Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” — Salvador Dali
Maybe you call it being Type A, workaholic, overachiever, obsessive compulsive, or a perfectionist. But do you find yourself stressed out, frustrated, and quite often procrastinating? Is your quest to be ever so perfect robbing you of the joy in your life? Is this self-punishing sacrifice really worth the cost?
Rest easy, you are not alone. Most of us strive to be the perfect parent, partner, employee, boss, and friend. Just as many of us strive to have the perfect home, appearance, or body. The perfect life—with everything perfectly in place. Stemming from early learning, we believe A plus grades and first-place wins in all we do is the only end goal. The thrill of pleasing and impressing others with excellent performance initially creates joy and self-satisfaction, but over time it brings unhappiness, displeasure, and discouragement.
Sadly, we also begin to feel that anything less than perfect is unacceptable or a failing miss. We try to compensate for the less-than-perfect outcomes by working that much harder, creating a never-ending cycle of worry and stress which leads to procrastination and inevitably giving up because your results are less than your vision of perfection.
Perfectionism is subjective, and impeccably packaged—we define it all on our own.
The drive for perfection stifles our creativity and spontaneity, because we fear that without meticulous planning we may fail, facing self-doubt, rejection, embarrassment, and criticism. And we ultimately blame ourselves for the lackluster results.
Changing Your Perfect Perspective
In an interesting twist, perfectionists appreciate and love the quirkiness and individuality they see in others. But sadly, they are so inwardly critical, they are unable to share and celebrate that in themselves. Nothing is ever perfect enough for the perfectionist, so many perfectionists suffer from anxiety, depression, addictions, and other mental and physical health issues.
Fortunately, as we grow, some of us begin to realize that perfect is unrealistic and unattainable. Without the grip and fear of all consuming perfection, we can genuinely enjoy full life experiences and relationships.
When you let go of perfection you begin living again.
Reclaiming Your Joy
How do you shake the constant stream of thoughts that remind you to only accept that which is perfect from yourself and others? Start right now.
1. You are perfectly imperfect, so stop being angry.
Perfectionism = Anger.
Understand the root of your anger when it rears its ugly head. Is it when things don’t go your way or are disappointed? When your unrealistic high standards are not met? When you make mistakes or are 5 minutes late for a meeting? Humans are not perfect. We stumble, we fall, we learn, we adapt…this is how we survive, grow and prosper. The one you hurt most is yourself and then those closest to you.
In fact, when you fail (like we all do at some point), your spirit rises and overcomes, which reveals your true self to you and others. Start with learning to love, accept, and be kind to yourself—just as you are.
2. You are enough, leave perfection behind.
When we set unrealistic standards for ourselves, we set ourselves up for failure. We believe that our attempt for perfection will shower us with attention, praise, or love. But once we fail to hit the impossible marker we have set, we feel guilt, embarrassment or unworthiness. Move beyond mistakes to keep them from defining you. Embrace and work hard on tasks at hand, continue to keep in mind no one is expecting it to be exactly perfect. Remember your value and self-worth are not a result of your accomplishments.
3. Hold yourself in the present.
Insisting on perfection in everything you do is a dead-weight albatross to your spirit and soul. Your quest for perfection keeps you from achieving and celebrating your goals. You are prevented from trying new endeavors or having an open mind for fear of failure. Because if it’s not perfect or your idea, why bother? Or if plans don’t go exactly your way, you are frustrated and give up entirely, because it’s your way or the highway—all or nothing, black or white.
Not taking risks and fully living will leave you always wondering if you could have gone further, done more, or been more. Take a step into the unknown, sometimes the most wondrous and joyful experiences come from the unexpected. Cherish the joy and excitement of a surprise, sometimes they turn out even better than anything we could have hoped for.
We are all imperfect perfectionists.
Perfectionism does get a bad rap. Perfectionists invent, at great sacrifice to themselves and their relationships, the many life-changing inventions we enjoy today. They are smart and have changed our world—medical research to cure us, aerospace and car design to transport us safely. I applaud them and thank them for their tireless and exacting work. When kept in check, perfection can be an excellent engine for innovation. When let run unchecked, perfectionism will steal your joy and cost you friendships and relationships.
Instead, choose to break free.
The constant hunger for perfection will leave you weary, hollow, and unsatisfied. Life is deliciously messy, inconvenient, blemished—just how it is meant to be. Intentionally simplify your life. Do your best, then let it go. Celebrate the small wins. Be happy rather than always right. Laugh more. Choose what really matters. Relax and let true joy come in. Joy is waiting for you; it is your choice to experience it.
If any of this resonates with you and you’d like help reining in your perfectionism, I would welcome the chance to help you live a fulfilled, joyful life.