Perfection is a TRAP!
Today I received an email from a very reputable author, coach, and a personal mentor of mine. In the email, I found two typos and one grammatical error. Did it stop me from reading the email? NO. Did I doubt his ability to be the best in his field? NO. Did I judge him? NO.
I was actually happy to see the errors! Why? Because if this giant expert can make mistakes, it allows the rest of us to be human too. Because as humans we were made to make mistakes.
We are all created on the “trial and error” principle. We find things out by learning. The learning process involves trying, failing, trying again and finding a solution so we can move on. New pathways are created by experiences, good and bad, positive and negative. By accepting this point, you will begin the journey to true self-acceptance.
Perfection stops you from making progress. It stops you from serving those that need your knowledge and it limits you from being who you were meant to be.
But who wants to be imperfect?
A better question might be, who wants to spend their entire life being unhappy? My guess is no one. But, that is what you are likely to be if you’re always in search of perfection.
To be clear, imperfection is not the opposite of perfection like good is the opposite of bad. Imperfection is rather a “freedom from perfection”. That is what we all ultimately want – to be free from the restraints of r e l e n t l e s s perfection.
In my own personal life, I can give you thousands of examples about how wanting to be perfect has stopped me from moving forward in life. For years, and well into my adulthood, I was solely focused on my flaws and I magnified my “failures” so much so that I wasn’t able to see my potential and the good that I was doing. The fear of not being perfect and the possibility of making a mistake was giving me a big enough excuse to not take action. Or, even if I did take action, an excuse to not follow through.
Accepting my imperfection was one of the most liberating and freeing lessons I have learned.
You see, perfection is not about presenting something that is flawless; this is nearly impossible. Perfection is about taking action and doing YOUR BEST at any given moment.
When I finally released the compulsion to be “perfect”, I was able to live fully and enjoy life. I now get more things done and in less time. I also feel happier because I am able to accomplish more. I allow myself to be in the moment, and to remember what matters most.
My old self would fuss about publishing these blog posts. I would read and re-write them until infinity in the hopes to make them perfect.
Are these blog posts perfect? NO!
Do they have valuable content that my readers can enjoy and implement? POSSIBLY!
Can I go back and make them better and more complete? YES!
Paul Arden, the famed designer and author once said, “Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you got, and fix it along the way.”
Before we get into how to be comfortable and ok with your imperfections, let me make a couple of points very clear.
- Being imperfect doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream big and not aim for the stars. Be realistic, know who you are, where you are at the moment, and what potentials you have. Then, do your personal best to get to where you want to be.
- Being ok with being imperfection, does not give you a pass to cop-out. It does not give you permission to act lazy and do a sloppy job and blame it on “I am ok with being imperfect”. You’ve got to give whatever you do your 110%. Be invested in what you do, take pride in it, accept your mistakes, learn from your mistakes, change course if necessary; REPEAT!
How to let go of perfection in 6 steps:
- Become aware of your negative self-talk – Most of us don’t dare talk to our friends and family the way we talk to and disregard ourselves. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on what is working in your life. Put your attention on the gains. Pat yourself on the shoulder for working hard and getting as far as you have.
- Practice self-love – When we are compassionate towards ourselves, we see mistakes as part of natural human growth and not a personal failure.
- Change your mindset– What we believe, our values, our views about life, which stem from our past experiences and perception of the world affect the way we see and experience reality. Changing our mindset to realistic expectations, and allowing for flexibility, creates space for growth and success. Cultivate a mindset of “I am enough”. Remember, at any given moment you can only do your best! And that is enough.
- Make realistic goals – It is good to aim high; yet, you need to be realistic and flexible. Be ok to chunk down your goals into smaller ones. Climb the ladder one step at a time. Don’t aim to leap all the way to the top at once.
- Stop being a people pleaser – Most often the need to be perfect is to earn approval and acceptance from others and to be praised for our achievements and performance. Stop putting yourself through the stress and the anxiety of people pleasing.
- Strive for excellence– Striving for excellence is motivating and inspiring. It drives you forward. Excellence is to “surpass” your own best. It is to be outstanding and extremely good, (Not perfect!).
- Chronic procrastination is a sign of perfectionism– Do you find yourself procrastinating constantly? People with perfectionism tendencies are so afraid of not completing a task perfectly that they keep putting it off. They relentlessly have the need to learn more, research more, and get ready before they even start. The perceived challenge becomes bigger, more overwhelming, and more exhausting so they question their capabilities and avoid discomfort through diversion. They avoid tackling the task by doing “busy work” and never actually getting anything done. The fear of supposed failure and the aftermath of criticism and ridicule, whether it’s from self or others, starts to become crippling and too daunting that inaction becomes a dominant pattern.
Ready for a challenge?
It’s hard work to let go of old habits and face your fears. If you are ready to start doing and let go of being perfect; then start by being deliberately imperfect!
- Send an email with a typo
- Leave a visible part of the house a bit messy
- Wear an article of clothing that does not match the rest of your outfit
- Be 5 minutes late to your next meeting
- Talk at an event without rehearsing what you will say
- Notice an “imperfection” in your partner and reframe your perception of how that imperfection makes him or her unique
Think about the worst-case scenario. What would happen if people caught you being imperfect? Ask yourself, would it matter in 5 years? Would it matter tomorrow?
Write these phrases with markers and place them where you can see them daily:
- “Everyone makes mistakes”
- “I am human, therefore not perfect”
- “All I can do is my best”
- “I will not judge people as weak when they make mistakes”
- “Everyone has bad days sometimes”
- “I don’t need to be liked by everyone”
- “Imperfections are what make us unique”
Strive for excellence; do your best, then, let go of the rest. The world needs your imperfectly perfect light to shine on.
Be real; not perfect!
Remember, light gets in through cracks.