Is your perfectionism ruining your love life? (Part 1)

As a love coach, I do a lot of work with clients one-on-one to help them turn their love life around. While the reason for coming to see me is to help them find love, I spend a lot of time removing the blocks that are getting in the way, so they can clear the space for love to grow. One of the biggest blockers is something that we all seem to be struggling with. The pressure to be perfect.

The Sanctuary (yes the one with the naked swing) have revealed some pretty alarming stats about the modern woman. As part of their #LetGo campaign, they polled a panel of women and found that a shocking 7 out of 10 of us feel under pressure to be the “perfect woman”. And 80 per cent of the women they polled said that they put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect even though they accomplish an average of 26 tasks a day. And perhaps the saddest result of them all is that 80% of them don’t feel good enough.

And this is something that I see with clients on a regular basis. I predominantly work with single women in their 30’s who are successful in their lives and careers but are stuck in their love lives and don’t know what to do about it. Some of them are self confessed perfectionists and for others it’s more in the background. What lies at the heart of this pattern of perfectionism is the damaging belief that you’re not worthy and deserving of love, just as you are. And it’s self-perpetuating, as the more you believe that you’re not worthy of love, just as you are, then the more you perfect. And the more you perfect, the more you reinforce that belief to be true. It’s like a snowball, the more you reinforce it, the stronger it gets.

What does perfectionism feel like and look like?

Well on the inside it’s thinking that you’re not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough and not smart enough. It’s the disappointment you feel by not having achieved what you want to in love. It’s being highly critical of yourself and going into self sabotage mode when something bad happens. It’s seeing a couple holding hands in the street and thinking “I’m alone”. It’s blaming yourself when the guy you’re seeing says he’s not feeling it anymore and asking yourself “if I was better, would he still be with me?”. It’s the fear to reveal your true self on a date just in case he thinks you’re “a bit much” or not fun enough / not interesting enough / not cool enough. It’s that sense of urgency, that ticking clock and the feeling like you should be married by now and the fact that you’re not means there’s something wrong with you.

And on the outside, it’s going into “fix it” mode to deal with the hard stuff like vulnerability, or the emotional rollercoaster of online dating, working out strategies to conquer it once and for all. It’s not saying how you really feel so you can play it cool. It’s getting your measuring stick out after a first date and seeing how much they stack up against the guy on your perfect man checklist. It’s not expressing your needs so you don’t offend anyone. It’s saying yes when you feel like you can’t say no. It’s people pleasing. It’s not rocking the boat. It’s not giving too much away on a first date. It’s not opening up and letting your guard down for fear of being judged. It’s toning yourself down and playing small in order to be liked. It’s writing a guy off too soon if he doesn’t show you he can be your life partner after date 2. It’s being highly critical of others and judging them on how they look and what job they do and then gossiping about those things to friends. It’s performing to gain approval from others to win their affection like it’s a prize to be won. It’s favouring “getting shit done” over me-time. It’s being defensive when your parents collar you and ask why you haven’t found someone to “settle down” with yet. It’s priding yourself on never needing to ask for help. It’s brushing off compliments. It’s comparing yourself to friends who are married with babies and feeling like they’re winning the game of life and you’re losing it.

What this means is that we’re sacrificing who we are in order to be liked. We’re chameleoning our way through dates. And in the words of Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection), “we’re hustling for our worthiness”.

All of this perfecting, pleasing, performing and proving is exhausting. And it’s blocking us from finding true love and meaningful connection with ourselves and with others. It’s making us unavailable to love, because we’re not being real. If we’re not “all in” in life and love - and I mean ALL IN (embracing the good, the bad and the ugly) - then how can we truly connect with someone else?

Yes it’s uncomfortable to be ALL IN but it’s so worth it. Like with any change in life, it’s a process that we can all work through, at our own pace and in whatever capacity we have right now. We’re imperfect, enough and an evolving work in progress.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen

Next week, I will share the 5 ways to stop perfectionism from ruining your love life, which forms part 2 of this post.

Love, V x