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Do you always aim for perfection? Perhaps you see it as a virtue? Maybe you are you secretly proud of your must-always-get-it-right tendencies?
I know. I’ve been there. And this is what I’ve discovered – perfection is not your friend.
She might pretend to be. She’s there by your side telling you how important it is to have high standards. To accept nothing less from yourself. But really she’s waiting for those moments when you wobble. Those moments of self-doubt. Then she’s quick to whisper in your ear “Look, see you can’t do it. Best give up now”. Or “That looks really challenging – do you really think you can do it?.” “See, you’ve failed. I knew this would happen.”
Maybe she’s been by your side your whole life. Or maybe she just turns up now and again, on those days when you are feeling particularly vulnerable.
She’s that voice telling you’re not good enough. Why are you even trying? You’ll never get done. And besides, what will people think?
Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame.
It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight. – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Perfectionism is not the same as striving, doing our best, or self-improvement.
Healthy striving is when you are focused on yourself – when you are thinking about how you can improve. Perfectionism is when you are focused on what other people think.
Perfectionism doesn’t lead to results. It leads to fear, anxiety and stress.
Aiming for or refusing to accept anything less than perfection, is the road to unhappiness.
No matter how much you try, you will never have control over what other people think. But you do have control over you. You have control over your thoughts and your actions.
How perfectionism hurts you
Perfectionism is a sure path to burnout. It’ll keep you working long hours – where you feel that nothing is ever finished.
Perfectionism will also stop you learning, growing and developing new skills. It’ll stop you trying new things that could enrich your life. It’ll stop you going after your dreams.
- undermine your self-confidence
- drain your energy
- hamper your innovation and creativity
Perfectionism holds you back. How many things have you stopped doing, or worse still, not even started, because you were afraid of not getting it just right?
A successful, fulfilling life doesn’t come from being perfect.
You create a successful, fulfilling life through trying new things, making mistakes, trying again, learning and growing.
Ready to ditch perfection? Here are 7 strategies to try.
1. Recognise perfect for what it is. A myth.
There is no such thing as perfect. It is an unattainable goal. It’s not just unrealistic, it’s impossible!
Don’t head down the impossible road. If you keep striving for perfection you will never get there.
2. Stop comparisons
We all know intuitively that what we see in advertising, and particularly on social media is not real. But we still can’t help comparing.
Any time you find yourself in the comparison trap remind yourself that you are not seeing the truth. You’re seeing a highly curated highlight reel. Recognise it for what it is. Don’t use it as a basis for comparison.
3. Embrace your imperfections
Be real, not perfect. Embracing our imperfections make us all human, real, and relatable.
You can quieten your inner critic through fostering self-compassion.
When you practice self-compassion you recognise that you are human, and as a human, you are not perfect. You’re entitled to make mistakes. You recognise that mistakes are not a disaster, they help you improve, learn and grow.
Not only that, practising self-compassion actually makes it more likely that you will achieve your goals!
4. Just get started
If you’re procrastinating about starting something, chances are its perfectionism whispering at you.
Don’t try to” get it right” when you’re getting started, or the first time you try something new. Reframe it as practice, an experiment, or the first draft.
Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time. – Harry S. Truman
5. Embrace progress
Ditching perfection doesn’t mean not trying your best. Instead, you are giving yourself permission to move forward. Perfection is impossible, but progress is attainable.
Progress is also worth celebrating. Any kind of improvement or growth is something to be proud of.
When you measure your progress, whether it’s through a journal or any other type of tracker, you can see your achievements. You can see when you reach milestones and goals – you know you’re moving forward. It’s there in black and white.
Being consistent doesn’t mean being perfect. It just means doing something more often than you don’t. I would like to meditate every day. But somedays I don’t, and that’s fine. It still counts as building a meditation practice. I’m still moving forward.
6. Reframe “finished”
If you find yourself going in circles, unable to move forward until something is “done” give yourself deadlines for milestones along the way, not for when something is “finished”.
Embrace good enough. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of done.
7. Practice self-care regularly
Self-care is not a treat reserved for now and then. Self-care is essential for living your best life. When you prioritise self-care you signal to yourself, your family, and the rest of the world that you, imperfections and all, are important.
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