I recently worked with a client who had difficulty with perfectionism, specifically the need to control. So, let's begin by looking at what perfectionism is to begin with.
What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism is a personality trait characterised by an excessive need for everything to be done perfectly and an inability to accept anything less than perfect. You might not be surprised to know that it is often associated with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem AND an early death rate.
In addition, perfectionism can also lead to procrastination since people with perfectionist tendencies may struggle to begin projects due to their fear of not being able to achieve perfection. Perfectionism can also lead to unhealthy comparisons and negative self-talk, which can lead to low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence.
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword, as it can be both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, it can lead to high standards and a drive for excellence, but on the other hand, it can also lead to an unrealistic need for perfection that can lead to feelings of failure and low self-worth.
Does any of the above sound familiar?
Yeah - well, as a reformed perfectionist, I can honestly say that I know this landscape well. In some respects, "reformed" is misleading, as in all honesty, I don't believe that if you are a perfectionist you can learn to escape it of get rid of it all together. BUT what you can do is learn about it, about yourself, challenge it, and learn to live with it so that it doesn't become a monster in the room (or your mind for that matter).
What has control go to do with it?
Whether it be my own personal history, or those that have sat in the clients chair, the relationship between "perfectionism" and "control" often comes up. Working with someone to realise they have a challenging relationship with control can often be uncomfortable. I often here;
"I am not a controlling person"
"I don't have any issues with control"
"It's my xyz that has the issue with control, not me!"
Yeah, the word "control" raises many barriers, angers and frustrations. But once we step aside from that, accept it for what it is and see beyond the negative narrative of control that many of us have been used to, we can start to change it.
You see, perfectionism and control are closely linked since perfectionists often attempt to exert control over their environment to ensure that everything meets their exacting standards. This can manifest as a need to control their own behaviours, the behaviours of others, and the outcome of their efforts.
Perfectionists may also feel a need to control their own thoughts and emotions in order to maintain a sense of order and stability.
So when you look at it through that lens, you can kinda start to understand it!
How can we change this lens?
Firstly, it is to understand what control means. From many moons ago, control to me meant:
- I am not broken
- I can’t be seen
- I’m not crazy
- I’m not weak
- I don’t need help
- I’m okay
- I’m hidden
- I know what I am doing
- I’m confident
- I’m focussed
- I’ve got meaning
- I’m successful
It also meant:
- I was leading with my head
- I had limitations
- I was people pleasing
- I created walls, a fake version of myself, and was not showing who I was
- That I protected myself by being closed
Why did I need control?
Because, by letting go of the need to control meant:
No control means
- I’m broken
- I’m scared
- I’m not okay
- I have no clue what to do
- I need help
- I’m seen
- I’m weak
- I’m messed up and I’ve messed up
- I’m vulnerable
- I’m nobody
- I’m hurt
It also meant:
- Learning self trust
- Feeling a wider range of emotions
- Open more to creativity
- Having to risk more
- Showing the real me
- Having faith in not knowing the answers
- Being from the heart
Like anything, there is a yin and yang. Even something that can be perceived as negative, like control often is, has deeper levels of benefits.
The trick is.....
We have to understand ALL sides of the coins of perfectionism and control in order to then have a lens and perspective, an observation, of why we are doing what we are doing. We then learn to understand why we are telling ourselves the stories that we are. Likewise, we then begin to see the small steps that we can take in order to challenge and change.
BUT this can be tough, which is where a coach can come in.
If you are struggling with perfectionism and control, reach out and book in for your FREE coaching experience as we can soon start to get a real feel for what is going on and build upwards from there.
Oh, and If you are unsure about whether now is the "right time" to book that experience or if you "really need it", read the following inforgraphic. If it sounds like you....BOOK IN!