Perfectionism? Practice Makes IMPERFECT.
Happy Monday, friend! I’ve talked in the past about perfectionism being a “recovering perfectionist.” I know, a lot of you struggle with this pattern, too.
Perfectionism. It’s defined as the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.
A lot of people think perfectionism is wanting to be perfect for outer appearances, but it’s often more of an internal tick than anything. And remember, while “perfectionism” sounds like a “weakness-hidden-in-a-strength-sort-of-job-interview-answer,” I guarantee you—it’s a weakness, and it doesn’t serve most of us.
Perfectionism is toxic. For many people, it means doing anything to avoid failure.
The yearn to make something perfect often means NO action is taken. Or, it means action is taken again, and again, and again—on the same thing—trying to get it JUST RIGHT before we share it. So it’s the same as taking no action.
Perfection is impossible. It’s unattainable. Perfectionists can hear this, and even “know” it, and still somehow expect it of themselves and/or others.
So how did I confront this, and begin to overcome the pattern?
To be honest, running a YouTube channel helped me work on the pattern quite a bit (unknowingly), because there was just no physical way to have everything be perfect when launching a video every week year after year.
But it’s taken more active intention to let it start to show up in the rest of my life.
The last few years, I’ve really tried to practice imperfection. Imperfection, especially intentional imperfection, is uncomfortable. So really, it’s nothing more than practicing being uncomfortable. A simple concept, but of course, harder in practice.
I’m not talking about just “letting” things be imperfect when life happens—that’s too passive.
I’m talking INTENTIONALLY exposing yourself to imperfection to become more comfortable with it.
These can be intentional thoughts and actions on both larger and smaller scales.
More abstractly, this can mean:
- Focusing on success, rather than fearing failure.
- Focus on the work, not the results.
- Practicing self-compassion and recognizing that perfectionism is only a shield from pain, that’s weighing us down more than protecting us.
- Noticing your black-and-white, or all-or-nothing mentality. If you don’t have the full 30 minutes to do your workout, does it mean you should skip it? Or can you still treat your body right with a quick 10-15 minutes of exercise? (or 11-14 minutes J)
- Find beauty in imperfect things, and people around you. Notice beauty because of imperfections, asymmetry etc., instead of wishing they were different.
We can also take some small-scale, intentionally imperfect actions every day to expose ourselves to imperfection and see that life goes on, without much (if any) wavering:
- Setting an alarm for 6:33am, instead of 6:30am.
- Folding clothes the wrong way.
- Intentionally including a typo in a (non-work) email.
- Doing a 29-minute workout instead of 30 minutes.
These things may seem small to some, but if the idea of doing any of those makes you cringe a little inside—you may be a perfectionist!
I assure you, it takes time and intention.
Practice makes imperfect.
In addition to actively considering specific and abstract imperfectionist ways of thinking and doing, the other main practice that’s helped me is meditation.
There’s never a perfect meditation. But you can’t do it “wrong.” The goal is not to become perfect, or to have complete silence and serenity for every breath. The goal is to NOTICE your experience, and stay connected to your breath—without judgment along the way.
The mind wanders, and my goal is to simply bring it back—with compassion and grace. The more I do the practice, the less my mind wanders.
Some days are better than others, but I’m ALWAYS reminded, every single time I meditate, that I am human, and therefore inherently imperfect.
This becomes a practice of self-compassion in and of itself.
Are you struggling with perfectionism? Have you struggled in the past or know someone who has?
If you are feeling held back by your perfectionism, perhaps this week you can set an intention to just be mindful of it—notice it when it happens, but don’t judge. Be curious about why it’s coming up, and what it may mean. This is the first step to lasting change.
Sending lots of light and love your way! Have a wonderful week,