Being Perfect vs. Being Your Best
Perfectionism is an obsession in our society right now. Approximately 90% of clients I see struggle with it and it starts around the age of 12, maybe younger. They need to be perfect. So, what is perfect? One definition of perfect is this – without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings. While the other definitions basically say the same thing, this one seems to fit what my clients are saying – I can’t make any mistakes and allow anyone to see me being less than perfect. Although when I ask whether or not perfection exists, they say no. So, why this push to be something you can’t be?
Where perfection comes from
Perfectionism is an extreme form of control. Generally something happens in our environment, i.e., we get reprimanded by a teacher or parent for not having done our ‘best’ on an assignment, or we don’t get an A on an exam, or we don’t win, or someone else makes fun of us for something we did ‘wrong’ and voilà, we make darn sure we don’t do that again. Not only do we not do that again, but we make sure to not make any mistakes and ensure we don’t have to deal with embarrassment or humiliation ever.
Other attributes of perfection
Besides the need to not be flawed, defective, or have any shortcomings, another element of perfectionism is all or nothing. I must give my all isn’t really a bad thing but when having to give your all means being perfect, and there’s no such thing as perfect, it can turn into… I may as well do nothing. At least if I do nothing, I haven’t really failed and I won’t feel embarrassed or humiliated. Some might call this quitting, or dropping out, or switching to something else.
Trying to achieve perfection sets you up for failure
Because perfection doesn’t exist, it sets us up for failure every time. From that perspective, it certainly makes sense why you’d want to do nothing versus failing every single time. Perfection is very similar to seeing potential in someone, but taking it to the extreme. Once in a while you see glimmers of what is perceived as perfection. Those glimmers continue to keep you holding on for hope. If I just do this one thing…I’ll get there, I can be perfect. The problem is, the one thing never leads to perfection… Because there is no perfection.
Learning to accept what is
Why isn’t it ok to not always feel like you can give your best? Why can’t we feel good about getting an A versus an A+ on an exam? What if we never ‘win’? Who cares if someone makes fun of us?
We do because we are human. However, as humans we also make mistakes and need to be ok with them. Some days our best is less than 100%. There are many reasons for that. We should be able to feel good about getting an A on an exam. We always have wins. Wins are how you define them. People will always judge you for something. Most every time you pass someone on the street they are judging you but you have to learn to let it go because you don’t have control of what other’s think. You only control what you think.
How to deal with perfectionistic tendencies
- Learn to embrace mistakes – know that mistakes will help you grow.
- Feel good about a win – winning feels good but it doesn’t mean you’ll always win.
- Find 1-2 things that you did in a day that are positive – I am sure there are more but beginning to point out the positive things will help motivate you and give you confidence.
- Feel good about one A on an exam – celebrate it and refocus on moving through the process and being present for the next one.
Mistakes happen. Mistakes are healthy.
There really is no such thing as perfect but there’s something better than that! What is it? Realizing there’s no such thing. Learning to be ok with doing your best (whatever that is at any given moment) and allowing yourself to be human. Just do your best. Be your best. That means what you have the ability to be.
Being present in the process will allow you to do what you want to do. Mistakes will still happen but they are so incredibly important for growth. Here’s my challenge to you – instead of trying to be perfect, try to find another way to appreciate the positive things and deal with mistakes in a healthier way.