I am guessing that the title of this blog has you very intrigued. Total perfectionism is objective. But, we know that that nothing is perfect. So, since true perfection is unattainable it is entirely subjective— based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
So, of course you are not perfect to the world. And neither am I.
But, do you act out of that truth? Are you a self proclaimed perfectionist?
When athletes, friends, or even acquaintances come to me with dreams and goal setting ambitions one of the obstacles they often claim to face is the desire to strive toward being perfect. Some see and state the truth that this as a barrier to their ability to come out of their comfort zone and actualize their full potential and joy. Others wear it as a badge of strength. It shows their willingness to continually strive for the unattainable, even though somewhere in the depths of their mind they are aware that they will never arrive at perfect.
I am here to lovingly, compassionately, and bluntly let you know: being a perfectionist is not healthy.
Brene Brown defines many of the myths of perfectionism in her book, Daring Greatly.
- Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame.
- Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval.
- Perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the area where healthy competition and striving unfolds.
A perfectionist mindset may limit goal setting capabilities from conceptualization. It becomes easy to think that you must be good at something to start. Or you many be confident enough to set a hard goal, but with the idea that you will be able to manipulate the process to avoid any emotional pain or judgment.
Many runners and triathletes have self described “Type A” personalities. It takes a great amount of organization, dedication, and ambition to train for and race endurance events. It also takes those same skills to schedule the time to train in conjunction with other life roles and to uphold priorities (being a partner/ spouse/ friend/ parent/ sibling/ child/ employee/ employer to name a few). But, athletes with this kind of personality benefit from being self aware enough to know when the line of organized crosses over into controlling. Dedication into tunnel vision. Ambition into the belief that as long as we work hard enough all will go exactly as planned.
To know when learning and growing alongside healthy competition gets pushed aside. When the idea that the next piece of gear, gadget, coach, training plan, minute of training, restrictive diet, etc will be the answer. That you can get one step closer to perfect.
You don’t need to be an athlete to be a perfectionist. We see it everywhere. At work, in parenting and other relationships, and in our housework and our lawn care. We start to believe that our output at work defines us. We see our kids successes and failures as a direct correlation of who we are and what we can do better. We spend all day on the weekends meticulously maintaining our flower gardens so no one has to be burdened with looking at weeds.
It is truly quite a privilege to even consider the possibility of perfection.
So, how do you start to undo perfectionist thinking?
- Practice believing in your own personal self worth, that which is in you at birth and does not change with what you do or don’t do. YOU are a gift to the world. We need you!
- Listen to your truth and act on your intuition to your interests. Try new things. Come out of your comfort zone.
- Be mindful, intentional, and preset. Let go of white knuckling control.
- Fail. Let your partner or spouse fail. Let your kids fail. Experience the fact that when you do, you are okay.
- Learn and then achieve from a place of abundance, not from a place of fear of not being good enough or judged.
I have a high regard and respect hard working high performers. But, I can see when performance is fueling by the fear in perfectionism.
I give you permission today to stop trying to be perfect, in anything and everything you do. Work your ass off because you believe in yourself and you want to give value to the world. Do it even when no one is looking. Celebrate your successes and learn from your failures. Feel it all. Be you.
“I’m not perfect, but I’ll always be real” -Tupac Shakur