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Sneaky Ways Perfectionism Shows Up In Your Life (And Mine)

Eleanor Beaton

Do you struggle with perfectionist tendencies?

Is your desire to control outcomes holding you back from growth?

If so, you’re not alone. Perfectionism is a frequent sidecar to high achievement.

In fact, in my personal experience, I’m continuously surprised and un-delighted to uncover the new and innovative ways perfectionism creeps into my life.

For this reason, and on behalf of the brilliant women I work with — some of whom share my perfectionist tendencies — I have devoted myself to bright art of perfectionism-slaying.

If becoming a full-time perfectionism-slayer appeals to you, read on.

Perfectionism is a multi-faceted beast which is driven at its core by (at least) three limiting beliefs:

I’m inherently unworthy.

It’s my job to make people happy.

Not knowing the answer is bad.

These beliefs, when unchecked, will lead you to engage in myriad unhelpful, sabotaging, counter-productive behaviours, which will often masquerade as “common sense” or “quality control” initiatives.

In fact, the need to control everything — perception, outcome, results, etc., is a frustrating yet brilliant camouflage for perfectionism.

Over the years, in both myself and others, I have observed recurring trends in how perfectionism shows up as a need for control.

Here are two common examples.

  1. The desire to “get involved” in other people’s drama.

For perfectionists who like to fix things, drama — particularly other people’s drama — presents itself as an “opportunity” to make the world more perfect by correcting the problem.

Correcting other people’s problems that they have created and have little to do with you? Yep, that’s a control thing.

The problem is that drama is a monster that grows bigger the more you feed it. And drama’s most favourite food is…attention.

I have noticed both in myself and in other recovering perfectionists a desire to get involved in and fix other people’s drama. This “helping” behaviour, is often a mask for wanting to control things.

Don’t fall for it. Time and again, I have observed how the most powerful cure for drama, “he said/she said” and other varieties is to not get involved. Stay in your lane ladies, it’s much cleaner in there.

2. The perceived need to take responsibility for other people’s problems.

If there’s something to take responsibility for….COUNT ME IN!…says your inner perfectionist. This is another perilous trap.

At multiple times in my life, I have devoted inordinate amounts of energy to other people’s problems…and in many cases, people have been incredibly receptive to my “support.”

I have bent over backwards to take responsibility for the personal financial situations of contractors.

I have gone way out of my way to meet people who invited me for coffee at locations that were convenient for them, rather than suggesting they come to me.

Knowing that I have grit and stamina, I have given much more leeway to others than I would allow myself.

You get the picture.

In some cases, people will unwittingly try to make their problems your problems. I recently spoke to a colleague whose tremendous financial success was causing people in her social circle to feel resentful. This in turn kicked off an onslaught of people-pleasing behaviour on her part, in an attempt to take control for the limiting beliefs that were triggering….other people.

My advice: it’s ok to allow other people to be triggered, fierce ones.

Learning to spot the sneaky ways perfectionism shows up in your life is a powerful step in overcoming it.

Slay on, Fierce Ones.


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