3 myths around perfectionism (plus how to beat it)

 Years ago, I got into an elevator with two people I’d never seen before, and I happened to overhear their discussion.

“Most nights I don’t finish work till almost three a.m.,” said the first person, sounding quite pleased with himself. “I can’t help it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”

“That’s probably what’s holding you back,” the other person said, without missing a beat. The next ten seconds ticked by in a tense silence. When the doors finally opened to my floor, the self-proclaimed perfectionist was just then piecing together a response.

And although I never saw those two people again, I’ve never forgotten what they said.

Why has that memory stayed with me?

Several reasons. First, I can totally relate to the first guy. Even though I learned long ago that perfectionism is not a virtue, I still fall into its trap– and even catch myself clinging to it sometimes as if it will somehow guarantee my success.

Second, it’s a common tendency to lionize perfectionism (and working late – the two often go hand-in-hand). In our society, busy-ness is a status symbol, even if it doesn’t correlate to actual success.

Let’s look at three surprising myths around perfectionism, and then explore some powerful ways to overcome it – so you can really, truly succeed.

  1.  Perfection is actually the lowest bar we could set for ourselves.

Yes, you read that right.

We like to think “perfect” is the highest possible good, but that’s just not true. Why? Because on some level, our consciousness knows it’s not achievable. So when we aim for perfection, and believe that anything other than that is unacceptable, it’s like we’re setting ourselves up for some premeditated failure, where we can say, “See? I told you it wouldn’t work out.”

  1.  Perfectionism does not make us perform better.

Some people believe that even if perfection is unattainable, aiming for it still makes us do our best. Set the bar high, and we’ll aim high, right? But, knowing as we do now that perfectionism is a low bar, we can see why this is not true.

We tend to tell ourselves, “I’m doing everything I can, I’m doing my best.” And while you may think you’re trying your best, the truth is that perfectionism puts you in a mindset of desperation, fear, and “not enough.” It doesn’t allow us to operate as our most creative, effective, efficient selves.

Perfectionism is a form of control, and we often cling to it when we feel rocked by uncertainty or self-doubt. It’s fear-based. It leads to thoughts like Oh my god, I have to be perfect or I’m not good enough unless I do every single thing right.

Again, that’s a very disempowered place to be, and it’s not going to lead us to our highest selves.

It’s only when we let go of control, embrace imperfection, and act from a place of courage, joy, and hope that we really perform at our best.

That place will set us up to tap into our best insights, our highest selves, our most free-flowing creativity.

  1.  Perfectionism makes us miss out.

When we seek to control everything, we close ourselves off to the natural flow of the universe. To the coincidental, magical, and often funny mistakes that lead us to greater ideas. To the brilliant discoveries that can come from messing up. To the amazing opportunities and resources and ideas and inspiration that at this very minute knocking on your door.

Perfectionism gives us tunnel vision. It narrows our scope from wide and open-ended to a teeny-tiny little pinpoint where only one thing is right, only one thing will work, and everything else is garbage.

I assure you, that’s never the case.

There are always multiple routes. Always room for mistakes. Always another idea or opportunity just around the corner. We just need to be open to it.

And that leads us to the ultimate antidote to the plague that is perfectionism: progress.

Aim to be just a little better today than you were yesterday.

Aim for growth, expansion, fun, and yes, success – because those things are all possible, and they are waiting for you to reach out and grab them.

They are waiting for you to open yourself up and allow for their light and radiance to shine down on you and fill you up and fill your life with their beautiful, infinite energy.

Perfectionism? That’s lurking in the basement where it’s dark and dinghy and smells like mold.

Let’s look at a few ways you can shift your focus from perfectionism to progress.

  1.  Track your progress.
    Write down what you did today. What did you achieve or learn? What’s something you’re proud of? Did you go a little further than yesterday? Did you keep going? Amazing! Some people create “I did” lists rather than “To do” lists, because it shows just how much they’ve done – and that’s super motivating!

 We tend to forget our past accomplishments, or devalue them to the point of dismissing them. This is a shame, because the truth is, most of us are doing way better than we think. Many of us are living lives that, ten years ago, we desperately hoped for. So notice that. Monitor your progress. Keep a journal, and look back at it so you can see how far you’ve come.

  1.  Stop comparing yourself.
    I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s absolutely worth saying again: Stop comparing yourself to others. Right now. It’s not serving you one iota. Especially in this world of social media, we’re constantly led to compare our Day One with someone else’s Year Fifteen. And that can be so Remember that everyone is on a different journey, and we really have no idea what other people are going through – even if their life looks perfect on Instagram. Focus on yourself and your journey.

Which brings me to perhaps the most important facet of celebrating progress: gratitude:

  1.  Choose gratitude.

Notice how far you’ve come. Celebrate what you’ve achieved and what you’ve done today – and really soak in that feeling of gratitude. Settle into it like a warm bath.

Gratitude raises your vibrations, which in turn attracts the things you want to you – so lean into it whenever you have a spare second!

To invite more gratitude into your life, stay close to things that make you smile. This will help you stay true to the thing that really matters most: YOU. Everyday, in small moments and big ones, surround yourself with the things that truly give you joy. Your kids, your quiet time, your favorite tea, your favorite book…whatever those things are for you, keep them close. Do your favorite activities as much as you can. These are the things that will lead you to real progress, and a truly fulfilling life. When you focus on the things that make your heart sing, true success till follow.

So – let’s turn to you!

Where in your life are you setting an impossible standard for yourself?

Where are you aiming for utter perfectionism…and maybe even thinking that’s a good thing?

What if you were pride yourself on progress you make today, whether that’s big or small? How would that feel?

What are you grateful for, right now? Focus on that – feel it in your body. Invite that warm, fuzzy feeling in. Breathe it in, and exhale, then breathe in more gratitude. This raises your vibrations in a big way; it actually changes your body chemistry. So make a practice of it – and notice how, when you choose gratitude and progress over perfectionism, your life will shift in that direction, too.

Go out, keep progressing, and shine.


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