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Perfectionism at the End of the Year

curiosity negative mindset negative thoughts perfectionism Nov 12, 2022
Field and Hills by Pexels of Pixabay

My perfectionism monster always pops up around the “end” and the “beginning” of things. “I’ll do better next ___________ (week, year, job, relationship, etc).”

Perfectionists want to keep perfecting, to keep removing flaws and making appearances smoother, shinier, calmer, busier, etc in order to seem to have it all together. So when we reach the end of something, and we reflect on how imperfect it has been, we can fantasize about the new discipline we will bring to the new beginning.

“Tomorrow, I will close all of my charts before moving on to the next patient.”

“This week is a disaster, but next week I will start fresh and exercise every day for an hour.”

You get the idea.

Now, there is nothing wrong with healthy striving. With setting goals that are interesting or exciting to you, and making an action plan. But if you wrestle with perfectionism, you are setting goals with a side of toxic self-criticism and shame avoidance. Perfectionists want to appear to be cool, calm and collected, to be the top performer, and the envy of others. And anything less than that, is failure. Failure that requires self-shaming and needs to be fixed.

Perfectionists don’t set healthy goals. They set impossible goals, and they are not curious about where they got tripped up before. They do not reflect and evaluate; they blame.

But how can we improve if we don’t understand what happened that interfered with our goals? If I have a goal to wake up early and exercise, but each morning when the alarm buzzes I turn it off, telling myself I am too tired, I have a choice. I can call myself lazy, and keep beating myself up (and does that inspire you to get up early and exercise???), or I can do a bit of looking at what happens. Ok, I have been staying up late on my phone, and so I’m not getting enough sleep. Or my child has been sick this week, waking me up multiple times during the night. So what can I do to get more rest so that I can meet my goal?

Curiosity creates space for trial and error that will lead me to a successful strategy. I might have a back-up plan for crazy weeks, I might have a “bare minimum” exercise plan that I can do even on days when I don’t feel motivated. I might decide that morning doesn’t work well for exercise, so I need to find a different time.

Blame and self-criticism don’t give space. Blame and self-criticism tells me that I am lazy if I don’t start getting my butt out of bed, and hopes that this works next week, year, etc.

For myself, now that I understand this pattern in myself, I don’t freak out at the end of the year, or the beginning of the month when my perfectionist voices start whispering to me all the things I can do better. They do still exist, these voices, but I know that I don’t have to listen to them, and that when I choose to ignore them, I allow more creative solutions that do help me to achieve my goals. I can see new possibilities, new opportunities that the rigid perfectionist would never allow.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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