Why you should stop aiming for perfection
“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” -Michael Law
Unhelpful perfectionism affects many of the people that I work with. By unhelpful perfectionism I mean that these individuals set very high standards for themselves in one area of their life that often leaves them sacrificing other things in their life - and where pursuing these high standards often leaves them feeling anxious or exhausted. Maybe they have high standards for their professional life, or want everyone to like them or maybe they have high standards when it comes to their health or their body image. Whilst having high standards in and of itself is not a bad thing, it can often mean that an individual will not even start something that they want to do - because they fear failure or judgment ... so perfectionism can often lead to procrastination.
- Perhaps they want to exercise 5 times a week at the gym but because they haven’t got the time to go to the gym so often right now, they don’t even try going to the gym the one or two times that they could.
- Perhaps they want to apply for a new, much more senior post, but they avoid applying or trying to get a new job - until they have obtained more qualifications and studied more.
- Perhaps they want to eat more healthily - but they know that they have a busy few weeks ahead at work and won’t have time to cook, so rather than making some healthy meal choices - they write off their “healthy eating” until 2 weeks time and until then continue eating really unhealthily.
- Perhaps they want to start a new business or project but because the task seems so big or so daunting, they don’t even start or try - putting off the project or business until another time/date.
This kind of all or nothing thinking can often be unhelpful. When high standards lead you to put off even trying or even starting to achieve your goals, this may mean that you need to start looking at those goals slightly differently. I often encourage my clients to aim for PROGRESS rather than PERFECTION. If you are just aiming for progress - you will take that first step towards getting to your goals. Your goals won’t seem so daunting or overwhelming either.