The Mighty Logo

15 Rules to Live By If You Struggle With Shame or Perfectionism

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

A few months ago I decided to sit down and come up with a list of rules I wanted to live my life by. I struggle with perfectionism, feeling like I have to be a caregiver to have worth and hidden shame I’m only now starting to uncover. I wanted a list of rules I could strive to develop for my life and to have an idea of what I wanted to give myself permission to exercise.

If you too struggle with shame or the idea that you have to be perfect to be worthy, these rules may be for you, too.

1. Making a mistake does not make me stupid; it makes me human.

If a mistake defines who I am, the only definition is that I am human… just like everyone else.

2. Other people’s opinions, respect or acceptance is not the be-all and end-all.

It’s just something they offer me or they don’t, and their opinions and other offerings don’t measure my worth. It’s something I can want or not want, value or not value. The only worth is the value I place on it.

3. I am worthy.

I am just as good, just as valuable, just as worthy as any other human.

4. Someone’s disapproval does not automatically mean I did something wrong.

It’s OK to disagree, fight for what you believe in, and so on… even if I “get in trouble.”

5. It’s OK to be my own person.

I am allowed to have boundaries with others, to voice my needs and to disagree with others. It’s OK to communicate my feelings toward others, even if those feelings are not the easy ones to communicate.

6. I am not a failure.

Getting into trouble, being corrected or reprimanded, having to face consequences imposed by those in authority or my perceived authority does not mean that I, as a person, am a failure. It might mean I did something wrong, and it might not. Even if I did do something wrong, the judgment is on the action, not me. If other people try to place the judgment on me (as a person), refer to rule #3.

7. Sometimes people are mean.

They have their own sh*t that sometimes leaks out in painful ways all over people around them. Just because someone is being mean doesn’t mean I deserve their abuse. The feeling it’s happening because I deserve it is a liar.

8. I am allowed to have a place in this world.

It’s OK for me to use my voice to shut down anyone who tries to make me feel as if I don’t belong or I am unworthy.

9. I belong.

I belong in this world. I belong in relationships with those I love and who love me. I belong to God. I. Belong.

10. I don’t need validation from others.

I don’t need other people to validate my actions, thoughts or opinions. I don’t need their approval as a sign that what I’m doing and thinking is OK. It’s OK and healthy to bounce ideas off those I trust and to weigh their feedback to determine its validity for myself, but they aren’t my parent and I’m not the 5-year-old asking if I can go to my friend’s house. I make my own choices and I am responsible for the consequences, both good and bad, of those choices.

11. Failing at something does not make me a failure.

Failing is a necessary part of life and success. Embrace failure. Learn from it, but kick shame to the curb.

12. Being a woman is something to celebrate.

It’s something to be proud of. It does not make me stupid or weak. It does not make me inferior or pathetic. After all, life itself ceases without women. Having the interests, desires, talents and looks I have are things I can be proud of. Celebrate femininity and let go of socially imposed shame. Where would society be without women?

13. A life that obsesses over being accepted by others is a life wasted.

No matter what I do, I can’t control other people’s thoughts, attitudes or opinions. If I spend all my energy trying to capture acceptance, I risk wasting the precious time I have on this earth trying to be someone else and often trying to be someone I wouldn’t otherwise be proud of. Life is too short to spend my days as a chameleon hoping for an approving nod to come my way. I will dare to be me and let acceptance fall where it may. (An important mantra.)

14. Perfection leads to anxiety.

Trying to be perfect, and especially expecting that I should be perfect, is nothing more than an anxiety trap. Progress, not perfection. Remember rule #1.

15. I am not responsible for others.

I am not responsible for other people’s reactions to me, my boundaries, truth or emotions. I’m not responsible for making them happy or keeping the peace at all costs. I have a responsibility to my fellow human beings to love them, care and help, but I am not responsible for them. I am responsible for me. It’s OK if I make people mad. It’s OK if people get upset in any way: sad, mad, frustrated, angry, defensive, annoyed, hurt, embarrassed, uncomfortable.

These are the rules I am giving myself permission to live by. It isn’t easy to choose to live with this perspective when we are raised and pressured by society to live the life of the self-sacrificing servant, the “stupid/weak” girl or the doormat. but it’s time we change that, don’t ya think?

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

Originally published: February 12, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home