Why Perfectionism and Self-Acceptance Can’t Coexist

How many of you grew up thinking that being a perfectionist was a good thing? Raise your hands with me………. Yep, me too. Except that it isn’t a good thing. Perfectionism and self-acceptance are concepts that are at odds with each other; the two cannot coexist.

If you have spent any time on my blog, or read the name of my blog, then you understand that I am a passionate advocate for self-acceptance. I feel deeply about this subject as it has played a prominent role in my life.

In this article, I will discuss why perfectionism and self-acceptance can’t coexist. But more importantly, I am going to show you how self-acceptance is a game-changer that shuts perfectionism down.

brunette woman with face on knuckles looking anxious.

Disclaimer: Let me state the obvious upfront.  I am not a doctor or any kind of medical professional.  I write about topics on my blog based on my personal experiences and observations.  None of my writing is intended as medical advice, so please do not take it as such.  Please read my full disclaimer for additional information.

When we talk about perfectionism, it’s not the same as striving for excellence. It’s more about a need to be perfect that results in our inability to accept ourselves for who we are.

The consequences of this can be very damaging. In order to overcome perfectionism, it’s essential to recognize that it’s not about perfection; it’s about not being good enough.

What is the antidote? Self-Acceptance. Accepting ourselves for who we are means that we can live in peace with our flaws and limitations.

What is Perfectionism?

Dictionary.com defines perfectionism as a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.

In simple terms, perfectionism is constantly striving and pushing for achievements and outcomes that are perfect or flawless.

The problem with this idea is that we set such high, unrealistic goals that we fall short repeatedly. The result is often self-defeating thoughts and actions because we never actually measure up.

Different Styles of Perfectionism

There are three different styles of perfectionism that are generally agreed upon:

  • Self-oriented perfectionism: Placing extreme importance on being perfect, having unrealistic expectations of yourself, and judging yourself harshly.
  • Other-oriented perfectionism: Imposing unrealistic expectations upon those around you and evaluating them critically and harshly.
  • Socially prescribed perfectionism: Believing that those around you are excessively demanding and that the only way to get approval from others is to be perfect.

For this article, I want to focus on self-oriented perfectionism. I think people that struggle with self-acceptance will identify a great deal with this style of perfectionism. I know my perfectionistic tendencies have affected my life dramatically.

Perfectionism Prevents Self-Acceptance

In my case, my drive for perfection played out like this: (See if you can identify with any of the following statements)

  • Incredibly high expectations of myself
  • Absolutely no patience for not meeting the standard (as determined by ME)
  • All or nothing thinking – If I don’t do it perfectly, then I am a total failure
  • Feelings of constant inadequacies because I failed over and over again at oh-so-many things
  • Harsh self-criticism on a daily basis
  • Absolutely no self-love or self-care allowed – failures don’t deserve that

Well, when you look at it in black and white, it’s kind of depressing, isn’t it? It is painful to see how I lived my life for so many years! If you identify with any of those statements, then keep reading!

I want to remind you of that earlier statement: Perfectionism is not about being perfect; it’s about never being good enough. Now re-read the list. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Do you see it? Do you see the “I am not good enough” in that list?? Remember that “I am not good enough” is the kryptonite to self-acceptance. You have to let that go.

Perfectionism Prevents Self-Acceptance

The Deception of Perfectionism

Often, people think that striving for perfection is a good thing. I did for a very long time. Somehow, I thought being a perfectionist made me stand out. I was detailed, thorough, reliable, and on top of everything.

Those are all excellent traits, right?

The problem is that perfection doesn’t exist. When you are a perfectionist, you are constantly pushing yourself to obtain the unobtainable. The fallout from that is the never-ending feeling of not being good enough.

When you tell yourself that you must be perfect, you end up thinking that you’re not good enough. That’s how the cycle of self-doubt starts.

Perfectionism often leads to dissatisfaction with ourselves. We start comparing ourselves to others and feel like we aren’t measuring up.

If you compare yourself to others and see yourself as less than, you’ll end up resentful. This is a natural emotion that you’ll experience if you strive for perfection.

This is why it’s important to accept yourself and not compare yourself to others. If you keep doing this, you’ll never find true happiness.

While I will not lie and say I have this all figured out and no longer struggle with perfectionism, I will say that I have recognized it and taken the first step toward overcoming it. Hence, this article.

Believe me when I say if *I* can drag myself out of this pit, I have absolute faith and confidence that you can too!

Perfectionism Steals Happiness

So how does perfectionism show up in your life? You would probably expect some of the following things, but a few of them might surprise you…………..

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of failure
  • Procrastination
  • “Should” mentality

I think the first three on the list are self-explanatory; however, let’s look at the last two more closely.

Procrastination:

Um, isn’t that the opposite of perfectionism? Nope. It is often the direct result of perfectionism. On the surface, procrastination often looks more like laziness or lack of motivation. But let’s dig a little deeper.

If you know there is a good chance you will not meet your impossible standards or that your efforts will lead to anything less than a perfect result, it makes complete sense that you simply stand still and do nothing.

It is a form of paralysis. The expectation of perfection is so overwhelming that it is easier to do nothing, and thus have no judgment on your efforts or lack thereof.

I know in my own life, I have experienced this. It wasn’t until I started to understand what was at the root of the procrastination that I was able to start overcoming it.

“Should” Mentality:

This one is an absolute joy stealer.

  • I “should” have done that differently.
  • I “should” be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee, etc.
  • I “should” cook from scratch more.
  • I “should” be a better house cleaner.
  • I “should” host more family gatherings.
  • I “should” exercise more.
  • I “should” fill in the blank.

The “should” list is endless. I am sure you have your own variations running through your mind. It is a never-ending list of ways to beat yourself to death for not being good enough.

See, there it is again. Perfectionism masking the dirty little secret, “I am not good enough.”

So now that we have sufficiently depressed the hell out of ourselves by listing all the ways we are strangling ourselves with perfectionism, how do we dump the cycle of perfectionism?

Wooden sign in front of lake "Accept Yourself"

Kick Perfection to the Curb and Embrace Self-Acceptance

The more you try to be perfect, the more you’ll become a slave to the idea. If you want to be the best version of yourself, you need to learn to be comfortable with who you are.

It starts with one thing. The foundational message of my entire blog revolves around it.

You must start with self-acceptance.

The word ‘self-acceptance’ is a combination of self and acceptance. It is a state of mind where you accept yourself for who you are. It is the ability to accept your flaws and weaknesses.

Self-acceptance is the opposite of perfectionism, and when you accept yourself, you are free from the obsession with being perfect.

Everything else flows out of that. If you believe that you are enough, really enough, exactly as you are, it changes everything. It changes how you see yourself, how you treat yourself, and how you walk through life.

You may be asking yourself, “Has she lost her mind? That’s not a real action step.” Oh, but it is, my friend. It really, truly is. Self-acceptance is a long road with a lot of intricate trails to explore. But the journey is what changes everything.

If you can learn to accept yourself and see that you ARE enough, you can begin to:

  • Set realistic expectations of yourself
  • Appreciate all the progress you make, even if you didn’t quite hit the mark
  • Get rid of “all or nothing” thinking
  • Shrug off feelings of inadequacies
  • Stop harsh self-criticism
  • Begin practicing self-love and self-care

Final Thoughts

Sweetie, you can have a life that is full of joy. You can experience the same love and kindness you show to your friends and family.

My blog is full of articles to help you find your way through the journey of self-acceptance, self-care, and changing your mindset to one that brings you wholeness and peace. I sincerely hope that you will find inspiration in some of them.

You can overcome perfectionism one step at a time. It starts with self-acceptance.

Start today. Start with this one affirmation, “I AM ENOUGH.”

Say it over and over. Write it down somewhere that you will see it throughout the day.

When that critical voice in your head shows up to tell you how stupid that is and that you are the same piece of crap you have always been, you say

“NO!!! I AM ENOUGH!!”

Growing in self-acceptance takes time. It is NOT an overnight change. But if you start with this one thing and then keep adding to it as the days pass, you will begin to see and feel a difference.

You have nothing to lose, my friend. Try it.

Then come back here and join me on this journey through self-acceptance and overcoming perfectionism. We can do this together. 😊

Please leave a comment below and let me know if you have struggled with perfectionism and what tools you used to change your path to one of self-acceptance.

With Love and Acceptance,

Teresa

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