While some people view perfectionists as those with a neat junk drawer, perfectionism is so much more than that. It is an all-or-nothing, perfect-or-failure, perfect-or-forget it mentality.
Personally, I suffered from perfectionism for a good portion of my life. And please understand “perfectionism” does NOT mean you think you are perfect. In fact, perfectionists know they are not perfect and are scared to death that they are a failure (notice the all-or-nothing thinking there?!)
During my era of perfectionism, the holidays were some of the toughest times. I remember when I was newly married, living in Dallas, Texas. I had a house of my own. I mean, my husband and I had a house, but it was the first time I was in charge of decorating my home.
I enjoyed living in Dallas (especially the winter weather and the people). At the same time, I felt a lot of pressure to be “perfect.” One thing I noticed when I first moved there from the East Coast was a keen focus on decorating. I would go into various friends’ homes to find each was impeccably adorned with perfectly selected accessories. And during the holidays, people went all-out. In fact, it was not uncommon for someone to hire an interior decorator just for the holidays.
In my “my house has to be perfect or else I am a failure” mentality, I found myself comparing my home to others, and consistently feeling like I fell short. Same thing when it came to my outfit to a holiday party (“I look horrible”), the gifts I shared (“I should have gotten her something better”) and the food I prepared (“this looks awful”). The result? Lots of stress and feeling like a hot mess!
I never felt good enough. My inner critic was consistently telling me I was falling short. I felt like I needed to do more and more and more to be worthy. It was mentally and physically exhausting.
And, not only did I feel stressed out, but I shared that stress with my husband. Ever notice how, when you are stressed out, you tend to take it out on those closest to you? My husband loves the holidays, and my perfectionism was melting his frosty the snowman joy.
Luckily, eventually, I was able to overcome my perfectionism and actually enjoy the holidays. I will tell you how I did that a little later, but for now, let’s look at how perfectionism might be negatively impacting your holidays.
How does perfectionism impact your holiday season?
Perfectionism presents itself in diverse ways, so let’s explore how it could be playing a role in your holiday stress.
Do you ever:
Stress out about getting the perfect gift for everyone on your list?
Feel like you have to “do it all” when you are hosting?
Think “he/she should be more helpful,” and then feel resentful when assistance is not offered?
Deny support from other people, as in “no, don’t bring a thing,” because you want people to think you can do this on your own?
Find yourself getting more brusque with loved ones because of your overwhelm in trying to get everything done?
Wonder why your family acts the way they do (like Aunt Edna who feels the need to share her entire medial history with you – again- at the holiday meal), despite the fact that they always act that way?
Beat yourself up for things not looking better?
Find yourself giving up on self-care (“I have no time to go to the gym/meditate”)?
Try to make sure everyone is happy (even at your own expense)?
Compare yourself to others and feel like you fall short (“Her house is so much better decorated than mine”)
Feel resentful towards others regarding how they are spending their time (“Must be nice to get to sit on the couch and watch the game”)?
Get upset about what you eat, with the thinking “I had one cookie and ruined my diet, might as well eat the rest of the plate”?
Find yourself thinking “I can’t wait for the holidays to be over?”
If you answered “yes” to any of these, perfectionism may be the scrooge robbing you of your holiday cheer.
Perfectionism is an all-or-nothing mentality where something is either perfect OR a failure. It is based on conditional self-worth, believing in yourself IF (and only if) certain criteria are met. These could include “I believe in myself IF…
People compliment me.”
I make those around me happy.”
I look a certain way.”
Others view me in a positive manner.”
While there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting any of these conditions, the problem arises when you base your core worth on achieving external accolades. And perfectionist base their worth on extraneous conditions.
What’s more, perfectionists tend to compare themselves to others and feel like they fall short. And this can lead to significant distress. For example, research shows that the longer someone spends on Facebook, the more likely they are to be depressed. Why? Well, I would contend one of the biggest reasons is because of conditional self-worth, as in “he has the perfect family” or “she is so much more beautiful than I am” (Reminder: everyone looks good with a filter!)
Another component of perfectionism are the rules established of how things “should” be: how your home should look, how you should act as a hostess, how others should act around the holidays…
Many of us have a set of rules regarding how we and others should act. Most of the time we are not aware of those rules, until one is broken. For example, growing up my sister and I cleaned up the kitchen after the holiday meal. It was ingrained in me that someone who appreciates a meal prepared for them should do the cleanup. Of course, not everyone else has that rule or applies it. I used to get upset, even insulted, by guests not helping out. Now I realize, that was just my rule.
So, how often do you find yourself “shoulding” on yourself, as in “I should cook the entire meal myself.” Or, perhaps your perfectionist rules are more geared towards others “He should be more helpful.” Either way, the result is an increase in your stress.
Want to learn how to drop your perfectionism without lowering your standards? Stay tuned because my next blog will address exactly that!
Until then, let us know how perfectionism impacts your holidays. Comment on our Facebook page