How to Be Less of a Perfectionist
"Perfectionism is the unreasonable and self-defeating ambition of getting something absolutely right" (Book of Life). I am sure you can relate to me when I say that there have definitely been times in my life where if I am not getting 100% on something or reaching a goal completely and without fault; I have failed and consider myself "less" of a person or "not good enough". These self-defeating thoughts can appear in basically every aspect of our lives. Yet how many times have we told our friends or family that IT'S OKAY to not have reached such a high ambition... yet don't apply this to our OWN life??? (*meekly nods*)
I've broken down a couple of ways that have helped me understand a bit more about how and why we strive for perfection, and that actually being ourselves - our whole self is completely good enough - is a grand achievement in itself.
We under value the difficulty in achieving something "perfectly"
Think back to a time when you knew you had a really big, complicated task or goal ahead of you. When we are fully accepting and aware of how difficult something might be, we are much more inclined to be calm and take it on board when at first we make little or slow progress. But as soon as we set ourselves high standards for something we THINK will be much easier than it actually is, we misinterpret our struggles as incompetence or failure. We have just under valued the difficulty of the task, not aimed too high. An example could be that once you are married your marriage will be successful; by the time you're 30 you'll have a hotshot career; or that you could learn to be fluent in another language in a week. While all of these (and I'm sure you can think of many others) are admirable goals, they are setting unrealistic expectations on the self and other people involved. "...We have to learn not to hate ourselves for failing to be what no ordinary human being ever really is anyway" (The very insightful Book of Life again).
We compare and set unrealistic expectations on ourselves
Perfection, while noble, is an unattainable way of being and existing in our day-to-day lives. To be less of a perfectionist we must surrender the mindset that actually being perfect even matters. There will ALWAYS be someone disapproves of what you do or say or how you act, thinks you should have done it differently, or won't care for your efforts. We must work on removing our measurements of ourselves against other people or certain criteria. Constantly comparing and evaluating ourselves, judging if we are enough... this comparison feeds into striving for perfection and accepting pressures of competition and societal expectations. Our inner judgement is clouded by beliefs and limitations posed by others and made true in our minds.
But we don't have to live in this way (and who would want to, really!?). Learning to offer what we have, in the moment, without ANY inner judgement, gives us the freedom to live out of a place of acceptance instead of self-set criteria that we measure up against. If striving for anything, make it something that compels you to be great without boxing you into failure if you don't achieve something; for example, striving for excellence allows us to be great, without it getting tangled up in our identity. If we mess up or make a mistake, there will always be opportunity to sort it out. If we want to achieve a goal, we can do this in a way that plays to our strengths and doesn't feed into the cycle of comparison. The chatter in our heads will never go away, but we can definitely learn to manage them and give ourselves the pep talk we would give a friend.
Being less of a perfectionist does not mean we care less. It means we care a LOT actually; we care a lot about offering our authentic selves in an honest way, in a way that is whole, transparent with others and honouring of ourselves. And being less of a perfectionist gives us so much more room to acknowledge what we HAVE achieved in our lives.. and that our lives are actually good enough. Practice letting go of the things you think you didn't do "right", the negativity from others or from yourself, and focus on all that you are and all you are becoming.
This post has been inspired by a very gorgeous soul, Lucy Sheridan - The Comparison Coach. Highly recommend checking her out for some amazing tips and advice on comparing less!