I used to feel proud to say, “I’m a bit of a perfectionist.” That was until I realized my drive for perfection was less about the pursuit of excellence and more about my fear of being judged. Fear of being judged for not looking smart enough, being good enough, or being successful enough.
My relentless endeavor to be “enough” was making me physically and emotionally exhausted. I realized that if I wanted to achieve my goals without destroying my wellbeing in the process, I would need to embrace the imperfect person hiding behind the impressive image.
The desire to avoid failure or harsh judgment causes many people to set unhealthy expectations and put massive pressure on themselves, leading to stress, anxiety, and even burnout. This maladaptive way of viewing self-worth and accomplishment has only intensified living in the age of social media, where everyone’s life looks perfect according to the highlight reel they post online. As a result, we are all driving ourselves crazy as we attempt to live up to an unrealistic perception of perfection.
Now, we are about to add the pressure of New Year’s resolutions to the mix. We are going to eat perfectly and get in perfect shape. We will be the perfect employee, parent, partner, and friend. Our finances are going to be perfect too. Oh, and we will look perfect and be in a perfect mood while accomplishing all of this. We are setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment, not to mention robbing ourselves of the joy and happiness we should feel stepping into a new year of potential and possibility.
So, how do we release ourselves from the pursuit of perfection and embrace the beautifully imperfect people we are instead? I use the letter we associate with perfection, the letter “A,” and let it guide me down a path of clarity, introspection, and healing instead. If you feel overwhelmed by the need to be perfect all the time, I encourage you to try this simple yet powerful tool.
The 3A Healthier Mindset Formula
1. The first step to solving any problem is Awareness
To become aware, you need to determine if you have an unhealthy relationship with perfectionism. You can do this by paying attention to the voice in your head.
Is the voice overly critical and constantly beating you up for not doing enough? Or does it cheer you on and celebrate your successes as you make progress? Is it a voice of fear and self-doubt or one of acceptance and motivation? Is it focused on an internal sense of pride, or is it focused on outside validation?
If the thoughts in your head are not making you feel good, energized, or supported, it’s time to reframe the way you view progress and achievement.
2. The next step is Accepting that nobody is perfect, including you
Working hard and doing our best is great, but we need to treat our missteps and those areas in which we have room for improvement as learning opportunities. Not fatal flaws we can’t change and need to hide.
Often, perfectionists have an all-or-nothing mentality, and they end up procrastinating on projects out of fear of not living up to a certain standard. They let the possibility of failing or appearing imperfect hold them back from going after their dreams.
Like Gloria Steinem brilliantly stated, “Perfectionism is internalized oppression.”
When you accept that perfectionism is an unattainable goal, you empower yourself to take bold action with a resilient heart and mind.
3. Finally, it’s essential to Analyze what is really behind your need to appear perfect
Perfectionism is a self-defeating way of moving through the world, and it is usually masking something deeper within yourself.
When you feel overwhelmed by your desperate need to be perfect, get curious, and start asking yourself what you are trying to prove, why you feel the need to prove yourself, and who you are trying to prove yourself to.
When you have clarity as to what is really behind the pressure you are putting on yourself, you can begin to release the circumstances and beliefs causing your constant need to prove your value and capabilities. It’s incredibly liberating when you stop attaching your self-worth to the outcome of any goal you have set for yourself.
If we have learned anything over the past few years, kindness and compassion must be at the core of everything we do. So, in 2022, I encourage you to erase perfection from your list of resolutions. Instead, set the intention to do your best in a healthy, productive, and sustainable way. Resolve to embrace every aspect of your journey towards growth and success: the good, the bad, and the messy middle.
Letting go of perfectionism is the best way to feel energized and enthused as you work towards your goals and strive for your highest potential.