Letting Go of Perfectionism
We all want to do well. But what about when this desire to do well prevents us from even starting something?
I’ve been on a long journey of letting go of perfectionism and embracing who I am. I even started a community called The Parent in Progress to document my experience as a work-in-progress new parent and to support other new parents.
I am sharing a few things I’ve learned and reflected on in this journey.
I know that perfection is impossible, but why do I still want to be perfect?
“Progress over perfection” is an overused (but admittedly, appropriate) quote you’ll hear. But, why is it so hard to truly let go of perfection and embrace this mindset?
When I think about my personal definition of perfection, it’s this expectation that I have to do it all and I will do it without mistakes, without breaks and without help. Written down, it seems like such an unrealistic, impossible expectation of myself, doesn’t it? No human can meet that.
Perhaps, moving away from perfection means moving towards our own humanity. It is about accepting that we will make mistakes, we will need breaks, and we need others’ help. It is making the courageous choice to say “I am enough”.
Brene Brown expands on this beautifully in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging’.”
There is so much power and freedom in embracing and accepting who we are, as is, in this moment.
If I let go of perfection, will that mean I won’t strive to do my best?
Initially, I resisted this new mindset of “I am enough” because I thought it might mean that I wouldn’t want to improve and do my best anymore (and I’ve heard this resistance from others as well).
For me, this resistance comes from seeing the many ways that being a perfectionist has benefitted me to achieve a goal and to do good work. But, if I further reflect on it, I can recall the many times perfectionism has not helped me – the indecision, the countless unnecessary revisions, the stress of it all. I want a healthier way of approaching things.
I’ve realized that believing “I am enough” and wanting to improve is not an ‘Either-or’ situation; we can believe in both. This quote put it best:
Instead of perfection, what can I focus on instead?
In coaching, we believe that when our actions are aligned with our intention, we can create more sustainable change.
In overcoming perfectionism, this can mean shifting our mindset from the abstract, unrealistic ideal of perfection to clear, defined intentions and values that we personally hold important. We can reflect on what drives us and what’s behind this initial desire for perfection.
Some reflections questions we can think about:
- How has perfectionism helped you? How has it not helped you?
- What positive impact would believing “I am enough” have on you?
- What is most important to you in life? What values do you want to live by?
By asking ourselves these questions, we can be clearer on what we really want. If the goals are clear, it is easier to work towards that goal.
There is no quick fix for perfectionism. It might never go away fully and certain situations may trigger us. At the end of the day, it’s about mindfully living out our intentions and values. It’s about celebrating ourselves and our progress.
How can embracing your imperfection and living more intentionally benefit you? Would you like support to make that happen? Get in touch with Haraya to see how coaching can help you.