Perfectionism and the scourge of “Not Doing Enough”

Young Boy Frowning

My head was in a much better place today and I managed to exercise for about half-and-hour. Instead of my usual routine I opted to cut it in half because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go all the way. No guilt on my part… kind of.

Okay, maybe a little bit of guilt.

“You’re Not Good Enough, You’re Not Doing Enough”

You’ve probably heard or read about the little voice in your head that never has anything nice to say about you. Everything it screams or whispers can be summed up thusly: “You are not good enough”.

A variation I often here is “You are not doing enough” which can mean one of the following:

  • I’m doing the wrong thing(s),
  • I’m doing the thing(s) wrongly,
  • I’m too slow,
  • I’m not working hard enough,
  • There are so many other things that I have yet to do.

Thumbs Down

On top of that, the voice often isn’t disembodied but takes on the persona of someone else, usually someone I know. So the chiding becomes even more personal because it feels like someone in my life is doing the tormenting: my mom, my sister, a friend, that exercise coach who I only know through his YouTube videos…

And there’s no pleasing this voice — If I’m doing one thing it will complain I should be doing that other thing. If I do that other thing it will tell me I should be doing that first thing. It’s a no-win situation for me and the sweet irony is that it is all taking place in the land of make-believe inside my head.

Perfectionism to the rescue…?

When faced with a no-win situation, I can only see 2 options:

  1. Roll over and die.
  2. Try to win anyway.

Guess which one I choose 🙂 I don’t claim it to be the best or smartest choice but we humans didn’t get to the top of the food chain by giving up!

But in all seriousness, how would I win in a no-win situation? By making absolutely no mistakes and doing everything 100% correctly. In a word, I try and be Perfect.

But Perfectionism isn’t the panacea it claims to be. When there is no hope of winning all perfectionism succeeds in doing is making me really, really tired.

How can I lose a battle that I made up?

The clear way out (although it’s something I struggle to see at the time) is to see the no-win situation for what it really is: a conflict between a bunch of thoughts all of which I made up. There is room for correction and learning when required but most of the time I’m just trying to be perfect to everyone and in every situation.

Now isn’t that just silly?