[I]’ve written this post 1,000 times in my mind. Turned it over and over. Toyed with it. Picked it up and set it back down.
The site redesign isn’t finished, don’t want to make people come visit and see all the flaws.
Been away for too long to just post any old thing.
It’s not good enough.
Who the hell am I again?
What the hell am I actually doing?
I’ve asked myself the last two questions with an obsessive bone grinding repetitiveness the past five months. When I wake up it starts. Any moment of down time. And then gnawing against my insides as I move through the evening. Only sleep has brought relief from it’s prodding unanswered tension.
I still don’t have a complete answer. I’ve waited….and there wasn’t a singular mind blowing realization, a break through article, a person who I met that really changed things, or a parting of the clouds where a very bearded God pulls back the clouds and tells me what to do like he does for King Arthur in Monty Python. Damn.
I burnt out on this whole being a wife and mom to two little kids while simultaneously working from home gig (AKA being “on” all the time) in December. Hard. I could barely bring myself to cook let alone consider taking pictures of my food. The neighbors were legitimately worried about me. Kevin had to shake me out of my heap to get me to help him make Christmas fun for the kids.
So I pulled back. I redesigned the site (for the entire 5 months). I joined a gym. I played with the kids. I cleaned the house (sometimes). And I did some painfully deep soul work.
In my quiet times I’ve come to the realization that I have been struggling for years with deep deep perfectionism. And not the cute kind that you pause and wax romantically about in a job interview.
The kind that is so pervasive in every moment of every day that it stifles you from action, prevents you from trying things you are bad at, and beats you when you “fail” so hard that you swear you will never try again….until you do of course. Complete with in depth plans and spreadsheets so you will never ever fall off the bandwagon again.
Ironically, if you came to my house or talked to my husband you might not pick that as the most likely ailment.
I haven’t ever managed to consistently exercise more than a few weeks in a row, or keep the house reliably clean, or make sure dinner is on the table every day at 5 p.m sharp. My kids are usually running amuck with mud (or most likely food) in their hair, the outside of our house is in need of landscaping and cleaning, and my blog can go up to a few weeks without posting when I have a particularly bad round with this beast.
Perfectionism is fascinating in the fact that it can manifest itself in extreme results oriented actions or through equally extreme procrastination. For most people it’s a combination of the two and it’s often cyclical.
In these past 5 months I have faced the voices of self hate and perfectionism head on and I have learned a lot about overcoming them. I hope you find my thoughts helpful and I’d love to hear yours in the comments.
How To Overcome Perfectionism
(Hint: It’s A Journey Not A To-Do You Can Check Off Your List)
Recognize that self hate and perfectionism are voices that are separate from who you really are.
I realized that I had listened to self-hate and perfectionism for so long that I literally believed that it was my own voice and mind.
Almost every continual running thought pattern I mentioned at the start of this article is the voice of perfectionism and self hate.
I don’t care who you are and what religion you believe in, you need to read this book: There Is Nothing Wrong With You. It changed my life and exposed so many things about these two voices and how to overcome them.
Stop allowing yourself to be beaten
Self hate and perfectionism work hand in hand, always. Perfectionism drives you past the point of exhaustion to breaking and then self hate beats you while you are down.
Stop listening to the drives to push yourself past your point. And then stop taking the beatings. Just tell them to stop and then…stop listening.
When you start listening to the recording break yourself out of the routine. Slap your hand, do ten jumping jacks, turn on a song and dance around the kitchen. Do something to break the cycle.
Accept yourself exactly as you are….right now.
Can you? Or does something on the inside of you want to turn yourself inside out with the gut wrenching sensation that the thought brought on?
Did you know there is really nothing wrong with you?
Did you know that the only way to stop this cycle is to accept yourself right where you are?
That the longer you keep focusing on all your “flaws” and “failures” the longer you will perpetuate them?
When I just stopped believing that there was something so inherently flawed with who I am and stopped trying so hard to fix myself and everything around me…there was finally enough room to start truly loving myself.
Accepting yourself where you are does not mean that you can’t grow and improve. It means to not only be content. Here. Now. But to love and embrace the here and now in all its messiness.
Love yourself actively
You are precious. And worth taking care of.
Ask yourself at each possible moment, “what is the most truly loving thing I can do for myself right now?”
Is your body aching for movement? Do your muscles hurt and need to be stretched or massaged or soaked in a tub of epsom salts? Does your partner or home or children need your time? Can you love yourself through creating a wonderful relaxing home environment? Or is the truly loving thing to recognize that you need to stop working on creating the “perfect home”?
Would you love to have another client or a new job? What step can you take right now to care for yourself?
Loving yourself means doing the things that care for you and your life…not just indulging in chocolate.
Be quiet enough to recognize what is truly loving yourself and what is actually self-hate wanting to tear you down. At first it can be difficult to recognize if you truly want a bit of indulgence or if you are using it to escape what is happening.
If you do indulge….enjoy it!
Lick the spoon clean, relax in the tub, workout hard. Don’t allow self hate to beat you up while you are doing the very thing you were wanting.
Focus on the beauty around you
I read a parable recently about a girl who came to a Zen monastery to learn. She was assigned to care for the garden. For years she cared for it, quite well, and was soon known throughout the town for her beautiful garden. After several years she came to the Zen master and pleaded with him for a new job. “It’s never ending!” she complained. “The weeds grow up and ruin the flower beds. The flowers die and have to be replanted. I finish it and immediately there is more work to be done. It’s a thankless joyless job.”
The master did not relieve her of her task. But came by her garden after a few weeks to check on her. He found her in the garden singing to the flowers, a large pile of weeds next to her.
The master questioned her on what had changed. She smiled and said, “I decided to just enjoy the flowers and plants in my garden. When I come across a weed I don’t get angry anymore. I just smile and set it aside where it belongs. And keep enjoying the beauty that is here.”
Accept the season you are in
Through these past few months I’ve had great eureka! moments of deciding on career shifts and aspirations to really “make it happen”. Only to realize at the end of the day when I hold one smooshy cuddly boy and one wiry wiggly boy in my lap to read a bedtime story and the reality of my exhaustion hits…that they aren’t all the right paths to take….at least not for right now.
Don’t fight so hard to make something happen when it is the wrong season. It doesn’t mean that the season won’t come. Find ways to make the season you are in joyous and exciting. Ask the question: “what can I do in this season that will help me move forward towards this goal?”
Then go do that.
Keep doing things you “fail” at
“Only something that is not supportive of you would want you to take a break from what takes care of you.” -Quote from There Is Nothing Wrong With You
Perfectionism will tell you that things that you try at and fail at, are things that you can’t, shouldn’t or “don’t want” to keep doing. Do them anyways if you honestly do like them or want to be successful at them.
My biggest struggle is just to show up to things I feel I am failing in. For me it’s the consistent things.
Going to the gym. Keeping the house clean. Going grocery shopping.
Find your struggle point and focus on how you can set yourself up for success there. And begin to view these things as ways to love yourself and your family instead of things to dread.
Focus on progress not completion
You may not have the time or energy to finish everything you start. Don’t just put something off because you can’t finish it. 15 minutes of cleaning up the kitchen is valuable even if the whole kitchen hasn’t been deep cleaned.
A 10 minute walk may not be a 60 minute aerobics class but it’s better than sitting on the couch!
Baby steps and a timer set for 15 or 30 minutes is a powerful motivator to just do something when you feel stuck.
You will (if you are listening to perfectionism) “fail” and when you do remember:
You can always, always, always start again.
It’s never too late.
No effort is a failure. Through it you learn new ways and can try other ways.
You can do this.
You are strong enough.
You aren’t expected to be perfect.
You will get back up and try again.
It’s okay to be the worst as long as you just show up and try your best.
Stop Calling Yourself a “Perfectionist” or a “Workaholic” or “Driven” or “Type A Personality”
Unless you enjoy the pains that come from being beaten by self hate and perfectionism, stop identifying yourself with these phrases. The world has glamorized this into an acceptable and desirable trait. It’s not.
Choose to identify with phrases like committed, dedicated, growing, passionate, balanced, happy and pursuing excellence.
Find a community to support you
Find people who will help encourage you in this. Join us on social media if you like in posting images with the hashtag #killingperfectionism and we can celebrate progress together.
Something that I have struggled with forever is posting any images of myself where I don’t look perfect.
Too fat, too many flyways, too this/that/the other thing.
These are some behind the scenes that were taken during our big Thanksgiving shoot this past fall. Here is to progress!
The biggest difference I can tell you about today is that for once in my life…I’m finally happy to just be here, now.
To share glorious delicious food with you. And to be honest with you about the realities of this real beautiful messy life that I am blessed to live everyday.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and wisdom on this in the comments. Here is to keeping our eyes off our feet and finally having fun at it!
34 thoughts on “How To Overcome Perfectionism & Self Hate”
Great, helpful article. But, you have too many ads on your site. It’s distracting and hard to read your work by the constant bombardment of ads. I’d like to read more of your work and understand this is how you generate revenue but it’s off putting as your audience.
Thanks for your note! Can you please let me know which ads you found intrusive? We try very hard to keep the site easy to read and work hard with our ad providers to provide a good experience. Please let me know, and let me know what platform you are viewing the site on (mobile phone/tablet/computer etc) you may have been being hit by rogue ads that aren’t supposed to be displaying.
Thanks Dani for sharing your story. You got me very motivated to read the book. Best wishes for your quest to end perfection.
Thank you for your sweet comment Ka Pauw! It’s a fantastic book. <3 <3
You have made me cry….thank you for this post. I thought I am all alone with my feelings. Thank you 🙂
((Hugs)) Never alone!
I so badly needed to read this article today. Thank you, Dani. Seriously, Thank you.
Love you!! So glad it was timely for you today
It’s so interesting that you published this post because I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think it’s because I came to the same conclusion about myself recently. I’m a perfectionist. And not the healthy “do it till it’s perfect” perfectionist. I think that would have clued me in a little sooner if that was the case. You know? If everything around the house was perfect or if I spent hours on hours on minute things to make them perfect happened, then I would KNOW I was a perfectionist. I think I’m the sneaking kind of perfectionist. The kind who doesn’t DO certain things because she wants to do it perfectly or not at all. Or the kind of stays in her comfort zone too much because she’s afraid of trying something and not being good, great or perfect at it. The kind who wants a perfect house and sometimes doesn’t even put the laundry away because it’s just going to get messy again anyway. Should I go on? I could, but maybe we can just leave it at that. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for this post. I love it. Just exactly what I needed to read today!
Yes Marly! It’s a sneaky thing isn’t it? So glad to know there are others who get it.
When you risk being transparent in your writing, it is always incredibly beautiful stirring the heart strings of many.
Remember to be gentle on yourself! You are loved. You are just a girl, incredible for sure, but just a girl.
This is great! And so wonderful for you to post! I struggle with the same things! I ran away to Alaska to bartend a few years ago when I had the crushing realization I couldn’t be perfect or the best. And I really started to accept my imperfect, messy, ridiculous self. It totally is cyclical and is always worse in winter for me. Then I get to a point where I accept it too much and have to listen to the voice that says, you don’t love a messy house. So I pick one thing that day to clean. But no guilt if i don’t do the next thing for a few more days. Lately I’ve found I just celebrate the little things I did do, and when I’m paralyzed and can’t get out of bed or off the couch, I just ask, what do you actually want? What is going to feel better in the end?
This is great timing, because I am definitely working with this every day. I want to apply for grad school, but i just froze myself because my inner perfectionist was saying, “What if this isn’t the right degree, or the right school, or the right time? What if you are too rusty and don’t get a 4.0?” But I can’t know any of that! I’ve just got to do it.
Wow, Dani. Just wow. Having met you, I wouldn’t think you would feel self-hate. You are so lovely and friendly and sweet. THAT is what you have to accept. One thing I realized long ago was to judge my self-worth by the people who love me. I would often look around and think “you are so awesome and you like ME when I am not nearly so awesome?”. And then it hit…I had to have a bit of that awesomeness if someone I liked that much liked me back. If that makes ANY sense at all.
And I like you and I am at least a little bit awesome, which I only know because some pretty awesome people like me back. So that means you are a little bit awesome (or pretty freakin’ awesome!) too. 🙂
And we should get together sometime and bask in our awesomeness, fellow Oregonian.
Aww thanks Carolyn. And I love your way of thinking!
Absolutely on hanging out soon! Let’s make some plans at Indulge 🙂
Thank you! I have been coming to terms with the fact that I am a perfectionist for the past 10 years. But I have never read anything that hits home so hard.
I am working on letting go – now I have some direction to my journey, thanks to you.
Thank you so much for your comment Pattie. I am so glad that you are here and that this was meaningful to you. We are all in this together and I’m thrilled that you are moving forward.
Awesome insights!, but most of all I am so happy for your breakthrough and peace!!
Love you sweet Bridget!
It is so brave of you to put this out there. As a fellow perfectionist who sometimes (often) gets paralyzed by perfectionism, I know where you are coming from. Some days I just want to throw in the towel because I feel like I’m not as good as other bloggers and not good enough for my own expectations. I might need to check out that book!
Thank you for your sweet comment Brianne. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who can identify with this. It’s a very very good book and I reread it or parts of it when I’m struggling.
Words can’t begin to describe how much I needed/got from this. Thank you so much.
Oh Anna girl. Love you! Grateful that you are in my life <3
Dani – I’m so glad we have connected on-line. In the little bits I have gotten to know you I feel like we are moving step for step through our current life season. I identified with so many parts of this post I feel like you are telling my story too. In fact, I think you are telling many women’s stories. Thank you for your honesty.
I especially loved your command to truly enjoy the things you enjoy. Licking the spoon is indeed one of life’s greatest pleasures and it should always be done with joy.
Rose I’m so glad too! I just love how we have been able to connect and support each other. This is a trying season managing it all and growing but one I wouldn’t change for anything.
So glad you are here.
Dani – you are amazing and I thank you for sharing this today! I have that nasty procrastination monster/perfectionist/controlfreak/workaholic tendency and lately it’s been paralyzing. Reading this brought some things to the forefront that I need to work on, including a project I have not launched because it’s “not perfect” and this might be the stiletto kick I need. Thank you again!
You are amazing too Aly! Thank you so much for your comment and I can’t wait to see your new project!
Beautifully said and elequontly necessary. So many, many, MANY people need this one. Your blog is always helpful, but I think this post more so than any other! Thank you for having the courage to use your gifts Dani.
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Nicole, it means the world to me. It’s hard to talk about the hard things but I am so grateful and overwhelmed with everyone’s kindness and grateful it is helping others.
Lovely post! I can totally relate to letting the perfectionism and self hate beast roar its ugly little head, especially in this blogging world, so I loved how you put this all together and how you shared strategies to overcoming it. All around lovely 🙂
Thank you so much for commenting Phi! Love you girl!
I totally love this. I just wrote a post about trying to work on loving me. It’s freakin hard sometimes but I’m trying. I love this part, “Accepting yourself where you are does not mean that you can’t grow and improve. It means to not only be content. Here. Now. But to love and embrace the here and now in all its messiness.” — HUGS! I needed to read this today and be reminded again. <3
HUGS! Thank you so much Angie, I am grateful to have you and all the amazing women we blog alongside as my friends in this journey.
Amen! Great post Dani!
Thank you Suelynn!