No matter what I did or how much I accomplished, I wasn’t enough.

I learned this unconscious belief watching my parents. They were hard, hard workers.

My Dad worked so hard that one time he passed out on the living room floor from exhaustion.

This frightening memory was branded in my brain. 

Here’s what I learned from them… “First you have to get your work done, and then you can play.” Only, the “play time” never came.  The hidden payoff of this method is “When I get (X, Y and Z) done, then I can (maybe) relax and finally feel good.”

“Feel good” translates to… “worthwhile.”  

So I worked really hard in school.  Yet I lived in fear of failure. As soon as I finished one goal, there was another one to do.

And I never finished…so I couldn’t feel satisfied.

The upside of this path is that you can get a lot of stuff done.

I worked on my Phd. for 4 long years. When I finished, I slipped into depression… nothing to fill the hole.

The downside of striving for perfection is that you feel hollow inside all the time.  Approval from others and achieving temporarily fills the hole.

Maybe you use this “carrot and the stick “method to push yourself. Maybe your home was also  a breeding ground of perfectionism and overwork.

There is a way out.

I yearned for peace inside. I wanted to accept myself.

The first step was to uncover the #1 lie that drove me. I believed this lie for a long time. It’s a lie that’s hidden in plain view in our society… No one talks about it. No one questions it.

Here it is…

We have to prove our worth in some way. We’re not lovable as we are. And because we don’t feel lovable we feel…. shame.

We’re not alone in this belief. There’s plenty of others who feel this way.

Our toxic climate reinforces this lie

Thanks to Dr. Brene Brown, we know the two toxic beliefs that nourish this big lie.

The first one is, Productivity is your self-esteem.

Every morning when I woke up my first thought was,  “Will I get enough done today?”

The last thought I had before drifting off to sleep was. “I haven’t done enough.”

It didn’t matter how much I did. It wasn’t enough.

Enough was an artificial standard I had created that never took into account whether I was exhausted, had a cold, or needed some down time to replenish.

On the days that I accomplished “enough”, I felt good. I could have triumphantly circled the statement  “I have HIGH self-esteem” on a self-esteem scale.

But what about the other days?

How I felt about myself was so intricately interwoven with how much I got done that I couldn’t separate the two.

All this led to the next toxic belief…. Exhaustion is a status symbol.

I’ve been to parties where people bragged about how many hours they worked that week or how long their work commute was, or how little sleep they needed.

Isn’t that a crazy competition?

These crazy lies lead to perfectionism

These two toxic beliefs lead us to become a perfectionist.

You are a perfectionist if you believe: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.

According to Dr. Brene Brown, we feel shame when we don’t meet our perfectionistic standards.

There’s a difference between shame and guilt. When you feel guilt about something your tell yourself: “I did something wrong”.

When you feel shame, you think: “I AM wrong.”

Shame is telling ourselves “I AM wrong because I’m not accomplishing enough or I’m not perfect.”

Shame is a huge motivator of perfectionism. When you are shame-based, you fear making mistakes and see them as shameful. So you strive to be perfect.

For years I lived my life trying not to make mistakes. I was vulnerable to the deadly voice of judgement inside my head that never gave me rest.

I was afraid of the judgement of others. I was afraid to try anything that I couldn’t do really, really well.

But long term, shame closes you down, shrinks your heart and kills your creativity.

For example, I overeat, overdrink, overwork or try to numb myself in other ways when I’m feeling shame.

This “Unwinnable Battle” Keeps You From Accepting Yourself As You Are

You can’t get to a feeling of worthiness by proving it in any way. Trying to win others’ approval leaves you in an unwinnable battle.

There’s no way you can do it. There’s just too many different opinions about how you should live your life.

We suffer a lot when we base our value on external results and others’ opinions.

We feel insecure, anxious, and not good enough.

It’s Time to Accept Yourself As You Are

There’s only one way out of this unwinnable battle… recognizing this lie for what it is… and deciding to accept yourself in spite of it.

I’m a big believer in shining a light on things that are unspoken.

If we don’t speak about them they have power over us. And they keep us stuck and cause us pain… over and over again.

So I suggest we give up exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

It’s time to realize that it’s an impossible task to prove your worth. You’re already worthy and enough exactly as you are.

Here’s the ironic thing about all this:

If you make this decision, you’ll be free to actually achieve more in your life. You won’t feel the crippling weight of shame and judgement holding you back.

You’ll start to ask  “How much joy have I felt today?” instead of. …“Have I done enough?”

What if there is no such thing as failure..?

As a recovering perfectionist I have a new goal….

To show up in my life exactly how I am.

There’s no failure when all I have to do is show up and do my best. And my best is good enough.

Which means sometimes I show up by sharing how vulnerable and afraid I feel. And how much I still might want your approval.

This goal of showing up and being authentic helps me live a deep life instead of a fearful, pinched off life.

People who live deep lives have made mistakes. Yet, no matter what happens, they are vulnerable and they admit their mistakes.

They never, never shame or reject themselves. They just keep on showing up.

What you need to do- first steps

When you identify and name toxic beliefs… they lose their power over you.

Become aware of the times where you feel the need to overwork or please others, or work really hard even when you’re tired.

Give up your need to be the best. Remember that you’re already worthy.

Make a commitment to give up a little of your striving and start cultivating rest and play.

Know that I’m on this journey with you. As I said, I’m a recovering perfectionist.

To help you on that journey check out our brain tool to eliminate your toxic beliefs very quickly:

Tools for Transformation