Perfectionism – What if We’re Supposed to Get it Wrong?
Like over 200,000 other self-help junkies, I’ve been watching Mel Robbins’ free Mindset Reset video series. I’ve made a practice of always learning from the best people in my field, and Mel is one of the most booked motivational speakers in North America.
One of the first exercises we did in her program was to write down our negative thoughts throughout an entire day to see what patterns emerged. As a twice-trained life coach, I’d already identified dozens of my own limiting beliefs and didn’t expect to discover anything new.
But Mel asked the usual question a bit differently than I’d heard it before, and that difference was important for me. Mel asked us to identify a SINGLE limiting belief – a common thread behind all our thinking. Her conviction that we would all find ONE pervasive negative thought about ourselves motivated me to search for mine.
What I learned really surprised me because I generally feel a lot happier than how I used to feel. In the past few years, I’ve learned so many amazing things, I’ve challenged myself and grown and I get to do things everyday that I love.
Limiting belief: “I do everything wrong”
And yet, I discovered that I do have a limiting belief that is constantly by my side, like an unwelcome, estranged friend who I had thought was out of my life.
My thought? “I do everything wrong.”
Huh??? At the conscious level, I have all kinds of evidence that this is not true. Yet there it was, a voice inside my head criticizing all my efforts – I could have done it faster, I could have said something differently, I could have gone more “all in”.
Don’t layer self criticisms
I really value coaching and so, even though I’m a life coach, I also find it tremendously helpful to get coached myself. When it comes to my own issues, they’re so much harder for me to see than someone else’s issues. I believe that this is true for everyone.
I talked through this surprising discovery about my pervasive limiting belief with my coach. She noticed that I was now layering on an ADDITIONAL criticism – that I should not be so self- critical! So there I was, criticizing myself for being too critical of myself! All I can say is that our reptilian brains (you know – the ancient part of our brain that tries to protect us by always thinking that there’s a tiger around the corner and we’re going to die!) are fascinating things to watch.
Mistakes happen FOR us
All of this got me thinking. I’ve been trying hard all my life to get it “right”. But what if there is no “right”? What if there is just this hot, sticky messiness of being human? What if our most important job is to put ourselves out there no matter what? To challenge ourselves to grow as much as we possibly can? And what if that means knowing that we’ll sometimes not achieve the outcome we had hoped to get? What if we sometimes need to allow ourselves to be bold and risk rejection, and if we get rejected, that is the very thing that helps us grow the most? What if we sometimes need to fail publicly and our failure gives us enormous reserves of resilience and strength to draw on? What if we accept that we’ll sometimes say the wrong thing to our child or our colleague or a prospective client, and our misstep causes us to reflect and really see that other person or ourselves and learn something we need to know to improve our relationship with them or us?
This is what I do believe. I believe that the bad things in our lives happen FOR us. That those things are often the best teachers. And so I’m choosing to believe that I was SUPPOSED to criticize myself. So that I could notice this habit and learn from it. So that I could write about my experience in this article and hopefully help another human being.
Having compassion for ourselves
My plan for growth right now is simple. Just observe my self-criticism as it arises and allow myself to feel compassion for my critical self.
This commitment to myself is healing. It helps me to feel better about myself, breathe a sigh of relief and to start to trust that I can have my own back.
So I urge you to get out there despite what your inner critic says! Challenge yourself and get it wrong. Notice your thoughts. And love yourself for being the human that you are.
Heather Kerr, Life Coach for Professionals, Executives and Career Women; Speaker; Artist. Heather is a retired lawyer and partner of EY where she led the Financial Services Tax Practice in Canada. Heather helps career women who feel burned out and disenchanted achieve their full potential without leaving their jobs or changing their circumstances. You can connect with Heather for a free personal strategy session to explore your issues by direct messaging her on LinkedIn or Facebook or by clicking one of the scheduling links in this website.