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  • Sara B.

Self Growth & Perfectionism During COVID-19

My coaching clients and I have been struggling with something this week, and it’s not what you might think.

Yes, we are trying to manage anxiety, uncertainty, a major and abrupt life transition, loneliness, boredom, stress eating, lack of routine, fear, cohabiting 24/7 with partners and roommates...and the list goes on. But in addition, we are dealing with perfectionism. Say what!?

We are getting flooded daily with messages from social media about how to make the most of this shelter-in-place season. Posts and blogs are pouring out with all of the ways people are focusing on self growth, from practicing yoga multiple times a day, to creating blissful morning routines. From dusting off their complex recipe books, to prepping for a half marathon. From writing a novel, to learning guitar.

All of these ideas for how to spend this time are coming from a place of altruism and positivity, with the intention of inspiring and helping us to feel better during a tremendously hard time. However, the sentiment that many of us are taking away from these messages is that we’re not good enough. That if we’re not embracing this time as an opportunity to better ourselves, we’re doing something wrong. That if we haven’t already orchestrated a flawless self care routine, we’re behind. That if we’re not perfect, we’re failing.

If you are resonating with any of this, I want you to know, coming from a recovering perfectionist: none of us is perfect. Not even your favorite Instagram influencer who is meditating in her sunlit morning nook and meal prepping with fresh veggies from her garden. She is likely feeling so anxious right now that her way of coping is to find any sense of control she can. She is likely feeling so helpless that creating content to help others gives her a sense of purpose.

We are all experiencing and managing this situation differently, because self care looks different for everyone. And sometimes it might look different for you depending on the day! Last week I couldn’t get enough FaceTime dates with my friends and family, and this week my anxiety spikes when the phone rings. Yesterday I needed to run to release cooped up energy, and today I don’t want to get off the couch. This pandemic sprung up and unexpectedly rearranged our lives overnight, and there is no guidebook for it. We didn’t plan for it or sign up for it the way we would a conference or a retreat. We’re learning as we go.

The more you compare yourself to others and put pressure on yourself to perfectly maximize this time, the more likely you are to wind up overwhelmed and stuck, unable to do anything at all. I call it the all-or-nothing pendulum. And the more you swing into “nothing” mode, the more you reinforce that belief you have that you’re not doing enough.

Instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing, telling yourself what you should be doing, worrying about what you’re not doing enough of… I encourage you to do a few things instead:

  1. Close your eyes, put your hands on your heart, and remind yourself that you are resilient, courageous, and strong. That you are doing your very best right now, and that is good enough. Remind yourself that nothing is permanent, even this, and you are not alone.

  2. Acknowledge the emotions that are coming up, and allow them. Emotions, especially many that are present now, can be uncomfortable, but they are not dangerous. Give yourself permission to feel fully so that you can move through them.

  3. Ask yourself with as much compassion as you would give to your very best friend, “What do I truly need right now to care for myself?” It may be something you’ve seen on someone else’s self care tips, but it may be completely different, and that’s okay.

  4. Whatever you determine you need to do to care for yourself, take it one thing at a time. Instead of setting a goal to run 3 miles each day, start by getting out for a 30 minute power walk. Instead of deciding to meal prep all 21 meals for the week, start by trying out one new recipe.

  5. Celebrate every single positive thing you do for yourself. Any act of self care, no matter how small, is an accomplishment, especially in times like these.

This period of time we’re in will forever be a defining moment in the history of the world, and you therefore may feel pressure to turn it into a life changing opportunity for self growth. But self growth doesn’t come from checking things off of a list. It comes from allowing yourself to simply experience this time in your life, with all of its messiness. It comes from sitting with all of this change, loss, fear, anger, and stress, and caring for yourself through it. And allowing yourself to embrace how perfectly imperfect you are.

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