Less Perfectionism, 'Cause I Wanna Rock
In March of this year, I had my first public speaking gig in a LONG time. I worried about everything from technical glitches to passing out.
Needless to say, I spent many hours in preparation for my presentation.
And the hours of rehearsing paid off. Not only did the presentation go well, I also had fun.
But when the talk was done … I didn’t spring into celebration.
I realized that day that I have a hard time commending myself for a job well done.
The standards I set for myself were so high, they became undefinable and out of reach. It was an impossible win.
Do you celebrate others’ successes, but find it difficult celebrate your own?
Do you have realistic expectations of others, while maintaining impossibly high standards for yourself?
Or maybe you skip over any celebration altogether, moving on to the next thing.
If so, I identify with you as a fellow perfectionist.
Perfectionists are hardworking and overachieving, often with an impressively long list of accomplishments. We like to wear our perfectionism as a badge of honor. It drives our high performance, after all.
But perfectionism is misunderstood— for working harder and better will never afford us the self-worth that we attach to our achievements.
Ultimately, perfectionism limits our full potential.
You see, perfectionism isn’t about striving for excellence. Rather, it’s rooted in a deep fear of Not Enoughness.
So how can we create more meaning and a greater sense of worthiness in our lives?
Luckily, brain science offers some important clues.
When it comes to our individual experiences, the brain acts like a scorekeeper, ranking our individual experiences on a perceived value scale. Over time, the score manifests as our overall level of wellbeing.
Interestingly, a perfectionist’s brain tends to underscore most experiences, so our brain’s value bank (derived from cumulative scored experiences) tends to remain low (or empty).
Here is the irony—despite our wondrous accomplishments, the brain fails to allocate the value and significance that they deserve.
When our value banks are slow to build, we miss out on a greater sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
What now? Well, to begin feeling better about our lives, we can start by teaching our brains how to derive more value from our unique experiences.
Greater values in the brain bank can lead to an improved sense of wellbeing. We create less self-doubt, a quieter inner critic, improved confidence, and greater clarity about how we are being called to live.
Training the mind to notice and appreciate the simpler things in life allows us to derive more value from everyday goodness in our lives. Even seemingly trivial experiences—a good meal, time spent with those we love, a good conversation—grow our mind’s value bank.
These smaller, more frequent deposits in the value bank also alleviate some of the pressure we experience.
When we rely solely on bigger (and less frequent) milestones for affirmed worthiness, we endure longer periods of negative emotions such as disappointment and Not Enoughness.
A second mental shift we can make is by adopting score-keeping equity. We can learn to score our own wins, no matter how big or small, as highly as we would the wins of another.
Admittedly, changing our brain’s evaluation system takes time and practice. But over time, we’ll cultivate a deeper appreciation of our relationships, accomplishments, and personal growth.
I’m learning to trust myself as my value bank grows. It makes all the difference in how I live and learn from my experiences.
Are you ready to start teaching your brain to see your life’s goodness? If so, I can help you with that.
As always, I’m with you on the journey.