Is this flower any less beautiful for being imperfect?
“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” – Harriet Braiker
I have worked with several clients who struggle with the 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 losing proposition and will only bring about frustration. Everyone is perfectly imperfect and the sooner that we accept that the less anxiety we will feel.
STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE INSTEAD
Harriet Braiker’s words couldn’t be more spot on, the best we can achieve as inherently flawed human beings is excellence.
What’s wrong with excellence anyway? A meal at a Michelin-star restaurant is “excellent,” Kobe Bryant is an “excellent” athlete. The list goes on...
Perfectionism is not necessarily revered in our culture anyway—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. And it's once we move outside our comfort zone that 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.
BREAKING THE PERFECTIONIST CYCLE
So, just how can you perfectionists out there break that vicious cycle?
- 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 or social group, or are your co-workers.
- 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 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.
- Lose 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 mean 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.
- Write down a list of past mistakes and their outcomes.
You have to accept your 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, what you learned from them and what good eventually developed. This will help clarify that not being perfect is not necessarily a horrible proposition.
- 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 or 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.