Overcoming Perfectionism: What to Do When You Feel Like You Haven't Done Enough

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Discalimer: This post is an in-depth look at the inspiration behind my poetic piece Overcoming Perfectionism.  If you haven't read that piece already, you may want to give it a peek before you continue reading.

The word enough seems to signify the end. You might say it when you feel like you’ve reached your goal. “I closed all of my rings on my Apple watch today.  I’ve exercised enough.”  You might say it when you feel like you’ve paid your dues. “I volunteer for that event every year. I’ve served enough.” You might say it when you feel like you can’t tolerate any more of a situation. “I’ve had enough of that.” 

Knowing when enough is enough gives us closure. Something clicks in our mind and a little voice tells us that we are done. We can walk away feeling fulfilled and ready to take on the next task. But what happens when we feel like we haven’t done enough and we lose that voice? Why does it go away? Once it’s gone, how do we get it back? 

So, why does it go away? From personal experience, I would say that perfectionism is the culprit.  For me, perfectionism was easy to fall into. I was especially susceptible to it when I wanted to do something well. It would creep into my psyche. Before the little voice in my head could tell me that I had done enough, a louder of perfectionism voice would tell me how I could do something better.  

When I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in journalism I would have to start my assignments early and it wasn’t because I wanted to be responsible. It was because I wanted to be perfect. I would schedule enough time for myself to write the assignment, stew over what was wrong with it and write it again. I would always feel anxious about turning in an assignment, even when I knew it was good. I secretly wished that could keep it forever so that I could continue to craft it into perfection. 

If you read about perfectionism, you’ll find that many people find it to be a desirable trait. Perfectionists want things to be done correctly so they do them right. They want to be timely so they’re always punctual. They want to please the people around them so they will always go above and beyond. But the problem is that personal affairs are not like journalism school assignments. Everyday life situations don’t come with word counts, rubrics or style guides. 

There aren’t always clear outlines for you to hold yourself accountable to. This is why you need to able hear that voice that says enough is enough. 

When I lived as a perfectionist, I had unrealistic expectations for myself and those around me.  I would create a picture in my head of how a situation needed to unfold and it would become my rubric. I yelled at a family member when she suffered from mental illness. I became frustrated with my partner for not reading my mind. I would never be truly happy with myself or the things that I did because I always wanted to improve, I wanted to become perfect.  

My voice of “enough” was gone. 

Once it’s gone, how do we get it back? By the time I finished undergrad, I was tired of never feeling fulfilled. I wanted to enjoy my life, I knew that accomplishments wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t enjoy the journey it took to achieve them. I knew that I would push my loved ones away if I continued to project my perfectionistic views onto them. 

So, when I started graduate school I decided to pursue yoga. I took a few classes in undergrad but I never really stuck with it. I wanted return to it because I remembered that one of my instructors taught me that yoga was about experiencing your own practice. 

This second time around, I delve deeper into my yoga practice. Each time I stepped onto the mat, I would focus on respecting myself. Yoga taught me that in my practice I may have imperfections but I should embrace them; it would make the journey to the poses more beautiful. Embracing the imperfections in my practice helped me to embrace the imperfections in my life. I became more respectful of my achievements and my limitations. I learned to when to say that enough was enough. My little voice was back. 

During my time of realization, I launched my poetic lifestyle blog I decided to focus one of my first poetic posts on overcoming perfectionism. If you ever struggle with feeling like you haven’t done enough, I would suggest trying to connect with that little voice. Listen to her. Find a space where she can speak to you clearly. A yoga studio, in an artistic project or anywhere. She'll be waiting there for you like an old friend.