Even our worst enemies don’t talk about us the way we talk to ourselves. I call this voice the obnoxious roommate living in our head. It feeds on putting us down and strengthening our insecurities and doubts.
This voice is especially loud and obnoxious when it comes to our appearance. Our skin. Our hair. The size and shape of our bodies. Freckles, cellulite, stretch marks, scars, vitiligo — our obnoxious roommate has a way of zeroing in on our vulnerabilities, whatever they may be, that can leave us self-conscious, diminished and depleted.
I have spent many years trying to evict my obnoxious roommate and have now managed to relegate her to only occasional guest appearances in my head. What makes our liberation from these voices harder is that so much of the news and information directed at women these days seems determined to reinforce unattainable and unrealistic ideals that make us feel that our lives are somehow lacking. We are constantly made to feel that we should strive for perfection. We are told we must be prettier, thinner, sexier, more successful, make more money, be better moms, better wives, better lovers, et cetera. Though often wrapped in a “You go, girl!” message, the subtext is clear: We should feel bad because we are not living up to someone else’s idea of perfection.
That’s why I’m thrilled to announce our new partnership with Venus to help us define and combat a feeling that holds too many of us back: Perfection Anxiety. We’re on a mission not only to end the pursuit of unattainable perfection, especially as it relates to our skin, our size, our hair, and our body, but to give people the confidence to reframe how they define flaws and appreciate their distinct and unique features. Because every part of our appearance is fundamental to who we are, and worth celebrating.
The pressures and expectations of Perfection Anxiety tend to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women and gender non-conforming people. That’s why we’re highlighting their stories and how they’ve learned to challenge the social conditioning that can lead to their Perfection Anxiety — including being teased as a child or unrealistic social media feeds.
I personally have had plenty of confrontations with my obnoxious roommate over the years when it comes to my appearance. For years I did battle with my thick Greek peasant hair. But we’ve reached a détente and I no longer let it stress me out. Reciting some of my favorite quotes helped me in moments when Perfection Anxiety crept in. For me, it’s about perspective and reframing — shifting away from someone else’s definition of perfection. My skin, my hair, my body — these are not attributes whose value is determined by others, they are part of who I am. When I think of Rumi’s quote “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor,” or Montaigne’s “There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened,” I am able to see my obnoxious roommate’s harsh judgments for what they are — criticisms that have no business taking up space in my life and making me feel bad about myself.
Each one of us can find our own way to counter specific Perfection Anxiety, speak up about it, support each other, and celebrate the (beautiful) imperfections that make us who we are.
In that spirit, here are a few of my favorite Microsteps to counter Perfection Anxiety. Next time you feel it, give one a try.
1. Let go of something today that isn’t serving you.
If you’re spending a lot of time each day trying to improve some aspect of your appearance, ask yourself, am I doing this for me? Or am I doing it to appeal to someone else’s idea of perfection? If it’s the latter, stop doing it. You’ll begin to move past your Perfection Anxiety, and you can take back that time for something that really matters.
2. Identify an area of your body you’re insecure about and find something you love about it.
Don’t just think it. Say it out loud! Whatever it is – a scar, a freckle, stretch marks, cellulite – verbalizing love for yourself will help train your brain to reframe the false narrative of negative self-talk. And it will give you the confidence to be a role model for others who may be feeling the same insecurities.
3. Share an imperfect photo of yourself on social media.
There’s nothing like leading by example. Be honest and vulnerable. You’ll reframe the experience as being an expression of yourself, not an opportunity for others to react and judge.
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