Why Perfectionists Feel Not Good Enough

Why Perfectionists Feel Not Good Enough | You work hard, but it’s never enough. We don’t have perfectionistic tendencies for no reason. So, why do we feel not good enough?

Do you feel not good enough?

Perhaps you work hard, work out and do the works to please others…

But it’s never enough.

You feel like a hamster sprinting in its wheel.

Although you’re exhausted, it seems impossible to stop. You might be thinking, What’s wrong with me?

But before you beat yourself up, listen—there’s more to this conundrum than you think.

We don’t have perfectionistic tendencies for no reason.

So, why do we feel not good enough?

Childhood upbringing

Joséphine skips into my office with a huge grin. With eager eyes, she waits for our private English class to start.

This 4 year-old girl’s joy is contagious. We laugh at silly drawings and make up games to practice colors. She seems to excel at everything.

But whenever Joséphine makes a mistake, she recoils like a sunflower turning away from the light.

One day after class, Joséphine’s dad grimaced at her notebook cover:

She didn’t write the “p” in her name correctly. (It did look like a “b” and a “p” had a baby.)

I replied, She’s learning how to write, it’s normal.  

Yeah, but it’s not perfect, her dad asserted.

Not long afterwards, Joséphine and I colored in triangles, squares and circles on a worksheet. She couldn’t wait to show her mom.

Look what we did, mom! Isn’t it pretty?

Her mom glanced at the worksheet and mocked her:

I can tell Annie did a better job at coloring!

Joséphine’s whole body sunk.

My heart goes out to all small children who learned that love is conditional. That they need to censor, repress and perfect themselves to feel safe and accepted.

Now that you’re an adult, you get to decide if your upbringing impacts how you feel.

Pick up the shattered bits of yourself.

Hold them close.

Let out your inner child.

Popular images of success

We live in a society of “not good enough”.

Whether you believe it or not, it’s easy to fall prey to media. Anyone who gets hit dozens of times a day with ads can feel the pressure to measure up.

What’s more, family, friends and colleagues can push you into certain images of success. You might even be your worst enemy:

  • I’m not rich enough
  • I should have a bigger and better home
  • I hate my hair, belly, legs, etc.
  • I should be more successful
  • I’m not fun, feminine and sexy enough

Pay attention to your negative thoughts. Choose to see them as helpful signs that you’re off track: You’re letting others dictate your life.

Perfection isn’t about conforming to popular images of success or beauty.

It’s about marveling at how each one of nature’s creations coexist.

And seeing our falls and mistakes as part of our beauty.

Why Perfectionists Feel Not Good Enough | You work hard, but it’s never enough. We don’t have perfectionistic tendencies for no reason. So, why do we feel not good enough?
Even a single forget-me-not contributes to nature’s perfection.

Role-playing

I love the French expression, L’Habit ne fait pas le moine—The cowl doesn’t make the monk.

In 1297, François Grimaldi, the Genoese leader of the Guelphs, and his army disguised themselves as Franciscan monks.

As a result, they invaded the fortress and captured the Rock of Monaco. The Grimaldi dynasty still reigns over the city today, more than 700 years later.

Perfectionism forces you to play a role.

You set impossibly high standards and attach your worth to them. Like Grimaldi’s case, it feels like a (metaphorical) question of life or death.

You assume that if you play your role well, you’ll gain approval, love and success. Otherwise, you’ll perish in shame and rejection.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • A good mom should never yell at her kids
  • A good colleague must stay on task and polite at all times
  • A good wife takes care of her partner first
  • A good friend should overlook her friend’s mean remarks

It’s easy to lose yourself in a role and treat yourself harshly when you don’t match up. Worst, you’ll never feel good enough if you keep hiding behind your persona.

Enter: anxiety, depression, anger and burnout.

Do you see why you need to break out of character? Grimaldi’s men threw off their costumes too.

The ultimate victory is finally embracing yourself.  

Avoiding pain

Perfectionism is like taking bad medicine.

In the beginning, you don’t realize it. It sounds like a good idea…

  1. Need love (or acceptance or respect)
  2. Perfect yourself
  3. Gain love

But in reality, it looks more like this…

  1. Need love (or acceptance or respect)
  2. Perfect yourself, ruminate, fear failure, beat yourself up, overcompensate, redo tasks, procrastinate, neglect self-care, feel anxious, depressed and never good enough
  3. Gain some short-lived love—maybe
  4. Repeat until nervous breakdown occurs

According to this article, anxiety and perfectionism fuel each other. Long ago, when you first began to feel not good enough, you grabbed the best medicine you had on hand: perfectionism.

It helped you cope with anxiety and low self-esteem. But perfectionism has many secondary effects. By creating sky-high standards, you set yourself up for more anxiety—and failure.

In the long-run, perfectionism actually helps you avoid pain. The pain of feeling not good enough, unworthy and broken. The pain that needs to heal.

Instead of downing more bad medicine, give yourself the love you need.

How do you show a friend you love her?

Give her a handpicked bouquet of wild flowers.

Take her out to lunch at her favorite café.

Extend the same kindness to yourself.

Why Perfectionists Feel Not Good Enough | You work hard, but it’s never enough. We don’t have perfectionistic tendencies for no reason. So, why do we feel not good enough?
Give yourself the love you need.

*Check out my coaching services to learn how to let go of perfectionism, self-doubt and people-pleasing.

When you feel not good enough, breathe deeply…

We all feel unworthy at one point or another.

Some people manage to accept it. Others don’t even know it’s there.

Now that you’re more aware, you have the power to choose.

You can choose to see you’re already whole.

Choose to put aside others’ expectations.

Zoom in on this moment.

Peace is here right now.


About the author

Hush Your Mind | Hi, I'm Annie, a mindfulness-based life coach who helps women let go of perfectionism, self-doubt and people-pleasing.

Annie Moussu is a mindfulness-based life coach who helps women let go of perfectionism, self-doubt and people-pleasing. Sign up for her newsletter to get blog articles twice a month.