Perfectionism strikes all of us at some point or another: the desperate need to meet arbitrary standards by looking perfect, acting perfect, and doing everything perfectly to avoid feeling judged. But I’m not perfect, nobody’s perfect, and that’s okay.
A lot has been on my mind lately about perfectionism. I can’t quite recall what’s made it such a prominent theme in my mind these days, but I can tell you this: I’ve struggle with it. A lot.
I’ve struggled with it the most when it comes to the content I create online, as well as most other creative work that I do. While I consider myself pretty good at being myself (in fact, staying true to myself has been the driving force of pretty much every major decision I’ve made in my life!), when I really take a step back and think about it, there certainly are things I’m hold back. Or hide. Or choosing not to show. Or choose not to say.
Because vulnerability is a scary thing. Keeping it real takes courage, ’cause nobody likes to be criticized. Whether online or offline.
What this translates into though is trying to meet absurd standards that we create for ourselves, in an attempt to avoid feeling embarrassed or judged for what our everyday lives actually look like. Which, as humans, are far from perfect. The complexities of our relationships, emotions, fears and struggles make our lives pretty messy sometimes.
It’s easy to compare our lives to perfectly polished images, when in reality, nobody’s life is perfectly polished.
As I began thinking a lot harder about the idea of perfectionism, and my personal struggle with it, I decided to listen to the audiobook by Brené Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection. And I’m really glad I did. There were some real gems in there, like how perfectionism isn’t about how we can improve or grow, but what other people think of us.
One of my favourite quotes from the book is her definition of perfectionism:
Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much this quote describes how I’ve felt sometimes and how much it made me realize that perfectionism is more than just fixating on little details that really shouldn’t matter: it’s an addictive attempt at avoiding or minimizing the chances of feeling judged or ashamed for who we are.
The truth is that judgement from others is an inevitable reality of the human experience and trying to control how others perceive us is impossible.
But there is no such thing as perfect. All of us are imperfect, all of the time. Perfectionism is sort of like a mask that gives us this false impression of feeling safe and comfortable and free of judgement. Because the truth is that judgement from others is an inevitable reality of the human experience and trying to control how others perceive us is impossible. If we’re going to accept judgment in our lives, we might as well accept it for who we are rather than the box we try to squeeze ourselves into.
In her book she also explains that:
Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis. Life paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out into the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failure, making mistakes, and disappointing others.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been struck by “life paralysis” because of overanalyzing everything, working tirelessly to produce perfection (and throwing it out if it’s even slightly imperfect), or not taking an opportunity or follow a dream because I’m terrified of failure or making a mistake. I’ve gotten better over time, though, by forcing myself to feel the discomfort of any perceived imperfect-ness, and to say “it’s fine, it’s good enough.”
And that’s really what I’ve learned.
That in order to overcome perfectionism, or anything in life, we need to first understand that it’s a process, and that we’re going to have to explore our discomfort.
When we practice being compassionate towards ourselves by accepting and celebrating our own personal opinions, beliefs, characteristics, quirks, (and body shapes, sounds of our voice, style of clothing, choice of bed linen…), we embrace the imperfections that make us who we all are as humans.
It’s time to stop seeing imperfections as a bad thing, even imperfections at all, but just… things. Parts of us like any other part.
But you know what else happens when we embrace our imperfections? We can be ourselves. And when we’re ourselves we begin to attract people like us who share similar thoughts, and most importantly, we can relate to each other.
We can relate to each other when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and imperfect.
I still deal with perfectionism, but I’ve been on a mission for a while to stop letting it control me or hold me back. I hope you’ll join me.
Watch the video:
Do you struggle with perfectionism? What’s one thing that’s helped you overcome it?