I recently shared about my journey away from finding my self-worth in others’ opinions, as I work to create my own definition of “success” that’s built on my core values. Running towards a life that’s about fullness, not perfection.
I received so many notes from y’all sharing your own stories about navigating our culture’s pressure to be perfect; it seems that the desire to break this addiction to striving is something that’s felt by almost everyone. So, I thought it would be fun to go a little deeper and talk about some tools and strategies that have helped me become more creative, free, and true to myself.
Today, I’ve got a simple hack that never fails when I start to feel myself moving back into people-pleasing mode:
When I catch myself wondering, “What do others think of me?” I change the question to, “How can I lift others up?”
At its core, the pressure to be perfect is inherently self-focused. When I’m mostly focused on how I measure up, it leaves very little room in my headspace to think about the other people in my life. And if you’re like me, feelings of perfectionism are often accompanied by impatience, irritability, and inward-focused thinking. It’s all about me. Simply by shifting my internal voice from wondering what others think of me to considering how I can be of service, the narrative is changed.
I’m no longer looking for others to validate me, so I’m free to be genuinely interested in the other person. (Side note that this is also an incredible cure for anxiety, as it helps us break out of that internal dialog that can dwell in fear and negativity.)
Here are a few practices that help me shift my focus from inward to outward:
Realize that I have a choice in where I put my attention.
If I’m feeling caught up in what others think of me, just knowing that I can make a conscious choice to focus on them instead is immediately empowering.
Actually listen to what the other person is saying.
Instead of just waiting for my turn to talk or bringing the convo back to myself, I can get curious and focus completely on the conversation.
I put myself in the other person’s shoes and think about how they’re feeling, what’s going on in their life, and how I can encourage and uplift them.
I’ve found that these little tweaks not only help me overcome perfectionism; they also make life a lot more fun as I’m freed from wondering what other people think of me. I’m not replaying what I just said in the conversation, and I’m not overly caught up in my appearance. Instead, I can fully engage with the people around me, enjoy way more interesting conversations, and rest in the fact that being ME — the fullest, most joyful version of me — is more than enough. As John Steinbeck said in East of Eden:
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”