I used to tell myself that I was “just” an overachiever who was hardwired to work hard. None of that was true. None of it was natural. None of it was healthy.
I worked myself to the point of exhaustion to be perfect so that I could feel good about myself. The problem was that I never stopped working because I never attained the perfectionism I sought. External validation offers a hit of dopamine that lasts until the next task arrives (and it usually arrives pretty quickly). I had no idea that I was embroiled in a perfectionist cycle of my own making that I learned through gender norms and my own life experiences.
Here’s a short list of familiar perfectionist lies and their underlying meanings:
“I’m just trying to be a good ___(woman, mother, spouse, friend, worker).”
It’s my job to take care of everyone and put aside my needs to prove how much I care. I can feel like I have temporary control of a situation or person if I work hard and please people around me.
“I like getting A’s.”
Anything below an A is a failure which means that I’m a failure. I’ll feel worthy when I can achieve external validation to prove that I’m smart.
“I’m just a social butterfly.”
I need to show up at every event or I won’t know what’s going on. I can feel safe if I have information and if people like me.
“I don’t have time to relax.”
I’m not worthy if I’m not working. My value is reflected in what I produce. I won’t produce if I take a break and that means that I won’t feel valuable. It’s dangerous to relax because I won’t be on high alert to spot the next danger.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Let me stop you before your brain kicks into high gear shaming (another perfectionist habit). You’re not alone because this is how perfectionism works within white supremacy culture. We may not be immune to this toxic messaging, but we can choose something different for ourselves. I can help because I’ve been there. Sign up on my site for a discovery call and we’ll talk about how coaching can help you disrupt the perfectionism cycle.