Perfection is a mountain you will never summit, plain and simple. We hang our hat on the idea of being perfect in some specific aspect of our life, but I believe that this is upper-limiting at its finest – holding ourselves back from doing amazing things because it isn’t/we aren’t perfect.
Have you ever done this? Made an excuse for why you did or didn’t do something because it wasn’t quite right, up to your standards, or it didn’t go exactly how you had planned it would?
I have. Many times. I used to say “I’m a perfectionist” like it was a powerful thing. Like I was unique in some way. When the simple truth of it is that to say you’re a perfectionist is to say that you keep yourself in a tiny comfortable box where you decide when it’s safe to step out or not. You hold yourself back and hide behind this identity rather than accepting that you’re good enough and everything you put out there doesn’t have to be perfect to be accepted.
Why Do We Do This?
I know, I used to think perfectionism was a good thing too. And it can be, under the right circumstances. I think perfectionists hold themselves to a higher standard and this is a powerful thing. However, there comes a point in time where a high standard is an unreachable standard and you have to learn when to let good enough be good enough or you will stall out from moving forward.
I see this in business, and I see this in life. As humans, we make excuses all the time for why we can’t do something – we’re really fucking good at convincing ourselves of something that we want to be true (but isn’t, necessarily). Usually, in a perfectionist’s brain, we justify inaction because of an imperfection. Often from the outside looking in these imperfections are irrelevant – but to you, they are deal breakers for moving forward. They get stuck in the “all or nothing” mindset.
For example, a perfectionist goes to a barbeque…
This sounds like the beginning of a bad bar joke…bare with me.
…and is trying to lose some weight. He decides he isn’t going to eat anything while he is there and will only drink water. Later that night he got so hungry he caved and had a burger. On the way home his internal dialogue shifts into “well I messed up so I might as well stop and get some ice cream too, and the rest of the weekend is shot now I might as well just start again on Monday.”
To the outsider this is ridiculous – the burger wasn’t even a poor choice, yet the inability to meet the expectations he placed on himself sent him into a spiral of inaction and justification for further poor decisions.
Is There a Cure For Perfectionism?
Haha well…it’s kinda true. The first step is to drop the all or nothing mindset, and to stop setting unrealistic expectations on yourself. Meet in the middle – where is your middle ground? That’s where you need to live. Forget the extremes – this is where you are currently. Be aware of what your internal dialogue is saying, and recognize when you’re talking yourself into an extreme. You’ve heard this before, but don’t slash the other three tires because you get one flat.
Next, prepare to feel uncomfortable. You have been really good up to this point of talking yourself out of discomfort and hiding behind the idea that “I can’t do it perfectly, so why bother trying”. This is monkey poop, and you know it. Lean into discomfort, accept your slip ups and actually learn something from them rather than blaming the circumstances around you. How are you getting in your own way (because you are), and how can you step aside and let yourself move forward into the unknown and embrace the suck.
The suck is where change happens. There’s nothing us perfectionists hate more than the suck, but this is where we have to live if we want to let our true self shine through once and for all.
You’re fucking amazing exactly as you are, and there is no such thing as perfect. Where is your middle? Where are you uncomfortable? Lean into that more often and over time you will learn that amazing things will happen when you let yourself get comfortable with good enough.