Tag Archives: perfect

Are You a Recovering Perfectionist? — Part 2

by Kassandra Lamb

measuring and cutting grass with scissors

Cutting grass, perfectionist-style. (public domain, Wikimedia)

Last week, I talked about how perfectionists become that way. Today, the second installment:

Seven Steps to Recovery from Perfectionism

First, set your goal: You are going to perfectly break yourself of being a perfectionist. 😀

Second, acknowledge that perfect is not a good goal. Of course you know that nobody’s perfect at anything, much less everything! So why are you setting yourself up for failure with an impossible goal?

Third, make a list of the three to five most important roles (no more than five!) in your life, in which you want to do the best job possible. These are not in order of importance since they are all extremely important to you. Here’s my list:

I want to be the best possible:

  • Mother
  • Spouse
  • Friend
  • At my profession (psychotherapist, professor, author)

(See how well I’m doing this task! My list only has FOUR roles on it. 😉 )

Fourth, look at other, less important roles/tasks and actively give yourself permission to be just okay at them. It can help to make a list of these as well.

I’m okay with being a mediocre to good, but not a great:

  • Cook
  • Gardener
  • Housecleaner
  • Swimmer
  • Dancer
  • Seamstress

And the list goes on….

Then when you’re doing those tasks, and the results are less than perfect, say out loud: “That’s good enough! It’s just cooking (gardening, cleaning, etc.). It’s not that important.”

Fifth, go back to the important roles list, and acknowledge that you will NOT be perfect at these either. So set a realistic goal for each, based on what is truly important. And give yourself permission to be less than perfect, i.e. human, even in those roles. Again, here’s my list as an example:

  • Mother: Goal – My kid has a much better childhood than I did and is saner than I was coming into adulthood.
  • Spouse: Goal – Our relationship remains caring and we stay married, which is more than my parents accomplished.
  • Friend: Goal – I am a friend “in need.” I’m there for my friends when the chips are down.
  • Professionally: Goal – Most of my clients get saner (those who do their part); most of my students learn (those who do their part); my readers are entertained and enriched in some way by my books.

Sixth, let go of caring emotionally about what others think about your performance. (Have you notice these get tougher as we go along.) If you know you have done something well, then don’t let others’ criticism get under your skin. This doesn’t mean you ignore their feedback if you think it will help you do better. But the approach you need to take is: I did well, but changing this will make it even better.

Authors have to do this with reviews and feedback from editors and readers. Good, great and excellent are very subjective concepts. Some people are not going to like something you thought was pretty good, or they may suggest changes that don’t feel right to you. Consider the feedback of others, but ultimately trust your gut about what you think is good.

~ Why? Because you’re a freakin’ perfectionist! You’ve spent your whole life setting excruciatingly high standards. So if you think it’s “good,” it’s probably great! ~

Seventh, (by far the hardest of all, but well worth the effort) separate being from behavior. You are not a human doing! You are a human being, and you don’t have to be perfect, or even great, at ANYTHING AT ALL in order to be an okay person.

Feeling ashamed of yourself because you didn’t do something to a certain standard is counter-productive. If your self-worth is based on success at tasks, when your performance falls short, you will either give up or approach that task in the future with so much angst and trepidation that you won’t do much better.

But if you tell yourself, “I’m a good person, and I know I can do better than that,” then you will be motivated to pick yourself up and reapply yourself to the task, determined to improve. And your stomach won’t be tied in a knot of shame while you’re at it!

So in the interest of doing things the best you possibly can, you CANNOT let failure at a task undermine your sense of worth as a person! 🙂

My guess is if you are reading this post, then you or someone you know is a perfectionist. Do you have any other helpful hints for overcoming perfectionism?

P.S. Please check out my new release, Cruel Capers on the Caribbean (cover to the right). Just $1.99 on AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, KOBO, & APPLE. (It’s not perfect but it’s as close as I could get it. 😉 )

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Hi, I’m Kass, and I’m a Recovering Perfectionist

by Kassandra Lamb

Perfect is the enemy of good – Voltaire

In a recent guest post over at Pirkko Rytkonen’s blog, I was talking about why it is hard to change our beliefs about ourselves, i.e., our self-esteem. I brought up the issue of perfectionism there, and promised to write more about it soon. Soon has arrived.

This is a big topic so I’m going to break it into two posts, one this week (how perfectionism comes to be) and one next week (what to do about it).

I plugged “perfection” into the search engine over at Wikimedia Commons. I got 1,453 results. Ninety percent of them were pictures of Mother Nature strutting her stuff. Here’s one of the ten percent. Perfectionism is not a new thing. Here’s how you can have the perfect waistline, ladies.

old ad for a corset

Nope! Not willing to wear this! (U.S. public domain; copyright expired)

So how do we become perfectionists?

Perfectionists are made, not born. There are three ways we can be shaped in that direction (Note–these are not mutually exclusive; they often go hand-in-hand):

1) We had perfectionistic parents whom we modeled.
My heartfelt apologies to my son. I will never forget the day that he was helping us get our house ready for sale so we could downsize in retirement. He was twenty-two.

He and I were painting window frames on the back of the house when he paused and laughed. “Ma, I love working along side you because you’re the only person I know who’s more obsessed with perfection than I am.” I faked a laugh back but his well-meaning comment stabbed my heart. Even though he wasn’t quite as obsessive, I had passed along my too-high standards to him.

The next time I got a little paint on the cement around the window, I made myself leave it there.

2) We have poor self-worth.
We did not feel unconditionally loved as a worthwhile human being growing up, or were perhaps actively put down as worthless by someone we cared about, who’s opinion therefore helped shape our views of ourselves.

So we end up feeling like we can never be good enough. Now some kids give up at this point and become “underachievers” (I’ve received a request to discuss underachieving as well; yet another post to come.)

Others try to prove their worth by being perfect. They become little “human doings” as the psychologist, John Bradshaw, dubbed this phenomenon. Believing that if they can just do things absolutely right they will then be accepted as an okay person, they strive for perfection in every area of their lives.

3) We have poor self-confidence.
This sounds like the same thing as above, but it is subtly different. Many people may have both poor self-worth and poor self-confidence. But some folks may feel loved by their parents and other people in their lives–so their basic self-worth is good–but they were held to too critical a standard for their achievements, leaving them with poor self-confidence.

As a teenager, my self-worth wasn’t all that bad. I sensed that my mother loved me, and I knew my brother and grandmother did. Sadly, it didn’t even cross my mind to consider if my father loved me–he was that emotionally distant from us kids. He almost never played with us or helped us with a project. Which turned out to be a good thing, because the man was 100% incapable of saying “Good job.” (BTW, he came by all this honestly from his own childhood.)

I was always an A student–that was where my perfectionism was most fully displayed–but the best I could usually muster in Physical Education was a C. Every report card, my mother praised me for my good grades. And my father said, “You need to bring that C up.”

image of JFK's report card -- average C+

JFK’s 1930 report card — NARA (via Wikimedia–public domain)



Wish I’d known then that the President of the United States was just a C+ student! (Yes, I am that old; JFK was President when I was a kid!)





So what can we do about being too perfectionistic? This is a tough task, but if you stick with it and work very hard, you can achieve it.

~ ~ And if there is one thing perfectionists are good at, it’s working hard! ~ ~

Stay tuned! Next week, the seven steps to overcoming perfectionism, perfectly! 😉

Note: One area where I let my inner perfectionist have a bit more free rein is in my writing. Thus it takes me awhile to get a new release out. So in the meantime, here’s a new novella in the Kate on Vacation series — to tide folks over until the next full-length novel is ready.

Check it out below. Then talk to me in the comments. Are you a recovering perfectionist like me, or did you manage to dodge the perfectionism bullet?

Cruel Capers on the Caribbean cover

Trouble seems to find Kate Huntington, even on a Caribbean cruise. She and her friend, Liz, befriend socialite Cora Beall, who is having relationship problems. When Cora is found dead, her cabin locked from the inside, the ship’s captain assumes it’s a suicide.

Kate is skeptical. Her private detective husband begs her to let it go, but the evidence points more and more toward murder. And she can’t stop thinking about Cora’s teenage daughter who is back in the States with her stepfather. Which is worse, thinking your mother committed suicide or being raised by her killer? Or is Cora’s seemingly-innocent, screenwriter boyfriend the real murderer?

And the toughest question of all… how did Cora’s killer get out of a locked room?

Just $1.99 on  AMAZONBARNES & NOBLE,   KOBO,  &  APPLE.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )