Face It, Perfect Just Isn't Going To Happen
Practical advice for those who struggle with the perfectionist mentality and how to break those self-defeating patterns.
“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” – Harriet Braiker
I have worked with several clients who struggle with this idea that they should be perfect, and I must admit that, I too, have been guilty of feelings of perfectionism periodically. The perfectionism ideal is a loosing proposition and will only bring about frustration; everyone is perfectly imperfect and the sooner that we accept that the less anxiety we will feel. Harriet Braiker’s words couldn’t be more spot on, the best we can achieve as inherently flawed human beings is excellence. What’s exactly wrong with excellence anyway? A meal at a Michelin-star restaurant is “excellent,” Kobe Bryant is an “excellent” athlete, etc. Perfectionism is not necessarily revered in our culture, what is respected are people who accomplish things. It is through our mistakes and missteps that we learn to be better and are empowered to operate outside our comfort zone. Once we move outside our comfort zone that is when transformations occur. Why reach for something that is completely unattainable for anyone? The perfectionist mentality is only setting yourself up for disaster. We are here to grow and find our purpose in life, that road may be very windy and fraught with detours, but once discovered then you can begin to shoot for excellence.
So, just how can you perfectionists out there break that vicious cycle?
1.) Stop trying to compete with and “out-do” others.
You are your own person, on your own path. Ignore the competition and go with your intuition and highlight your individual strengths, that is how you will stand out and succeed. Surround yourself with supportive people and in turn become more supportive of them, yes even if they are in your same industry, social group, are co-workers, etc.
2.) Re-evaluate your daily expectations.
Are your daily “to-do” lists realistic? Are you running yourself ragged to accomplish way too much in one day? Review your daily expectations of yourself and perhaps lower them to a more attainable and less draining series of activities. Goals can still be accomplished, maybe not as instantaneously as you perfectionists would like, but your stress level will definitely decrease and that will have the secondary benefit of keeping you more healthy. If you miss a self-imposed deadline for a project it is okay, forgive yourself and complete it when you are able.
3.) Loose your all or nothing thinking.
Also known as black and white thinking patterns; there are always many shades in-between. Just because you didn’t execute something flawlessly initially doesn’t mean you didn’t do a great job. Not achieving exactly what you set out to do does not necessarily mean absolute failure. Most things in life fall into a gray area, learn to embrace that and work towards gradual improvement until your desired outcome is reached.
4.) Write down a list of past mistakes and their outcomes.
One must accept their past mistakes and make peace with them. A good way to accomplish this is to write down a list of missteps you may have taken in your life and write down what you learned from them and perhaps what good eventually developed. This will help clarify that not being perfect is not necessarily a horrible proposition.
5.) It’s okay to be vulnerable.
I know perfectionists never show that anything bothers them, but it simply isn’t true. Everyone has setbacks and bad days from time to time and it is perfectly natural to be affected. Open up to a trusted friend/family member or write out all your feelings in a journal. It is completely human to be frustrated or discouraged on occasion and acceptable to acknowledge those feelings.
If you begin implementing these practical steps, your desire for perfection will begin to wane and you will be a happier person because of it.