Goodbye Perfectionism: I'm Done With The Anxiety You Bring
Why breaking up with perfectionism may be your best move ever
Posted Nov 30, 2015
This isn't easy for me. We've been together forever -- since third grade to be exact. I've been practicing how I can put this, and I realize there's no easy way to do this.
You and I have had a tumultuous relationship from the start.
I thought since we were introduced by seemingly trustworthy sources, like teachers, parents, coaches and friends, that you would be a good companion, but none of us knew at the time just how damaging a long-term relationship with you would be. I think we all mistook you for excellence or conscientiousness. But, you found a way to sink your teeth in, and have infiltrated far too many areas of my life.
At first, the thought of being everything to everyone was appealing. I always tried to look and act my best around you, so you wouldn't think less of me or tell everyone about my shortcomings.
And those adrenaline rushes have been almost too powerful to let go of.
Believe me, you taught me a lot and gave me the impetus to reach a lot of goals, but then I realized the more I scratched the itch, the worse it became. The highs from all those benders were incredibly addictive.
I started to rely heavily on bystanders who touted my performance, and you told me that their opinions mattered. I believed this for quite some time, even enough to stop listening to my gut instincts that this wasn't the way to go.
Sometimes you pushed me so far that I felt anxious, overwhelmed and like I could never measure up. You have pressured me incessantly, and baited me into endless thinking and emotional traps that have brought on far too much stress and self-sabotage.
You have berated me, undermined my wisdom and sold me many lies, yet the allure of being seen as perfect kept me coming back for more.
I've seen you do a number on my friends and family. In your company, they try with all their might, in true heroic fashion, only to be met with your sharp criticisms and indifference to their tremendous beauty and strength. You never seem to appreciate the good in any of us. Instead, you always manage to find that one thing we didn't do well, and then proceed to rip us apart. You are consistent in this, and you never let up. You have no business making people feel so ashamed.
You pit people against each other, getting us to compete to the point of jealousy, conflict and aggression. You sidetrack us from what really matters, and we turn against each other. Did you ever stop to think we are living in a time when, more than ever, we need extra kindness and less judgment? There's enough chaos going on, and we don't need you adding fuel to the fire.
My students, and those I serve have been put through the ringer by you. I realized if I stayed in a relationship with you, it may prevent them from finding the courage to find a different path too. So, I decided to speak out against you publicly. Maybe doing so will help us see you for what you really are and finally say farewell to you once and for all. At first I was scared, but then something important changed.
As I milled over this decision, I met some new friends who are much more easy-going: self-acceptance, self-compassion and authenticity. They've taught me that life is not about performance, or being perfect. They really like me for who I am, not what I do. It turns out that they think all that perfect business is fake, contrived, and pretty annoying, too. They don't care about my GPA, performance reviews or any of my accomplishments. They love it when I am happy, and being myself, without worry of rejection or scrutiny. It doesn't matter to them how I look or what I do, and they don't listen to the peanut gallery prescriptions out there about that, either. They make fun of the media messages supporting your cause.
We laugh about our flaws, coach each other through tough moments, and embrace our humanity. We don't worry what people think nearly as much. This leaves us room to focus on what's really important: our relationships, health and life purpose.
It's time to say goodbye so that I don't succumb to your pressure to jump into another anxiety jolting frenzy. Life is short. There's no time to waste. You've held me hostage with your head games way too long.
The letting go process won't be easy. There are many memories we've shared. We've spent endless nights ruminating together, concocting all kinds of schemes for success that in the end left me only temporarily satisfied. I know you won't go down without a fight, and even though your pleas for me to take you back may be convincing, I won't budge. I really like the new me, and we really don't have anything in common anymore, anyway.
I hope you understand that this breakup is because of you, not me. You've crossed the line too many times. I want to be healthy, and live in peace. There's no room for me to let you get in the way of my happiness for even one more second. It's officially over. I know I will not only survive without you, but thrive.
By the way, I'm already having much more fun without you by my side.
Kris, a recovering perfectionist
Kristen Lee, EdD, LICSW, known as "Dr. Kris", is an award-winning behavioral therapist, professor, and the author of Reset: Make the Most of Your Stress, named Motivational Book of 2015 and Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking. She speaks to audiences across the globe on navigating stress and anxiety, and advocating for improved individual and collective mental health. #onlywe