The Problem with Perfectionism

I had the amazing opportunity to attend a seminar hosted by my church about the work of Brené Brown, a researcher that specializes in shame and vulnerability. The seminar was called The Daring Way Intensive, because it was over a period of 3.5 hours instead of 2 days like the original seminar. I have been reading one of Brené’s books called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I’ve talked about my struggle with figuring out who I am and what I want to do with my life, and this book is amazing for any of you feeling the same way. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s been absolutely amazing. So, when I heard my church was hosting a seminar over Brené’s work, I knew it was something I needed to attend. I learned so much during that 3.5 hours, and there’s a few things I’d like to share with you (I think I may make this a mini series so I can really focus on certain points). One of the things that resonated with me was her discussion of perfectionism. For years, I’ve thought of myself as a perfectionist in a positive light. I would proudly tell people that I was a perfectionist and that everything I did had to be done right. Brené’s view of perfectionism, however, did not paint me in such a positive light. What she says is 100% true, though. Through her research, she has come to the conclusion that perfectionism is one of the ways people protect themselves against feelings of shame and vulnerability. What does that mean? Well, it basically means that we struggle with perfectionism in the parts of our lives where we’re scared of receiving criticism the most. For example, I designed this website over 6 months ago. I kept making little changes here and there, because I wanted it to be perfect before I let anyone see it. It’s not just this blog, though. It’s almost everything in my life. Brené says that perfectionism is a way of thinking that says, “If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame, and ridicule.” WOW. This hit me like a ton of bricks. This is literally how I’ve been living my life since….probably elementary school if I’m being honest. Living like this can eat away at you. I know it’s been eating away at me. I try to do everything so perfectly, because I am terrified of getting hurt. I’m terrified that someone will notice the parts of me that I’m trying so hard to hide. I’m scared that people will think I’m stupid or lazy or hundreds of other undesirable things. So, what can we do to change this, being perfectionists? Brené says instead of being a perfectionist, we should strive for excellence. If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, “….ok, what’s the difference?” Striving for excellence is internally focused, according to Brené. It’s about doing something you want to do and wanting to do the best for yourself. Perfectionism is externally motivated. It’s driven by what people will think about you. In today’s society it’s almost like we are driven by perfectionism. We eat, live, and breathe it. Everyone feels this pressure to be the perfect parent or the perfect spouse or the perfect employee, and honestly that’s just inviting shame to creep into every aspect of our lives. We will never be authentically ourselves if, like Brené puts it, we’re wearing the straightjacket of, “What will people think?” It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, especially in a society that is so critical. It’s a conscience decision we must make everyday. I hope this will encourage some of you like it encouraged me. So, this week I hope you’ll join me in being purposeful in our motivations and striving for excellence instead of perfectionism! Thanks for reading 🙂


Here is her book that I recommended (click on the picture to order it from Amazon for LESS than $10):


Watch Brené Brown talk about perfectionism: