Letting Go of Perfection

Paint splatters and bottles on a floor

We often expect perfection from ourselves. We want the job (whatever that job may be) to be done quickly, correctly, and without any kind of fuss.

Except that’s not always possible.

Life gets in the way. Emotions and tensions run high. Things don’t fall into place the way that we had planned, or the way that we thought they should. And, ultimately, we’re left picking up the pieces and blaming ourselves for what went wrong.

Not only is this not a very healthy practice, it’s also not very realistic. Things go wrong sometimes, despite your best efforts. But perhaps it’s these “efforts” that are the problem in the first place. That’s what I’ll be exploring in today’s blog post.

Planning for Perfection

We think we have everything under control. Maybe it’s at work where we’ve taken on more than we can handle. Maybe it’s at home where demands are running high and time is running low. Our sights are on perfection, because if we don’t succeed, we’ll be failures. Or will we?

So often, we expect too much of ourselves. But what if you gave yourself permission to only take on what you can handle? And when you’re feeling over-extended and under-appreciated, what would it be like to allow yourself to simply get a task done, rather than trying to make it perfect?

Now, I’m not talking about under-achieving. However, it’s important to let go of what you think is perfection and trying to strive for it, because you’ll often find yourself stressed out and feeling like you’re not doing enough.

Why Do We Try to Achieve Perfection?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we expect so much that we run ourselves ragged? Why is it so important that we achieve or exceed someone else’s expectations?

According to an article by Inc., it’s because we’re actually trying to avoid failure. It’s a drive to be seen as “good enough.”

When striving for perfection, we do so at the expense of our own health, happiness, and well-being. And even if we do see success at the end of a project or task, we’re often left thinking how we could have done better, all while feeling completely drained from the process.

It’s a vicious cycle, one that ultimately leaves you feeling unfulfilled and completely exhausted. On the other side of it, if you’re so intent on never failing, how will you ever learn?

Failing Is Important

Failure is an important step in the growing process. When we fail, the brain releases a chemical that makes us feel insecure. Hence the reason we don’t enjoy failing and some people may do anything in their power to avoid it.

This is extremely important, however. Since you tried something and it didn’t work, your brain is telling you not to do it again. Therefore, you’re left to find a creative way of finding a new tactic for success or righting any wrongs. It may be unpleasant, but learning (even in this capacity) can actually help your mental health, despite the discomfort. Plus, it encourages active problem-solving, which also stimulates the brain in positive ways.

While failing may be uncomfortable, what’s even more uncomfortable is feeling like you’re never enough for yourself or anyone else. Failing has its benefits, trying to attain perfection all the time does not.

Learning to Let Go of Perfection

Ultimately, it’s important to let go of your desire to be perfect. It will only cause you further turmoil the longer you allow it to manifest. Here are a few things you can do:

Acknowledge Your Efforts

As you go through the journey of accepting yourself for exactly who you are, the first thing you can do is actively acknowledge that you’re trying to let go. Know that change is a process, but that you’ll ultimately feel happier and more fulfilled.

Release Unrealistic Expectations

Take the time to sit down and actively engage with what is possible. It can be helpful to journal as you think through it. What problems or tasks are you facing that you can solve? What is in your control?  And what can you not control? What can you actively do to reach your goals over time? And what steps will you take to let go of the things you aren’t able to take on?

Practice Positive Self-Talk

Rather than looking to others for validation, find it within yourself. Perhaps you’ll start and end every day by looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, “I am enough.” Maybe you can give yourself reminders throughout the day when you feel stressed or overwhelmed, “I am doing everything I can. I am who I need to be at this moment. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Accept Your Losses and Grow

Everyone sees failure every now and again. There may be periods of your life where you feel like you’re experiencing failure more than others. Just know that failure means you’re doing something right: you’re trying. And the path to success is sometimes filled with shortcomings. 

Change your mindset to see difficulties as opportunities and failures as a way to learn. Your victories will taste even sweeter when you get there.

Celebrate Your Wins

When you are successful, take the time to reward yourself. This could be anything that makes you feel rewarded, like having your favorite ice cream or calling up some friends. Just make sure that you take a pause and feel the full weight of what you’ve accomplished. You did a great job, now enjoy yourself.

In Summary

Let go of your perfectionist tendencies in exchange for something healthier: self-acceptance. You may have to go through a journey of healing and self-discovery, but ultimately, you are in control of your own happiness. The best way to find it is to stop trying to do better and wondering whether other people think you’re enough. You are more than enough; you only have to believe it within yourself.

If you’re on this journey and need a guide or someone to help support you through the process, I would love to hear from you. We will work on exercises that help build confidence and give you an action plan that will help you move forward from the vicious cycle of perfectionism. Get in touch today.

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