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It’s time to stop calling ourselves “recovering” perfectionists

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Picture this: It’s Saturday morning, you’re there, hunched over your laptop, and coffee number three is growing cold beside you. You’re frantically proofreading an email, the same one you’ve been at for hours, because that nagging voice in the back of your head keeps insisting, “it could be better.” 

You know it’s fine – more than fine, actually. But then, like a glitch in the matrix, a typo leaps out at you, mocking the 100 rounds of edits it dodged! It’s time to stop calling ourselves “recovering” perfectionists

Sound familiar? Welcome to the perfectionist’s dilemma, where “good enough” is as mythical as a unicorn. Legendary, sought after, but never found.

We laugh about it because it’s our shared truth, sugar-coated in humor. This need to polish, to enhance, to wring out every ounce of potential from a task — it runs deep for so many of us, but particularly among women.

But where did this need for flawlessness come from? It’s not like we popped out of the womb with red pens in hand, ready to spend our lives in a state of perpetual revision. No, historians and psychologists point to a legacy of social conditioning that groomed women for roles of meticulous, invisible, and unappreciated work 🫠

So here we are, another Women’s History Month, and it’s time to acknowledge our progress from the days when our worth was measured by spotless floors and dinner timed with our husbands’ arrivals. We’ve certainly made strides from the “woman’s place is in the home” era, but the journey from there to here hasn’t been a straightforward path by any means. 

To move forward, to stop driving ourselves crazy with never-ending edits, to start believing “good enough” is, in fact, enough — we need to hit pause on the nitpicking. We have to question the old tales that were handed down to us and dare to write new stories. 

This week, I’m chatting with Katherine Morgan Schafler, author of The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace. She’s a psychotherapist who sharpened her skills in some of the most intense environments imaginable as the on-site therapist at Google and on Wall Street. Her time in those pressure-cooker settings uniquely positioned her to understand what it means to strive for perfection when the stakes are high and the expectations are even higher. 

I read The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control early last year and I’ve been itching to talk to her ever since. The book plunges into the yin and yang of perfectionism and her stance is clear: wrap your arms around your superpower and give it a big ol’ bear hug. She believes rethinking perfectionism is key to women stepping up to the plate, ready to manage not just their finances but their futures with clarity and intent. 

We’re on the cusp of something big, ya’ll. History is about to hand over the keys to the kingdom with an unprecedented $30 trillion wealth transfer that is set to make women the richest demographic in the country. 

Continuing to call ourselves “recovering perfectionists” isn’t just a quirky label — it’s fundamentally harmful. Because women won’t just inherit the money, we get the responsibility that comes with it. The ‘recovering’ label implies that we should suppress the very quality that could help us steward this upcoming windfall. And arguably, it’s a battleground of its own.  

Perfectionism isn’t the villain we’ve made it out to be. Think of it as a force, a powerful untamed energy that, if you play it right, can blaze trails and lead you to unparalleled success and influence. The very notion of it being something we need to “recover” from? That’s selling us short and undermining the power packed in every woman’s punch. And one thing is clear, if we don’t know our history, we’re bound to repeat it.

As we inch closer to 2030, the conversation around perfectionism and women’s relationship with power and money needs to evolve. The history of women and money is littered with denied access, tight-fisted control, strings attached, and being systemically underestimated. This impending wealth transfer is about more than just padding our bank accounts, it’s a seismic shift in societal dynamics. 

It’s bigger than an opportunity to brush up on financial acumen and basics, it’s a total plot-twist in how we, as women, measure our worth, perfectionism included. It’s about staring in the mirror and recognizing a powerhouse decision-maker staring back.

Back in the day, society told women our value came from how pristine we could keep our homes. Fast forward to today, and not much has changed, except now we’re chasing that perfection in the boardroom instead of the living room. And it’s all tangled up with our identities, knotted tight with threads of race, class, and sexuality. As we gear up to take the reins of wealth and step into roles as financial decision-makers, our stories will shape how well we handle it. 

For some, privilege softens the edges, but for others, it’s a quadruple whammy of struggle as we bear the brunt of compounded disadvantages. Take it from someone who’s felt the pressure to work twice as hard just to get a nod of “good enough”. I’ve been there, feeling like every move and every word had to be gold-plated. And even now, I catch myself second-guessing my ideas, wondering if I’m making sense, or if I’m even being heard. That inner critic is a broken record of, “be perfect or they’ll think you don’t belong,” and it’s relentless. 

The load is heavy and the stakes are sky-high. But here’s the thing: even though the scales tip unevenly, we’re all in this hustle trying to meet what society expects of us. If we only talk about the struggle, we’ll miss the whole picture. 

Our shared goal should be to equip every woman with the know-how to channel their perfectionism into something awesome, while avoiding the traps along the way. If we can rally around empathy and get where each other’s coming from, maybe, just maybe, we can start tipping those scales back. There is work to be done, but together, it seems doable. 

Now, some folks will say that rebranding perfectionism is just dressing up a problem that’s been known to wreak havoc on our mental health. And they’re not entirely off base—left unchecked, perfectionism can morph into a beast of anxiety, depression, and a slew of other concerns. This isn’t about slapping on a rose-colored filter. It’s about seeing the whole picture and every shade of its influence. 

We’ve got to find that sweet spot between striving for the stars and driving ourselves nuts. 

So how do we move forward? Well, for starters – cut ourselves some slack by practicing self-compassion and challenging our negative thoughts. Then it’s about aiming for bite-sized realistic goals wins, taking breaks, and seeking support from others to lean on. 

It sounds like a tall order, I know, but staying stuck in a loop of self-doubt isn’t doing us any favors. We also need to demand more support tailored to our different experiences. Financial education, mentors, you name it. If there’s anything we can take from our grandmothers and the women who came before us, it’s that a closed mouth don’t get fed. 

The wealth transfer that’s knocking at our doors isn’t just a financial shift. It’s a cultural quake that will shake up our entire belief system. It’s calling on us to question everything we thought we knew and re-examine how we discuss women’s perfectionism, especially when it comes to handling money. Because let’s face it, managing wealth is akin to managing life itself, and that starts with mastering our own minds.

Let’s use the historical suppression of women’s power as a wake-up call and a reminder of the strength that lies in redefining and reclaiming our traits as sources of power and confidence. Instead of treating perfectionism as some sort of disease, let’s acknowledge its benefits when it’s paired with a healthy dose of self-care, and also recognize the systemic inequities that continue to shape many women’s experiences. 

Because ready or not, the way women approach money is about to change big time. So buckle up, it’s going to be one heck of a ride.

The post It’s time to stop calling ourselves “recovering” perfectionists appeared first on rich & REGULAR.

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