Find the source of your perfectionism and open the door to your true potential.
Most of my adult life I was a perfectionist. I allowed myself very little wiggle room when it came to making mistakes. My perfectionism led to little mistakes becoming huge mistakes and little victories becoming completely diminished in my mind. I beat myself up over bad stuff and never gave myself any credit for the good stuff I created. Thankfully, I now understand the source of my destructive perfectionistic thinking, and it has made all of the difference in finding my path in life.
Some suffer from the disease of perfectionism because of early childhood trauma or from having narcissistic parents or from having suffered some sort of bullying or rejection. Mine was related to an autoimmune disease: psoriasis.
Up until I was 12 (right before puberty, actually), I was the happiest flippin’ person. Despite my parents’ divorce and a few moves in elementary school, I was always able to push myself ahead of the pain and avoided suffering. I bounced back from disappointments like a spring.
But suddenly, my spring broke. One day I had an itchy and flaking scalp; the next I was being dragged to the doctor feeling completely ashamed. Psoriasis! Even the name sounds gross, huh?
I hated being associated with this condition. I hated being preoccupied with worrying about what others would think of me if they saw my little scaly patches on my knees, elbows, back and hairline. I hated avoiding activities like dancing for fear the costume for the performance wouldn’t cover me “just right.” I hated that my freedom seemed to be taken from me.
Early in my treatment, I knew that there was really nothing the dermatologist could do to help me. Sure, there was always a new lotion or cream to try. But they were just band-aids. And some of this crap stunk! I got so sick of it all. I stopped all prescription lotions and creams sometime in my early 20s. I became a Palmer’s cocoa butter girl. It helped to a degree, but because I felt helpless and like I had zero control over my skin, I pressured myself to expect nothing but the best in every other area of my life.
I had to get the best grades. I had to have the cleanest room. (If you had as many sisters as I do, you’d understand this one.) I had to have the best job. I had to be the perfect weight. I had to be the perfect wife. I had to be the perfect mother. I had to be perfect. Period.
Being a perfectionist can lead a person to behave self-destructively. Perfectionists can suffer from a multitude of conditions including anorexia, bulimia, drug or alcohol abuse, binge drinking, obsessive compulsive disorder, and/or depression. In two words: perfectionism sucks!
Why and how did I figure out all of my troubles stemmed from trying to be perfect? Like most people with bad habits and addictions, I hit my rock bottom. I was determined to change and to never put my life and future at risk ever again. I had to take a good hard look at myself in order to fix myself.
I inventoried my entire past, beginning with my childhood. I created a timeline of my happiest years and my most depressed periods. The common denominator related to my unhappiness was related to whether or not I was in control of my psoriasis. When I was not in control, the hatred for my disease led to extreme hatred for myself, which led to extreme perfectionism and self-destructive behaviors.
I soon realized that I had to shift my perception of the disease. I embraced my psoriasis (I’d be lying if I said I fell in love with psoriasis, but I got as close to “being in love” as possible). Most importantly, I became dedicated to learning as much as possible about what psoriasis really is.
In addition to educating myself in hopes of changing my point of view, I embraced other mindful techniques and approaches. Yoga has helped. Changing my diet has helped. Eliminating alcohol and sodas has helped. Writing has helped. Talking about it has helped. And the best part? Although I still have psoriasis (there is no cure), I do not allow the appearance of my skin to control me anymore.
Through practicing simple acts of self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love, I have been miraculously cured of my perfectionism and all of the distasteful side-effects related to that disease.
If you are a perfectionist and tired of never reaching the peak of your potential, find out the source of your perfectionistic thinking. Taking a good hard look at the source is the best way to eliminate this toxic thinking from your life and start living mindfully and lovingly.
Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and on her blog.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel