As a recovering perfectionist I will tell you that right now as I sit here and write this blog, my old addiction is trying to rear its ugly little head. So far, my beginning thoughts have been, wait... whats the perfect title? Am I saying it in a way that everyone will understand? I shouldn't be too spiritual but then again I want to say it in a way that feels right to me. Finally as I sat there all night and then picked it back up this morning, I decided to start over completely.
The reality is that perfectionism can totally block us from sharing, expressing and being who we truly are. It can rob us of our dreams and sabotage our relationships. This has been the case for me a lot of my life until I traded in perfectionism for authenticity. Yes it still trips me up from time to time as you have just seen above. But it doesn't win anymore, nowadays my authentic truth wins. The reality is that when I admit it and out my perfectionism, it no longer has power or control over me. Sounds like one of the 12 steps in a 12-step program, and in many ways it is.
In my experience, perfectionism has been a real addiction. My striving for perfection became apparent when I was only 7 years old. I made it my mission to color in every little circle on the Iowa basics test perfectly. I took so long making sure I didn't go outside the lines that I didn't even finish the test on time. When I was 15 years old that perfectionism was taken to a new level when I got my first modeling contract. I was headed to Osaka, Japan in a month and I needed to be "perfect." Even though the agency already gave me the contract, I needed to make sure I made no mistake that could mess it up. That month before I left I ate how I thought a model should eat, weighed what a model should weigh and did all the things I thought a model should do to prepare for my first big job.
Guess what? When I arrived in Japan a month later I had lost 20 pounds on my already very thin frame and also lost my contract. My agent sent me home with concern and confusion. How could this girl who was accepted by every client in a very specific modeling market not even accept herself? I got home and I was perplexed. I had done everything I thought I needed to do to ensure that I wouldn't be rejected and here I was completely rejected.
Those of us who deal with perfectionism tend to live according to our idealized needs over our real needs. But where did this come from? After years of applying this pattern of perfectionism to my relationships, body image, career aspirations and financial expectations I was forced to wake up! My wake up call came in the form of being completely unhappy and stressed out to the max. It is a lot of pressure to need to always get things right! I remember looking at myself in the mirror and saying "what the..."
Addiction to perfection is another way of saying we are doing whatever we can to prevent rejection. But why is rejection so painful? What is it about us that becomes so resistant to that experience? When we are really young we truly need the love and approval of our parents so that we can survive. This measure of approval becomes our safety and security. Eventually our identity, how lovable and good we are is also created around that approval. So why don't we learn about our true worth? Why do some people never outgrow that need for external approval? In my opinion it is because we never look deeper. So many of us just accept this old story without checking into it with our own opinion.
After years of feeling like my sense of self was being threatened over and over again I decided to look this fear directly in the face. Instead of allowing my fear of rejection to run the show, I decided to do something different. The next time that feeling came forward I sat there and I felt it. I allowed that scary feeling to come up in my body and I listened to what it said to me. It said that I wasn't good enough, I did something wrong, and there might be something wrong with me. This is a very common theme for people with approval patterns. So I heard all of these thoughts and I looked deeper. I asked myself, do I agree with these statements or have I just accepted them as truth? Do I approve of myself or am I just going to go along with this very old and outdated story?
The interesting thing is that we always have a choice. We have a choice if we will still love ourselves regardless of who else does. We have such an opportunity in these instances to practice "unconditional self love." When we ask ourselves these deeper questions, we can discover our inner authority. This inner authority is our inner guidance, our inner voice. It is always loving, we just never give it the power it deserves.
I encourage you to look at all the times you felt rejected in life. Was your pain a result of the rejection of others? Or was it the pain you experienced when you agreed with it? When you decide to LOVE and APPROVE of yourself regardless of others, you come into that unconditionality that we all want. You can give that to yourself! The approval you really need is your own.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.