No too long ago, I was contacted by a viewer named Vicky, who inspired me to write this blog (so I hope you’re reading this, Vicky). She wrote me about her aspirations to write a book about spiritual angels, which I thought was a wonderful topic. Vicky told me that while she holds a Masters degree in English and a PhD in Education, she had writer’s block and fear was preventing her from writing the book. Needless to say, with 2 graduate degrees, Vicky is very accomplished and probably an overachiever. Being introspective, she had the courage to confide in me that she was scared that her book would fail, which really resonated with me. Even with all of her educational accolades and accomplishments, what I saw was a vibrant lady who could not get passed her own fear of perfection.
While being a perfectionist is a wonderful quality, it can also become our achilles heels. In Vicky’s case, her perfectionism is preventing her from writing her book she obviously cares deeply about. Any time you put your heart and soul into something, like giving birth to a book, there would be apprehension and self doubt. But those doubts, which largely stem from a desire to be perfect, prevents us from reaching our best. If we’re always aiming to be no less than perfect, then our darts never go anywhere, so we keep on missing the target and our perfectionism backfires on us. In pursuit of perfection, we become our own worst enemy. I see this a lot with professional models. No matter how beautiful, models are their own worst critics. Never feeling beautiful or good enough, their perpetual insecurities lead to destructive addictions like drug, alcohol, bolemia or anorexia. So, in our goal to be perfect, which we can never really achieve, we end up harming ourselves.
The main dysfunctional habit from perfectionism is over thinking. I recognized this right away with Vicky, which I mentioned in my correspondence with her, and she agreed. Rather than becoming pro-active, over thinking has a way of paralyzing us, so rather than taking action, we become passive. I told Vicky that over thinking by speculating whether a non-existent book would succeed does not help her goal to be a writer. I advised her that she would have the best chance at writing a compelling book by focusing on the present moment, because it is in the power of now that she can become authentic with her message. Over thinking prevents us from being in the present because we create endless “what if” scenarios in our minds, imagining every step, twist, and turns in a fictional future, which makes us feel overwhelmed, so the task of starting anything becomes too daunting. Over thinking becomes a paralyzing catalyst.
I know that when I start to over think, I can’t get anything done. One of the best ways to stop this pattern is by breaking away from my current activity. For example, if you find yourself over thinking while reading a book, then stop reading, leave your chair, and do something totally different, perhaps clean the house, walk your dog, go to the movies, etc. — whatever activity will stop that over thinking train. Another upshot of over thinking is that fear starts to creep in, which causes stress and paranoia. If you do not take that stress energy and release it in a constructive way, the energy becomes heightened in your over thinking, so you make the problem worse. For me, the best way to relieve stress is through exercise.
Another dysfunctional quality in perfectionism is controlling behavior. While the reality is that we never have any control over people or situations, our desire for perfection makes us try to control what is beyond our realm, causing stress because often times things do not go our “perfect” way. Any desire to control should be taken inwards, where you are managing your own thoughts, so you can respond to people or situations in a constructive manner. So be aware of whether you are trying to manipulate forces outside of yourself, and when you catch yourself doing it, then let it go and move forward in a productive direction. I assure you that letting go will bring an unexpected positive outcome.
Most destructive, perfectionism feeds our fear of failure, which is damaging to living our best life. The fear, which our ego loves, brings us to a place where we make bad decisions. I always tell people to make decisions based on confidence, not fear, because when you let the fear creep into your psyche, it makes you settle and become less than your best. So you might end up marrying the wrong person or taking a bad job, making choices that do not serve your true purpose and passion. Vicky’s fear that her book would not be perfect will only make her less of an author. And I know that she can be a great one. Deep inside Vicky also knows her own potential, but her fear makes her question her own talents. Like Vicky, a perfectionist wants to be perfect in what they do because it’s obviously a reflection of who they are, so it becomes hard for the “perfect” person to accept any kind of failure. It is necessary to accept and surrender to our “failures,” because while they may seem like “failures,” they are actually valuable lessons. It is only through the process of mistakes and failures that we have any chance of being perfect.
Regardless of what dysfunctional perfectionist mindset our egos feed us, the Universe has already made each and everyone of us perfect, so we do not need to strive for perfection by force, but rather accept that our natural core Being was perfectly designed by a higher power. So if we make a mistake or fail, everything will still be OK because we will always be that diamond with a flaw. Like all of us, Vicky, you are a flawed diamond, so get going with your book, because even if it’s not perfect, I know your book’s message will still shine its light on us. I look forward to reading it.
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living