Are you both a perfectionist and an introvert? If so, you’re not alone—introversion and perfectionism often go hand in hand.
Why do these two traits often team up? It may be because introverts spend more time alone than extroverts, and in that alone time, introverts reflect on their reality and find ways that it is coming up short.
When introversion meets perfectionism, the pressure to be perfect is more keenly felt and can impact your self-worth. So, here are three powerful exercises that can help you reclaim your self-worth and expand your options:
1. Double Standards Definer
This exercise will help you pinpoint any expectations you have for yourself that are too high. First, think about the standards you’re holding yourself to in a particular area of your life. For example, what do you expect of yourself as a mother or an employee? Maybe you want to be the mom whose child never has a tantrum when it’s time to leave the playground or the sales person who is always the top performer. Write a list of these expectations.
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Now, go through the list as though you were deciding what standards you would hold a dear friend to. Remember, this is a person you love and trust to act well. Which of these standards seem unreasonable? Cross out any that seem too high.
Then, ask yourself, what would be the implications if I applied these new edited standards to myself? Pick one tiny change that you can make in the direction of holding yourself to kinder, more forgiving standards and experiment with it.
Holding yourself to a kinder standard will take a lot of self-generated pressure off your shoulders. It opens the door to you exploring what it is you really want in your life (when you are not holding yourself to the standard of perfection). Allowing imperfection in your life also makes you a whole lot more relatable to other people, because you’re allowing your humanity.
2. Options Expander
Sometimes being a perfectionist and an introvert, you’ll feel as though you always have to provide the perfect conditions for the introverted part of you. For example, you might skip an event because you fear it will be too much of an energy drain. Or, you might give up a dream vacation because you know the journey will be exhausting and overwhelming. The downside is you may eventually feel like your options in life are very limited.
Try this exercise to help you think about expanding your options. First, write a description of the kind of conditions that the introverted part of you loves and enjoys. Use your five senses when you write this. In that special place, what do you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell? Cosy into the relaxing description that you have created.
Now, write a description of the kind of conditions that your introverted self is uncomfortable with. For example you might find yourself sensitive to very noisy environments or avoid a retreat because at the beginning of the retreat you worry about introducing yourself to a large group. Again use sensory language as you write this.
Next, write a list of adventures that you have always wanted to go on, both small and large adventures. You might want to go to a concert where you know the music will be loud and the crowd might feel overwhelming. You might want to visit Rome on a summer art tour but you’re worried about being in a group with others for extended periods.
Ask yourself, when going on my greatest adventures, will I always be able to create the optimal conditions that I described at the beginning of this exercise? Or will there be times when you have to make the compromise of experiencing less than perfect conditions?
Don’t just stop at brainstorming ideas for adventures. When you feel comfortable, actually choose one small adventure to go on. You can get the ball rolling by deciding on the smallest step toward making that adventure happen. It should be a step that is small enough to keep the introverted side of you feeling a degree of calm.
Remember that you can also create “pit stop” breaks for your introverted self. For example, if you do go on the tour in Rome, don’t go for the shared room option so that you get the time alone that you need to balance the time with the other tour members.
By stepping into your desired adventures, while still acknowledging and allowing your introversion, you allow yourself to be you while you live a bigger life than you would otherwise have created—a life filled with memories of what you did, what you saw, and who you loved.
3. Positive Feedback Finder
Another self-esteem saboteur that can affect the perfectionist introvert is where you receive your feedback from. If you spend a lot of time alone and are a perfectionist, you will tend to rely on your own appraisal of how well you have done. For example, an introvert chef may never know how well he cooks, because he is so used to his cooking matching up to the recipe book pictures. He will never realize that for a lot of people this is not the reality of home cooking!
This is a common trap that perfectionist introverts find themselves in. Even if they do get feedback from others, they will sometimes be so caught up in their own thoughts and impressions of what has happened that they will discount that feedback.
To help identify some positive feedback, try the exercise I like to call “The Positive Feedback Finder.” First, get yourself a small journal and a pen that you like to write with. On the left side, make notes about your own positive feedback on how you have performed/acted. This will require you to notice what you’re thinking about. When do you notice that you did a job well, left a place better than you found it, or made a valuable contribution?
On the right side, begin to notice and record positive feedback from other people or sources. This could be something as simple as someone commenting that they like your new pair of shoes—or something more meaningful such as when someone says you’re a great listener or are perceptive (both wonderful traits that introverts often have).
You might notice at first that the left side is filled more quickly. Ask yourself, what positive feedback have I been ignoring, or is it simply that I have not found sources of positive feedback? It’s a wonderful gift to have sources of positive feedback in your life. Consider where you can find such people and seek them out. For some people this might mean working with a coach who can reflect back to you your positive momentum.
When looking at the left side, notice whether you are valuing or devaluing your own positive opinion of yourself. How would your life be different if you allowed yourself to believe in all that is good about you?
Often perfectionism is a part of who you are, just as your introversion is. Becoming aware of how your perfectionism and introversion are related can help them exist more in harmony. These parts of you don’t have to destroy your self-esteem or severely limit your options. Instead, when they are in harmony, you can become someone who is clear about what you want and is willing to do the work to achieve that—with grace rather than with punishment.
Here are some questions to consider to help you reach a state of harmony between your perfectionism and your introversion:
- How is my perfectionism trying to help me?
- How is my introversion trying to help me?
- How is my introversion a part of my perfectionism?
- How is my perfectionism part of my introversion?
These are not meant to be easy questions like those from a pop quiz in a magazine. They are deeply reflective questions. But, as an introverted perfectionist, deeply reflective questions are just your bag.
When you realize the value of your introversion and your perfectionism and see how they can work together, you can grow in self-worth and self-knowledge as you accept these parts of your personality. You can also notice how they influence your life, and so be more conscious about the choices you make and the adventures you choose to take.