Perfectionism

Way too often there seems to be a celebration of perfectionism in the US and many other countries. We tend to equate being perfect or performing perfectly as a measure of our worth or success. Perfectionism is on the rise. I’m a recovering perfectionist myself!

Sadly, reports show that perfectionists, even when they are successful, rarely feel successful. They see their successes as less than successful or even as failures because it takes them so much effort to be successful, which means they’re not quite perfect enough! “If I was perfect, this would be easy!”

The pursuit of perfection is an endless lesson in self-defeat. And this obsession of trying to fix an imperfect self can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and even suicide.

Trying our best in any situation is certainly something to strive for. We do the best we can with what we have and the resources available at the time. If it’s not right, we can choose to be thankful that we learn something in the process so that next time it’s better. But instead, perfectionists judge themselves as unworthy and not good enough and they suffer.

A common type of perfectionism is “socially-prescribed,” thinking that everyone else is expecting perfect behavior or performance. We hold ourselves up to a self-made standard that we assume others have. On social media, everyone shares their ‘perfect’ world, and that feels really hard to keep up with. Unfortunately, sharing the appearance of perfection is more important than sharing real life, making it stressful for everyone.

What can a perfectionist do? It can be really hard to let go of the need to be perfect. And this need can lead to procrastination in even starting something. The belief is that it won’t ever be right or good enough so why even bother. There’s a critical voice inside that is relentless!

One of the best ways I know of to ease the stress of perfectionism is to use EFT Tapping. Tapping can help unblock the stuck emotions around the need to be perfect. Often there are feelings of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not worthy’ that can drive perfectionism and the need to always prove oneself. Tapping can definitely help reduce those feelings.

EFT Practitioner Dr. Mary Ayers recently spoke on the Tapping Solution’s Annual World Summit. She talked about how to adapt tapping to work for perfectionism. One of the first things is to adapt the setup statement so that it’s true at that moment. The traditional “I completely accept myself” as the second part of the statement doesn’t always feel true for a perfectionist. If that’s the case, change the words to something like “I might be willing to someday accepting myself,” or “that’s just how it is for me right now,” or even simply “I’m okay.”

Here’s a way to tap for perfectionism. (And don’t worry about getting it perfect! Just tap. It’s a very forgiving practice.) To start, identify what feelings or emotions you have about the need to be perfect, and note where you feel those emotions in your body. Then, estimate how intense the feelings are on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is no intensity and 10 is totally stressed out about it. Next, start with a setup statement that includes the problem and an affirmation that feels true. Something like “Even though it feels like I’m not good enough to get this exactly right, and I feel queasy in my stomach, I’m okay.”

Use specific words that describe how you feel and that will help the process. After repeating the setup statement three times, tap on all the points with a specific reminder phrase. For example, “This queasy feeling in my stomach because I’m not good enough,” or “I’m just not good enough.” After tapping on all the points, estimate your level of intensity again. Continue tapping additional rounds until the intensity is down to zero or as low as you can get it.

Once you get the intensity down, test your work by saying the first part of your setup statement out loud. If it still sounds true, try more tapping, noticing any other emotions or physical sensations that come up, adding those things to your tapping.

Work through one particular issue or event or project before moving on to the next. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect to get it perfect! Do the best you can at the moment and learn as you gain experience.

I mentioned earlier that I’m a recovering perfectionist. Tapping helped me finish my first two books because I was able to let go of the need to get them perfect. Without letting that go, I wouldn’t even have started them, much less finished. My motto now is “Done is the new perfect.” I do the best I can with what I have at the time and learn from the experience.

Please remember: It's important to contact a professional if things feel too big for you, whether it be a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or certified EFT practitioner. Never discontinue your current medications without first consulting your doctor.