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How to Break Free From Perfectionism and Embrace Imperfection

Updated: Apr 25


break free from perfectionism and embrace imperfection

I have battled perfectionism for the majority of my life. In fact, it was one of the many reasons I didn’t think I’d ever be cut out for parenthood. It was often repeated in my family of origin, “If you can’t do it right the first time, don’t bother doing it all.” This message was debilitating, and in my younger years, I was frequently afraid to begin anything new for fear of failing. I was terrified of parenting–especially of passing on that message, of “not getting it right”. In this post, I will share the secrets for how to break free from perfectionism. If I can do it, so can you.


The Vicious Cycle of Perfectionism


I started many things, and quickly quit because I didn’t accomplish the results I thought I should.  I liked music.  I started learning organ, and later clarinet, neither lasted long. Mostly, I watched tv.  It led to depression and eventually therapy. The fact is, we need to try things in order to learn how to do them.  


The relentless pursuit of perfection can trap individuals in a vicious cycle of self-doubt and fear. It starts with setting impossibly high standards for ourselves, driven by the belief that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. As we strive to meet these unrealistic expectations, we become hyper-focused on our flaws and shortcomings, magnifying even the smallest mistakes into major failures.


This constant self-criticism takes a toll on our self-esteem and mental well-being. We start to doubt our abilities and question our worthiness, leading to feelings of inadequacy and shame. Instead of celebrating our achievements, we fixate on what we could have done better, fueling a never-ending cycle of perfectionism.


The pressure to maintain perfection often leads to procrastination and avoidance. Faced with the fear of falling short, we may procrastinate on important tasks or avoid challenges altogether. This avoidance only reinforces our belief that we're not good enough, perpetuating the cycle of perfectionism and holding us back from reaching our full potential.


Breaking free from this cycle requires a shift in mindset and a willingness to embrace imperfection. It means letting go of the need for external validation and learning to accept ourselves – flaws and all. By practicing self-compassion and cultivating a growth mindset, we can break the grip of perfectionism and discover the joy of progress over perfection.


It’s ok to need help to do this.


Understanding the Psychological Effects


Perfectionism is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it pushes us to strive for excellence and do our best. But on the other hand, it can have some pretty heavy psychological effects, especially when it comes to our work life.


When we're perfectionists, we set the bar super high for ourselves. We expect nothing less than perfection in everything we do, from projects at work to chores at home. This constant pressure to be flawless can take a toll on our mental health. We may feel anxious, stressed, and even overwhelmed by the fear of making mistakes or falling short of our own sky-high expectations.


In professional settings, perfectionism can lead to a whole host of problems. We might spend way too much time obsessing over tiny details, which can slow us down and make it harder to get things done on time. We might also struggle to collaborate with others, fearing that their work won't be up to our standards. And worst of all, we might beat ourselves up over every little mistake, even when everyone else thinks we're doing a great job.


Impact on Productivity and Performance


Believe it or not, being a perfectionist can actually slow us down when it comes to getting stuff done. Instead of zooming through tasks and checking them off our to-do list, we might find ourselves getting stuck on tiny little details. We want everything to be just right, so we spend way too much time fussing over stuff that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.


And while we're busy perfecting every little thing, deadlines can start slipping through the cracks. We might miss important due dates because we're so focused on making everything perfect. This can be super frustrating, not just for us, but for our bosses and coworkers too. After all, they're counting on us to get stuff done on time and deliver results – not get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details.


But it's not just about missing deadlines – being a perfectionist can also take a toll on the quality of our work. When we're so obsessed with perfection, we might overlook the bigger picture and lose sight of what really matters. We might get so caught up in the small stuff that we forget to step back and look at the project as a whole. And that can end up hurting the final product in the long run.


How to Break Free From Perfectionism


If you're tired of feeling stressed out and stuck in the perfectionism trap, don't worry – there are things you can do to break free and start feeling better.


1. Set Realistic Goals for Yourself


One of the first steps is to set realistic goals for yourself. Instead of aiming for perfection every time, try setting goals that are achievable and manageable. This way, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment when you reach them, instead of constantly feeling like you're falling short.


2. Practice Self-Compassion


Another strategy is to practice self-compassion. That means being kind to yourself, even when things don't go as planned. Instead of beating yourself up over every little mistake, try treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would show to a friend. Remember, nobody's perfect – and that's okay!  


This is why I adapted the mantra “Done is good enough.  Perfection is the enemy.”  Most of my friends have heard me say, “done is good.”  But few of them have heard the longer version.  As I became healthier, it got shortened as I was able to let things be as they were.  I wish I could tell you this was all it took, but in my experience, it was a process.   


3. Challenge Negative Beliefs


Finally, it's important to challenge those sneaky little beliefs about success and failure that might be holding you back. Maybe you've always believed that anything less than perfect is a failure, or that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But guess what? Those beliefs aren't serving you – they're just keeping you stuck in the perfectionism cycle. So try challenging them and replacing them with more helpful, realistic beliefs. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel when you start letting go of perfection and embracing imperfection instead.


Embrace Imperfection


It might sound a little scary at first, but embracing imperfection can actually be a game-changer when it comes to feeling happier and more fulfilled. Instead of constantly striving for perfection and feeling stressed out all the time, why not give yourself permission to be imperfect? It's like taking a weight off your shoulders and giving yourself the freedom to just be yourself – flaws and all.


When we embrace imperfection, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities. Instead of worrying about making mistakes, we can focus on learning and growing from them. We can take risks, try new things, and explore our creativity without the fear of not being good enough. And you know what? Sometimes those imperfections are what make us unique and interesting – they're what make us human.


Strive for Progress, Not Perfection


So let's strive for progress, not perfection. Let's celebrate our successes and learn forward from our experiences that teach us what not to do. Let's create a culture of support and understanding, where it's okay to be imperfect and where we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. Because when we embrace imperfection, we unlock our full potential and discover the joy of being authentically ourselves. That's something worth celebrating.


If you are on a journey to break free from perfectionism, HOLD Professional Listeners are here for you. Schedule a listening appointment today!

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Guest
18 เม.ย.

This is great, Deb! I had a client who always said, "Your B- work is good enough." Perfectionism really can slow you down!

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