We’d all love to get it right every time, to do our best work and to be the best version of ourself. But, when the pressure to always achieve becomes a lingering shadow in our life, we need to take a step back and ask if we have let perfectionism take hold. We need to look within and challenge the belief that we are only ok or worthwhile if we are perfect.
Perfectionists put constant pressure on themselves to meet high, often unachievable standards. This is usually followed by disappointment, negative self talk and then a viscous backlash involving more pressure and striving harder. For many, their self worth is closely tied to their achievements, or lack there of because of the unrealistic standards they set in the first place. When the self imposed standards are not met, confidence and self esteem begin to fade. Perfectionism can affect how you see yourself in society, as a partner, a friend, an employee, a team member. While the average Jo will be disappointed if she does’t reach a goal, the perfectionist is devastated and sometimes ashamed.
There is a big difference between the healthy and helpful pursuit of achievement and the unhealthy and unhelpful striving for perfection
To break the cycle, you need to change your perspective and see that life isn’t black and white (achieve or fail), but in fact its a million beautiful shades of grey. You need to understand that ‘Perfect’ is fiction, its idealistic and its always going to be a moving target that you can’t quite reach. The key is to start living the journey and stop focusing on the destination. Why? Because perfectionists always think that once they achieve their goal, they will be happy. They base their happiness on something that may (or may not) happen in the future. Its crazy to live like this! But, if you begin to love and accept yourself for who you are right now, in this moment, your idealism will stop ruling you. A good way to put things into perspective is to ask yourself, will this matter a week from now? 6 months from now?
Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Dare to give things a go, regardless of the result and without fear of ‘failure’ (which is really just a state of mind, something that happens within our own heads). With the right outlook, you will see that a mistake isn’t failure, its a chance to learn and its part of the journey.
Its important to also understand that you are so much more than your achievements. Really. What you accomplish has nothing to do with the person you are. And the person you are, is what people love you for. Do you think that you would no longer love your best friend if she didn’t get that promotion she wanted? Or how about if your partner put on 5kg, would you love them any less? Of course not. And this is what you need to know about the people around you, they don’t care if you’re house isn’t squeaky clean, or that your not the captain of your netball team, or that you got a C+ for your English assignment. They care about whats on the inside. You need to start caring about that too.
Learning the art of imperfection is about getting out of your own way. Stop looking over your own shoulder like an unforgiving superior. Instead, talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. Importantly, don’t put a high expectation on yourself to unlearn perfectionism. Just try to lighten up a little, let things pan out how they pan out, because ultimately, everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that.
When things don’t go to plan for me, I feel so much better if I shrug my shoulders and simultaneously say ‘meh’. But you have to mean it. Next time something doesn’t go to plan for you, try it. Its quite liberating if you have the right space of mind. Its a bit like saying and truly accepting ‘oh well, life goes on’. And it does, it always will.