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How to start small as a perfectionist

by mbadj
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I have always been petrified by the idea of being perceived as vulnerable. It has always been associated with danger and unease in my mind. I grew up in a household where I had to grow up fast, unable to rely on adults for safety. I had to create my own by not counting on anybody but myself. It took a toll on my mental health, because I had to be strong no matter the situation which is impossible and a perfect way to set yourself up for failure in a never-ending vicious circle of “I got hurt” “It’s my fault” “I shouldn’t have been in a situation where I could have been hurt” “I need to hyper-vigilant and avoid being hurt at all cost”. Rinse, repeat. I was a perfectionist.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

Arthur Ashe

Today, this mindset not longer serves me. I had to admit it helped me back then, but I don’t need it anymore. I had help: my husband told me to seek help and guidance through therapy, when he saw that I was tail-spinning.

I am currently in a process of letting go all old patterns and behaviors that no longer brings me happiness. Being a perfectionist is one of them. I am re-evaluating what joy, happiness, safety, friendship, success mean to me today. I don’t have an answer for all of them, but I started by eliminate what brought me sadness, stress and anguish. I had to mourn ideas and projects that I had set for myself: 

  • What my career would look like after 10 years of working my ass off, often neglecting my physical and mental health.
  • What my social life would look like, still being that shy kid terrified of being known for who I am.
  • What my financial situation would be like, still feeling stuck in “scarcity-mode” although all I do is work all the time.

All of these ideas need to go. I don’t need them anymore. 

Due to my education, I have always felt that talking about yourself was indecent and impolite. I could only answer question about myself, if asked by someone. I realize that this mindset robbed me of a few friendships and connections. I regret it and I am willing to change.

Since I was 13 yo, I have kept journals and diary to help me get all of my feelings out of my head. When it is written, I don’t have to think about it obsessively anymore. I helped me a lot, but I kept it secret and hidden, as something slightly shameful.

Today, I am willing to let go and put myself forward and be shameless, impolite and indecent online.

Here is a list of recommendations for people, like me, who are petrified by the idea of to starting something new. How to start small as a perfectionist:

  • You will be bad at it, and it’s okay. You need to accept the unease of not knowing, there is only one way to improve whatever you are doing: practise. But you’ll be bad at it , in the beginning, be at peace with it.
  • Start small. Be realistic with and set achievable expectations for yourself. For exemple: running a marathon right away is not realistic, but running every other day for 10 minutes is totally possible. Creating a habit is the most important thing in the beginning.
  • Track you progress. Whether is the number of reps that you do or the number of followers that you are trying to grow, keep track of your progress. You cannot improve something that you don’t track.
  • Nobody is watching you / nobody cares. Nobody is meaner to you than yourself, you are the only one judging you this archly. Be kind and graceful with yourself.
  • What is the worst that could happen? It is a possibility that what you are starting will fail, it is inherent to the process. Theres is nothing you can do about it, you cannot control everything.
  • Enjoy the little things. If you are overly ambitious while starting it is a recipe for failure and frustration because no matter achievements you’ll reach you be focused on the next milestones. Learn to enjoy the small victories, for example: you sent that email that scared you make a note of it in your journal or phone and celebrate with a chaï tea.

I hope that you will enjoy the ride!

M.


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