This is Part 2 of a two-part series on how to get your life together based on lessons I’ve learned and practices I’ve developed over the years. You can find Part 1 here.
Reminders, Affirmations, and Mindfulness To Combat Perfectionism
First and foremost, when it comes to letting go of perfectionism, I need to talk about reminders, affirmations, and mindfulness.
The biggest thing I have to remind myself on pretty much a daily basis is that any negative feelings and anxiety I’m experiencing are not permanent. They often say happiness is fleeting. Well, so are all the other emotions. What you’re feeling one day does not have to define the next. Times of stress and worry will come to an end.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Now, to shift your mindset to this, you also have to practice letting go of the things outside of your control. Again, I still struggle with this on a regular basis. However, I’ve implemented the tools I need to recognize it when it’s happening and put it to a stop.
I do this through mindfulness and meditation practices. For me, this doesn’t look like sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and eyes closed. I tried that, but it doesn't really work for me. The questions I learned I can ask myself and the affirmations I can tell myself, however, have been incredibly useful.
I sit for a moment and think about the situation at hand. I ask myself what of this is not in my control and what is. For example, I carry a lot of stress around money right now. I know I can’t change this overnight, I’m not magically going to come up with the money I need. But I can make a plan. I can control what I work and focus on each day, and for now, that’s all I can do because that’s all I have control over.
Meditation is about clearing your mind and focusing on the present moment. This, in turn, includes letting go of the things you cannot control, as well as past influences and future anxieties. It’s about figuring out the next right thing (Frozen 2 pun unintended) and focusing on that.
When I feel the need to use affirmations, comparison is usually involved, if it’s not already the root problem.
I find comparison to be tricky as an Autistic because I’ve learned how to act and what to say through watching, and copying, other people. I can’t help but to observe others and compare what they’re doing versus what I’m doing–or not doing.
Perfection and comparison crop up the most around my work, the quality of it, the quantity of it. I cannot work a typical 9-5pm job without burning out after a couple months. Realizing this after my diagnosis that I was never going to be able to do what everyone else does because I simply do not have the mental bandwidth and energy for it was disheartening to say the least.
I convince myself I need to do all these things like work and go out with friends and have a side hustle and live up to society’s expectations. I want my work to be perfect before I send it out to clients or my journals to be just how I want them to be before I hit publish.
To combat this I have to physically tell myself that I am enough. I have to speak the words aloud: “I am enough,” and “My work is enough.”
Is the work perfect? No. Perfection isn’t real, it cannot be achieved. It’s also subjective like beauty. Perfect looks different to different people. I dealt with this mostly in college with assignments and my first job at Spark@SLC. I had to learn to be ok with hitting that submit button even if the paper wasn’t up to my standards. It was ‘good enough’ and while it maybe wasn’t an A+ assignment, I also reminded myself that I wasn’t in school for perfect grades, I was in school to learn. This inherently means I am not perfect, I do not know all things.
The second part of this post is all about journaling. Journaling is one thing I will never stop talking about, alright? Its uses are endless and its benefits are life-changing.
Whenever I’m struggling with perfectionism, comparison, anxiety, etc. I turn to my journal and get it all out on the page. I feel physically lighter after this. There is less on my brain for me to carry.
For those of you who prefer to talk it out, by all means do that. A journal also doesn’t have to be physical, it can be an audio journal, or a notes app. The point is to get the problem and emotions out of just yourself to make it tangible enough to reflect on and then let go.
Now, bullet journaling, when you first discover it, becomes quickly overwhelming. All these people make these beautiful spreads and have lovely handwriting. They can draw half decently. I cannot.
So, learning to build my journal around what I needed and what I was capable of helped me to let go of these unrealistic standards in the bujo community that every page had to be artistic and aesthetically pleasing.
To combat perfectionism you need to let your journal be messy and chaotic. Completely imperfect. I actually came across a book that really helped me with this, and it opened up my creativity again. It’s called Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity by Felicia Day. It’s a book/workbook. One of the first activities tells you to ruin the page and just scribble all over it.
If you know anything about me, you should know that I hate writing in books. I use sticky notes and flags to annotate my novels. By no means is pen marking that paper. So, for this exercise I used a pencil. A baby step, but a step in the right direction. And letting go of perfectionism is just that, a series of small, baby steps in the right direction.
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