Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Recently, a client and I discussed how wonderful it feels to know you did your best at something—even if the outcome may not have been absolutely perfect.
Some of us are perfectionists. We strive for perfection in every area of our lives, including our homes, grades, careers, and relationships, as well as in areas we may not even be interested in. We may even compare ourselves to others we see as flawless to the point where we might find ourselves trying to top their achievements.
Sometimes we tend to allow our self-imposed perfectionism to carry over to those around us. When we expect zero mistakes, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Leaving some room for error or improvement allows us to take on enough challenging endeavors and avoid disappointment. We can still set high standards for ourselves and we should; however, we can create unnecessary stress when we are hyper-critical of mistakes in ourselves and others.
Many times, we’ve had teachers, mentors, family members or leaders with dictatorial styles and high standards, creating unrealistic ideals that encouraged perfectionism. Failure to live up to these ideals may have caused us to develop a sense of inadequacy, which makes us want to try harder to prove ourselves through actions and accomplishments.
Nevertheless, we can change our perspective to one of demanding perfection to one of knowing we did the best we could at something that held great meaning to us. The latter is an empowering feeling—knowing we gave something our all while not quitting too soon or giving up. Perhaps the outcome wasn't what we had hoped for, but we know deep inside that we did our 100 percent best to reach a goal that was very meaningful to us.
Here are some tips to overcome perfectionism:
Be aware of your motivations for perfectionism. Look back on your life and try to identify incidents that contributed to shaping your perfectionist mentality. Did someone pressure you to be perfect in all your endeavors? Is it because people underestimated your abilities and you felt you needed to prove yourself? Is it because you attach your sense of self-worth to the results of your actions? Whatever the reasons are, become aware of them, recognize them and understand that these do not define who you are.
Continue to hold your ideals and set high standards for yourself. These serve as goal markers, results and motivation sources. The goals are not the problem—it’s the attachment to the goals that can create stress. Accept your goals as directions to work towards and not absolutes that you need to achieve. This way, it does not matter if you do not reach the ideals because they are not who you are or who you should be.
Let go of negative thoughts. Are you beating yourself over something that could have been better? Stop. You did what you could within that particular context. Focus on what can be done. Forget about mistakes that were made in the past that you cannot do anything about. Learn from them and move on; obsessing over them does not change anything at all. Realize that the time you spend thinking about your mistakes actually takes you away from time that you can be spending on more productive things instead. Stop worrying about things that are not within your locus of control, such as the future or perceptions by others.
Delegate and let go. Have faith in other people’s abilities. If they do not seem to be doing a particular task correctly, teach and help them instead of taking over entirely.
Find ways to lighten it up and learn to laugh at yourself. Keep your life in balance by participating in fun recreational activities, do not deprive your social gatherings or time off from work.
Celebrate progress. Acknowledge everything that you do, regardless of the outcome. Celebrate your victories when they come along—you have rightfully earned them!
Remember, our imperfections fit us perfectly and make us unique humans.
Find more inspiration in my Uber Empowerment Books.
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