When I was asked what my biggest flaw was during job interviews, I used to share that I was a perfectionist. I was being honest and cheeky at the same time. See I knew full well that in the corporate world, perfectionism wasn’t a flaw at all. They saw it as someone who was dedicated, who would do things right the first time, who would pay attention to the details, who had high expectations, someone who did their best at all times. While all of that is true to a certain point, I really did mean it was a flaw.
You see perfectionism was something I struggled with. While I was dedicated, it was to a fault. I often sacrificed my mental health and physical wellbeing. My habit of perfectionism often deprived me of sleep, cut into my family time, and ultimately left me feeling less than perfect. I was so determined to get things right the “first time” I executed them, that I would ruminate over details and put unnecessary stress and pressure on myself. I had such high expectations of myself they were often not just unrealistic but physically impossible. Guess what? Those weren’t limited to myself. The expectations I had of others were equally as impossible making it difficult for me to trust or reach out to others because they’d just let me down by not living up to my expectations. I didn’t strive to do my best, I tried to be the best. That was a lot of pressure to put on myself and cope with.
It’s only been in recent years that I’ve learned there’s a difference between being a perfectionist and striving for excellence. These days I aim for progress. I have a healthy sense of striving to be my best self and do the best that I’m capable of. My former perfectionist ways would have scoffed at that. It would have sounded mediocre, lackluster, and frankly like someone who wasn’t focused on excellence. Now I understand that by striving for perfection, I was really using a mask to cover the fact that I didn’t feel like I was good enough. Striving for perfection was a way of boosting my self-esteem and trying to validate my self-worth. Looking back, it wasn’t working out very well. It just put more pressure and expectation on myself and made situations harder to deal with. It strained the relationship I had with myself and cost me relationships in my life.
I used to think that my life was easier as a perfectionist. Organized into categories, knowing what to expect from myself, and always setting the bar high. Now I can’t help but think how exhausting it was! Not only that but it contributed to me playing small in my life. I didn’t take chances or opportunities that I didn’t think had a high probability of excelling in. My life is so much easier for me now that I have a grounded sense of self and am able to chase big dreams in a manageable and actionable way. I no longer reflect on my day and turn things over in my mind because I didn’t do it good enough or I wasn’t enough. I go to bed at night knowing I did all that I could that day and put an action plan in place for the next day.
If you’ve struggled with the habit of perfectionism, I want to encourage you to be gentle with yourself. Remember that we all do the best we can with what we have and take steps to strive for progress over perfection. Here are three tips I have for you as you distance yourself from perfection and embrace progress. These have helped me cultivate an optimal environment of peace of mind and self-acceptance.
- Practice embracing mistakes| they help keep us humble. None of us are above making mistakes. Learning how to embrace them and take ownership of them helps increase the accountability we take for our life as a whole.
- Learn from your “failures”| As perfectionists, there’s a tendency to hold onto failure. Yet there’s no point in that being such a vivid memory if we don’t learn anything from it. So make a note of what that failure taught you so you can adjust your approach for the next time.
- Release expectation| Learning to allow things to unfold enables things beyond our control to take place which can lead to things turning out better than we ever could have planned them!
So while I might have been cheeky trying to cover my low sense of self-worth with my very honest answer at the end of the day, I realize that perfectionism was my biggest flaw. It’s something I’ve dedicated myself to improve over the years. At the end of the day, I’m a student of life. While I don’t chase perfection, I do chase progress. I’ll be a work in progress for the rest of my life, and I’m content with that.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any tips you’d share to help others practice breaking their habit of perfectionism? Feel free to share in the comments!
There’s more where this came from! If you enjoyed this post, then be sure to sign up for the monthly Dose of Empowerment. Action plans, powerful questions, and content to empower you to build the fulfilling life you’re worthy of!
Sending you lots of love and wishing you all that you need to strive for progress over perfection!