasks altogether.

Ironically, the drive to do well can hinder our performance. There’s a vast difference between striving for excellence and perfection. Shame and fear fuel perfectionism.

The intense pressure to perform eventually squashed my inner voice and love of art. It took many years for me to rekindle my creativity.

So, I encourage you to list the pros of pursuing “perfection”:

  • I like getting praise.
  • It feels good being #1 in my class/team.
  • I feel safe and accepted by others.

Then, weigh the cons:

  • I have no free time.
  • I’m afraid of failure, so I procrastinate.
  • I never feel good enough.

Reflect on your list of pros and cons. Observe the emotions, sensations and images that arise.

What energizes you? And what drains you? Your heart knows.

Is it worth loosening your standards a tiny bit?

2) Relationships

Holding friends, family and partners to unrealistic standards causes strain in our relationships.

If we tend to be perfectionistic, we may think our expectations are valid. We just want to help our loved ones become better people.

For example:

  • My best friend must never be late to a hangout.
  • My daughter should always get good grades.
  • My partner should always look impeccable.

But no one likes feeling controlled or manipulated.

When you compare loved ones to your ideals, it forges walls and crushes authenticity. You don’t interact with your loved one, but an image of them.  

Relationships flourish when we let go of our agendas and meet loved ones where they are.

It’s tough.

Obviously, I’m not saying let people walk all over us. Respect your boundaries.

But the next time we criticize a friend, we can take a look to see if we have rigid standards.

What if in this moment, we’re criticizing them because we don’t accept something about ourselves? Is there a part of us that wants to save them from the rejection and shame that we’ve experienced?

To nourish our relationships, it’s best to first start with the relationship we have with ourselves.

Embrace your light and shadow.

Soothe your inner critic.

Then, feel the love that awaits.

3) Health / sports

After a health scare in 2009, I decided to avoid all unhealthy food.

I experimented with different diets, believing one would bring me optimum health. Various studies and books persuaded me to change my habits:

  • Reduce meat
  • Eat whole grains
  • Consume vegetables raw
  • Eliminate dairy
  • Avoid sugar (including fruits)

Though my discipline with strict dietary guidelines was admirable, my efforts to ward off illness stressed me. I read about nutrition for entire days, forced Loïc to eat like me and beat myself up for having a cold.

I had done it again—I let my perfectionism push me to extremes. (Hmm, perhaps my obsession to eat healthy was the condition called orthorexia?)

Have you experienced something similar?

Perhaps you get caught up in perfecting your sports performance.

Striving for excellence in sports cultivates a good work ethic and desire to improve your skills, which likely helps all life areas.

But we’re doing ourselves no favors if we believe perfection is attainable. Working towards an elusive goal can feel overwhelming, stressful and bleak.

Worst, it can lead to eating disorders and exercise addiction.

Instead of focusing on results, embrace the journey.

Breathe deeply into your fear of illness, failure or disapproval.

Send love to any part of you that needs it.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

4) Physical appearance

When we’re perfectionistic about our physical appearance, we can worry too much about grooming, hairstyle or clothing.

What’s most heartbreaking is that many cultures glorify thinness or certain physical traits: You’re unworthy unless you look xyz.

In college, my friend Emily (not her real name) and I talked for 2 hours straight as soon as we met.

I marveled at the ever-changing cuisines in the dining hall and wondered why she sometimes only ate chocolate-dipped bananas for dinner.

Emily inspired me to crack jokes with our growing French vocabulary, try salsa dancing and uplift the most vulnerable.

Then, one evening, she confessed her struggle with bulimia.

I didn’t have the maturity and knowledge to understand. It shocked me that she hadn’t been aware of her actions.

I later learned that defense mechanisms like denial are unconscious responses to protect us from anxiety or pain. Emily reached out to me through the fog—that takes courage.

According to GoodTherapy, 30 million Americans will experience an eating disorder in their lifetimes. Eating disorders are the 3rd most common chronic condition for teen girls. Studies show a strong link between perfectionism and eating disorders.

We all feel the pressure to meet conventional beauty standards.

But each time we criticize our body or someone else’s, we’ve fallen prey to consumerism.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” ―Koshin Ogui

The flowers are leading the way. Can we look to them for inspiration?

Get support if you need it. (I offer personalized support here. Or you can get a free EFT session in exchange for a short interview here.)

Eventually, we’re all meant to bloom.

5) Home / environment

Do you spend tons of time and energy tidying your space?

I used to get so stressed about cleaning my house because it meant that I had to vacuum, dust counters, wipe floors and wash windows! It was all or nothing.

When I discovered minimalism, it inspired me to declutter like a madwoman and create a home sanctuary. But it also aggravated my perfectionistic tendencies.

Since I have few objects and furniture, I can more easily spot clutter. The space around objects speak louder, creating an eerie museum-like aura. Those home decor magazines and cute Instagrammable offices sure don’t help.

Anything taken to extremes can be detrimental.

I realized that perfecting my home and controlling my space helped me feel safe and accepted. And that’s okay. I preferred not to deal with my mother-in-law’s comments!

Ultimately though, it’s not about how we fold our shirts. Nor if our papers stack up neatly.

It’s about accepting that life can be a glorious mess. No one has it all together all the time.

If we have the courage to leave a few dirty dishes, we can go outside and play!

Stop dimming your light

It’s easier said than done.

We often learn early on to conform and avoid judgment. Then, before we know it, this deep shame can seep into many areas of our life, including our work/studies, relationships, health, physical appearance and home.

Striving for perfection served me in many ways. I’m grateful for the temporary band-aid that it was, especially in my childhood.

And I also grieve all the times I dimmed my light to avoid upsetting others. I unknowingly gave my power away, stayed small and bound…

Until, as Anaïs Nin famously wrote, “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Throw off the shackles of shame and guilt. Integrate any part of you that believes you’re unworthy of love and respect.

Because even if it may not feel true right now, you’ve always been worthy and you’ll always be.

Want some free support?

I’m offering free EFT Tapping sessions in exchange for a short interview via Zoom.

I enjoy connecting with other women and learning about their challenges related to confidence, boundaries and relationships.

In the first 15 minutes, I’ll ask questions like “How did you discover me?” for new content ideas. In the last 15 minutes, you’ll get an EFT session to feel calm and clear. (Yes, things can shift that quickly.)

This offer isn’t a discovery call, where we discuss my paid services. It’s a fun opportunity to connect and support each other!

If you feel inspired to work with me, we can book a free call to make sure we’re a good fit.

I look forward to connecting with you!

5 Life Areas Perfectionism Can Take Root | Being a perfectionist doesn't necessarily mean you're perfectionistic in all life areas. In which of these 5 life areas does your perfectionism show up?

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