Has someone ever told you that they thought you were a perfectionist? And then, could you think of several very specific reasons why you didn’t exactly fit that profile? Why you fell just short? Maybe you had a list, with bullet points? Then, yes, you just might be a perfectionist! So many of us are or we’re at least recovering perfectionists. And, in reality, the need to be perfect, act perfect, or strive for perfection is completely debilitating and limiting. You are likely to be much more successful by not trying to be perfect. Here are some things you can try to overcome perfectionism, suppress your unrealistic tendencies… AND find freedom.
The Problem With Perfectionism
Perfectionism is a mental state that leads to behaviors whereupon you set unrealistically high standards for yourself. Then, when you can’t meet these impossible achievements, you harshly critique yourself. This pattern can lead to self-esteem issues, frustration, burnout, and overall unhappiness. It can even lead to procrastination because if you don’t think you can be perfect at something, you don’t dare try. If you can relate to any of these tendencies, you just might benefit from these 7 ways to find freedom in NOT being perfect.
#1) Strive For Excellence Not Perfection
Sounds easy in theory, right? Where perfectionism is a counterproductive goal that can never really be reached, excellence is attainable. The very degrees of excellence can also be defined by you and created by you. Excellence can be authentic and real. Once you understand the difference between striving for excellence vs. perfection, you’ll be well on your way to freedom. And not just for yourself. There is self-orientated perfectionism, sure. But you could also knowingly or unknowingly be imposing perfectionism on others. Expecting way too much of others (family, kids, friends, etc.) creates so much pressure! Excellence is born from realistic expectations. But perfectionism can cause you to drown in anxiety.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Perfect is boring”? Flaws make you relatable, likeable…human!
#2) Learn New Things
Learning is rooted in imperfection because no one expects to be perfect at something when you are “in training”. Think about a child learning to ride a bike or swim. Imperfections are unavoidable. As we get older, sometimes we start limiting our desire to learn new things and inevitably limit ourselves to only doing things that we can do well. We take fewer risks. Trying new things (the more humbling the better) can be like taking a bullet train to failure. Learning should be messy. It’s such a vulnerable process where failures, oopsies, and mishaps are expected and even encouraged. We can tell you that when Team Busbee took a Cardio Drumming class together last fall during our team retreat (pictured above)….it was messy. Most of us were not incredibly coordinated, there were flying balls, fits of laughter, and it was absolutely not perfect in the most beautiful way.
“Perfectionism is the enemy of creation.” – John Updike
#3) Be A Work In Progress
Being imperfect and exposing our flaws or even being broken or unfinished means we are a work in progress. And, you can be a work in progress your entire life. Living a life of being “unfinished” can be liberating, exciting, and fun. Exposing our flaws to ourselves, our partners, our friends, our families, and especially our children lets them see that not being perfect is the only way to truly grow.
#3) Redefine Success
Erin shared that for her, perfectionism was incredibly limiting. For a period of time, she had convinced herself that it was a driving force, but it actually did the opposite. It limited her ability to succeed. If your ability to succeed is defined by you and only you…your lists, goals, and self-implied direction, you could be missing out BIG time. Success can exist way beyond what we can comprehend or even think possible. More than we ever knew how or thought to wish for. Your perception of “reality” could be holding you back from limitless possibilities. By staying trapped in your own singular perception of reality, you could be ignoring a higher potential. The pursuit of perfection becomes a form of control or protection.
One of Erin’s paths to success has been paved by Manifestation. Read more about her own powerful and personal experiences with manifestation here.
#4) Embrace Being “Wrong”
How do you feel about being right? And, how do you feel about being wrong? Let’s face it, nobody loves being wrong…but when we strive to prioritize being right for the sake of being right, we are distracting ourselves from the overall goal. We don’t need to get everything right. Take that in for a sec! Just like tip #2, learning how to be wrong can actually maximize, not minimize, your achievements. Part of this is learning to embrace criticism from others. Honestly, this is an art form. And something many of us struggle with. But when you give yourself permission to not be perfect and to be wrong (upon occasion) you’ll free yourself from expecting to be right all the time. You’ll see it as an opportunity to improve.
#5) Focus On Positives
OK, so “being positive” isn’t exactly a ground-breaking suggestion. But in this case, we specifically mean to try and create a new internal narrative about how well or unwell something went. Focus on the things that were a success. Why is it that when we hear 5 compliments and 1 criticism that negative comment sticks with us like gum on a shoe? For days if not months if not years! This can also be the case with a project, trip, work event, or gathering. If something negative occurs, you can learn from it without spiraling. Reframing your thoughts and memories about situations that happened and creating a desirable “story” or dialogue in your head will help. A perfectly imperfect party, presentation, discussion… is AOK!
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels the primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” – Brene Brown
6) Kiss “Hustle Culture” Goodbye
Hustle culture is the idea that you should always be striving for more… but in a negative way. Like you never seem to have enough to be content. More money. Major FOMO. A higher ceiling to smash. Hustle culture is a toxic way of striving for greatness. And…it inevitably leads to burnout. Forbes Magazine defines it as putting work (whatever that may be for you) at the center of life…”Long working hours are praised and glorified. Time off is seen as laziness. If you are not hustling, you are failing.” Yeah…don’t do that to yourself!
#7) Consider The Bigger Picture
Sometimes, bashing your tendencies toward perfection is as simple as gaining perspective on your own habits. If you get stuck on tasks or get dragged down in mental loops you might be overly focused on the short-term. When you consider how important those little things are to bigger life priorities, you might find spinning your wheels unnecessary. And that it’s draining and distracting you from more important priorities… not to mention your overall sense of well-being. Many perfectionists will minimize their achievements and focus more on things they do incorrectly. Hmmm, anyone else do this on the daily? The key is not to bury yourself under the weight of negative thoughts and bounce back to tip #5 and focus on the positives!
So…what are you good at and what are you terrible at? Take this moment to leave us a comment below and tell us (and yourself). It’s a step toward accepting imperfection…and it’s freeing! To make sure you don’t miss out on blog posts like this one, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter if you haven’t already. We’d love to have you be a part of this amazing community of women. Thanks for reading!