Confession: I’m a recovering perfectionist.
I say “recovering” because I recognize I have a problem and I’m committed to improving it. But I still have a ways to go.
Last year, my motto was “Progress, not perfection,” and it served me well. I started this website, I produced two e-workbooks and I started actively working one-on-one with more coaching clients. I’m proud of my achievements. I can safely say that perfectionism no longer holds me back the way it used to.
It does, however, still trigger mild anxiety. Once a perfectionist, always a perfectionist, I say. Every blog post I publish is a challenge. I worry about typos and constantly think that I’ve failed to mention some big, glaring point that will leave my readers questioning my sanity.
But I have it under control to a great extent. I recognize when perfectionism is weighing me down, hampering my enthusiasm and stalling my progress. It’s still there. I feel it almost constantly. But I know now how to set it aside in order to move forward.
I don’t believe perfectionism is an inherently bad character trait. In fact, I think it’s a sign of self-respect. As perfectionists, we know we’re capable of so much. We want only to demonstrate our best at all times. And sadly, it simply isn’t possible. That’s what drives us nuts. We yearn, with all of our heart and soul, to express something absolutely pure and indisputably true. But life, by its very nature, prevents this.
Perfectionists are constantly at war with the world.
I won’t pretend to have all the answers. I can only share with you the things that work for me. If you’re a perfectionist, I encourage you to make the effort. Destroy it before it destroys your dreams. Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
There Is Time for Improvement
The world and everything in it is constantly evolving. Something that is “perfect” won’t always stay that way. The same is true for the “imperfect”. Why waste so much time and energy on it then? Why not, instead, simply focus on getting started? And, in the future, focus on making improvements? Why not embrace evolution and remind yourself that whatever you do, whatever you create, whoever you are, will be different tomorrow. In evolution there is power. But if you fail to fully DO, CREATE, or BE because of your silly desire to be perfect right from the word “go,” you rob yourself—and the world—of the joy of evolution.
Enjoy the Journey of Growth
Growth is a joyful experience. If you were born perfect and simply stayed that way, I guarantee life would lose a lot of meaning and pleasure. Embrace your imperfections. Learn to love the process of improvement. And, more importantly, learn to love your perfectly imperfect self as it stumbles through change and growth.
Love Yourself (As You Are)
Perfectionists think they’re never good enough. They constantly beat themselves up for falling short, or they push themselves to unfair and unhealthy extremes.
But if the ultimate goal is perfection, you’ll always be disappointed. No matter how much you fight or push or punish yourself. What an ugly way to treat the most important person in your life!
No One Else Matters
Who are you trying to be perfect for? If you learn how to unconditionally love who you are and what you mean to the world, no one else matters.
Truth be told, no one notices you nearly as much as they notice themselves. That’s the nature of the world. Everyone is self-centered. So stop letting your desire to impress someone (or prove something) trap you in perfectionism. They don’t care. And if they do, you probably won’t sway them. Either you’re perfect in their eyes and nothing you mess up will change that, or you’re imperfect and nothing you master will change it.
“They” don’t matter. You, on the other hand, do. And perfectionism isn’t serving you.
JUST STOP IT. NOW.
Here’s a little tough love for you. Perfectionism is not doing you any favors. It’s not making your life easier, or more joyful, or more productive. It’s not making you more liked, or more successful, or more respected. It’s only harming you.
So why do you fall for it? You have the power to silence that nagging voice inside your head. Be confident. Be real. Be YOU in all of your flawed, spectacular glory. Stop wasting time with the meaningless minutiae that doesn’t matter.
Perfect is overrated anyway.