This is a question I get asked a lot. It might sound different, for example,
“I don’t have bad self-talk so why do I always feel under pressure?” or
“Why do I never feel I quite achieve what I want to?”
or the classic,
“I’m not a perfectionist, I just have high standards.”
(Notice that’s a clear statement – not even a question!)
Some of us just know that we have more in us than we seem to be able to show at the moment; you know that you are are better than “this”; your memory used to be brilliant, but now you just can’t quite remember names or details; you used to get more done in the day and still felt full of energy – now you just are lie in bed so tired that you can’t sleep and thinking about how much you could have done, if only…?
We know we can do more, be more, and help more people. But right now, we just can’t seem to get there, however hard we try.
This mild frustration or feeling low (perhaps even to the point of anger, depression or anxiety); these feelings of inadequacy are the result of you holding yourself to your high standards; your ideals; without understanding that other circumstances in your world have changed, and they have impacted your current ability to do what you know you are capable of.
For me, it was the years of chronic stress that debilitated my digestive system and impacted on my mental state. When I was 12 my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Whilst he came close to dying many times, in fact his illness took another 20 years to actually be terminal. My teens were dominated by his illness and the impact it had on our family. Even when I went to work and live in another city I would feel guilt if I entertained an idea about spending Christmas elsewhere – “this might be the last one he’s here” was my constant thought – “this could be the last birthday, the last this, the last that.” FOR 20 YEARS.
I had no idea that this was actually a much deeper issue for me. No idea that stress was constantly dragging me down. No idea that I wasn’t taking real control of my health. No idea that my thoughts could free me. Because that was just too far away. I had always been independent and wanted to get on with life – but that situation when I was 12 pushed me into an unhealthy independence. On the outside I looked fine – a little overweight, maybe – but I had good jobs, a lively social life and eventually my own house. But the inside – well, it’s only now I realize that I stayed a little girl looking for protection deep inside for many, many more years than is necessary.
In all my performance development reviews I did better than okay – but rarely as good as I thought I could do. Maybe because I saw things a little differently than most; sometimes because I’d reached the limits of that particular job; probably because I was unconsciously trying to prove how capable I was but I didn’t quite have the insight to put the cherry on the cake; but mostly because I was trying to fit in a world that didn’t quite have space for me. I was always supporting others; encouraging them to be the potential that I could see in them and cheering them as they progressed – but when I looked at me, I just felt disappointment. It wasn’t even that I thought “if only this, or that” it was simply disappointment – I couldn’t even fill in the why or the what.
So, eventually, after hearing many people; people who loved me and people who worked with me and people who knew me; reflecting time and time again;
“You’re a bit of a perfectionist” (Don’t you love that statement?!)
“Why do you hold yourself to such high standards?”
“What would make you satisfied? You’re so close, isn’t it enough?”
“You work so hard!” “How do you keep going?” “Where’s your life balance?”
After hearing these kinds of thoughts repeatedly over years and years, I started to try not to say to myself “What do they know?” “They’re not me.” “Can’t they see how much more I could be?” Instead, I rolled around different thoughts “Why do they think that?” Or one that kept me trapped for years even though I didn’t realise it at the time; “I have high standards because then I’ll always achieve something good enough” – kept me trapped because, of course, it never was good enough!
To this day I still have high standards – whether that’s nature or nurture, I might never know, and I really don’t need to know. What I do know is that I notice when I trigger a certain point (there are several), and if I miss them, my husband lovingly supports me so then I take action. The action might be to step back and review what I’m aiming for and reflect on what I’ve already achieved; or it might be to go out with a close friend; or have a long soak in the bath with gorgeous products (I’m the Neom Lifestyle Coach – which IS my idea of perfection!) The key point is that I accept that I am a perfectionist when I feel that things are getting out of my control and when I’m in control of my thoughts and my feelings and myself, funnily enough I’m less of one – but my standards might always be higher than others. That’s okay; so long as I look after myself in balance.
So, in short, if you are repeatedly hearing that you are a perfectionist, have high standards or ideals and you don’t understand why. Take a step back and see if you can work out what’s really happening a little sooner than I did.
If you want a bit of help, just reach out to me because I’ve become an expert in helping people realise why, and, much more importantly, what you can do about it.
Your partner in wellbeing,
Core Sense Ltd: Wellbeing for you, your family, your business
0845 643 9668