Striving to be perfect is a learned behavior based on an addiction to approval. Perfectionism is all about analyzing what you contribute or achieve and believing it isn’t good enough.
Perfectionism is a strategy to feed the addiction to approval.
Why is that? Not because it really is not good enough, but because of your addiction to getting approval you must make sure to gain that approval. You know for yourself who that person is who seems to have the power to make you feel good or bad about yourself, right?
Do you recognize yourself in this vicious circle of perfectionism?
Don’t worry, that’s what my life looked like. Everything had to be as perfect as possible. I had to have a career; I had to get married, start a family on time, and be a perfect mother. I had to do all of this . . .
But from whom actually? And for whom? What is your (unfinished) business with that person?
Looking for Perfection
In my early thirties, I wanted to be the best bassoonist and graduate successfully from the conservatory. So, that is what I did. I worked hard, practicing all the time. Soon, I was a valued musician. But, sadly, I still wasn’t good enough as a human being in my mother’s eyes, as a daughter, as a spouse, as a mother. There was so much criticism all the time.
That made me feel like I wasn’t good enough either. I developed a negative belief system about myself and choose to work hard to refute it. I was going to be a perfect daughter, mother, spouse, musician.
Not much later, I met a nice, charming man. We got married, had two beautiful daughters, and traveled worldwide. We lived a rich life, yet there was still that urge for perfection. I had become a perfectionist and nothing I did was ever good enough in my eyes. But my attempts ate up all my time. My fear to not be able to realize my plan to show that I was worth being loved made me control everything and everybody.
During a particularly difficult period in my life when I’d felt I’d hit rock bottom, I developed the Sense of Self (SoS) Method because I started to see that everything I did had but one goal: make me “Feel-good-about-myself.”
I had to do something because my addiction to approval was taking over my life. Many people close to me didn’t realize what was happening because it wasn’t obvious (or written on my forehead).
My perfectionism led to a chronic sleeping disorder. And when they found out I was suffering from full-blown insomnia, people in my life finally realized that I was dealing with something serious.
You may already know how this story continues, how my self-healing method came about, and how you can get started with it too. If not, you can read this extensively in my article about insomnia.
A New Beginning
Fast forward to 2021. I’m now well into my 70s. My daughters are all grown up. They lead independent lives, living in different cities. My former husband is out of the picture. And my career as a bassoonist has been hanging on the willows for years.
Had I imagined my life this way? No. Am I sorry about it? Sometimes. But in general, I’m not sorry about the way things have played out for me so far.
Although life has given me many challenges, my life is still mine, and I’m becoming more and more aware of this fact every day. I have the right to be my own person and I do not have to perform to perfection to earn the right to be.
In all those years living and researching, reflecting, and becoming aware, I learned that you’re not in control of what comes your way. What you can control is how you deal with the challenges and hardships.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to smile your way through the lows. You can be angry, scared, or sad . . . furious or even reckless. But make sure you are deeply rooted in yourself and that you have developed such a strong sense of Self that no event can keep you stuck in a rut for long.
You may learn all this as you get older, but in the meantime, give yourself the experience of leading an authentic life; one that’s truly yours. This is how to live!
I still learn, every day, about myself and about life. Luckily, after dedicated work on myself, I’ve learned to let go of what keeps me stuck (like perfectionism and addiction to approval). I’ve learned how to ride the waves of life . . .
However, I sometimes grab the oars and try too hard to steer in the perfect direction. But hen I remember that I no longer have to organize my life to “Feel-good-about-myself” and gain my Substitute Sense of Self, and I realize once again: perfection is an illusion.