Overcoming Perfectionism


Have you ever not done something because it just wasn’t quite right yet? That feeling of “not good enough” can be completely paralyzing and lead you to not even try what you set out to do. This is the ugly-head of perfectionism, and it can creep into any aspect of your life. Most of the time it’s undetected!

Perfectionism should not be confused with doing your best in the project you’re undertaking or goal you’re striving for! This thought is what leads many to think that perfectionism is okay because it’s used synonymously with “your best.” This common misconception leads some to believe that you need to be the absolute best to even start.

For example, if you really want to start learning photography, but you don’t want to show anyone your work because it’s just not good enough yet, this creates the cycle of perfectionism. The not-good-enough creeps in even when you aregood enough at the project or goal!

Doing Your Best versus Perfectionism

Let’s clear the air about these two!

Doing your best is putting in the work needed to start/complete a project within your skill-sets, talents, and personal grasp. This is you doing more than just showing up, your project or goal shows your passion behind it with the work that you put in. When you do your best, you complete your project or goal and are satisfied with the work and journey to get there!

Perfectionism comes in two forms:

  • not starting a project or goal because you’re not the best at the skills/talents needed to put into it

  • not finishing a project or goal because you’re not the best at the skills/talents needed to put into it

Both of these forms cause us to sputter out and not complete our project/goal in one way or another. Either we find ourselves paralyzed by the brainstorm or by the road to get there, perfectionism brings us to a grinding halt.

Perfectionism has been accepted into our regular lives because it’s become synonymous with “your best.” We’ve been told time and time again to not show sloppy-work, so we hold back our passion and our projects until they’re “perfect.”

But what exactly is perfect? When you’re faced with these fears of “not yet, it’s not perfect,” there’s a tendency to skip past what perfect actually means for your situation.  Or you do know what perfect is but that perfect is someone else’s success.

Perfectionism & Comparison

When we strive for big goals or find ourselves wanting to start a new project, we look towards others who have already done the hard-work. When we look at those people, it’s easy to lose sight of the hours, days, months, or even years of struggles and hard-work they have put in and just look at their success.

Measuring ourselves with someone else’s success comes with a price to our self-esteem. There’s a very in-depth article about self-esteem that talks about how internal negatives can pick apart your sense of self. Perfectionism and comparison go hand-in-hand, usually you start with one and the other soon follows.

When you measure yourself with someone else’s ruler, you’re setting yourself up for failure before you even begin. Have you heard yourself say:

“If only I was as good as them, then I would be able to do this!”

It hurts yourself when you say those things because you’re not looking at that person’s journey to get to where they are. The perfect journey is not real, and the person you’re comparing yourself with will be the first to say that their journey was filled with more struggles imaginable.

Why does perfectionism hold us back so much?

Perfectionism is nothing more than fear of failure. Fear of not waking up with success the next morning. The fear of struggle and, really, the fear of the journey to get there. And sometimes, it’s the fear of being judged by others.

We’re in a world now where we want it, we get it. The same world where we watch others get picked apart for flaws and we begin to fear the same outcome for ourselves.

“What if I share this and no one likes it? Or worse?”

This negativity sneaks into our mindset and holds us back from really accomplishing what we want to do.

Our bodies are hardwired to “trick” ourselves into not making waves, to keep us safe from change. This is the same default-mindset that we talked about in reclaiming your motivation. The same is true with perfectionism and our mindset. If you do not take steps to change this fear, your body and mind will keep you on the same fearful path.

With perfectionism, it takes a lot of good habits and practices to rewire your thoughts. To begin this journey, here are ways that you can start on the path to accepting good-enough.

Focus on Your “Why”

When you’re looking at your projects or goals, it’s very important to set a solid foundation for yourself. Ask yourself why you want to complete this certain project or goal. The real why, not just the short answer. Looking inward at what connects you to these projects or goals will give you a clearer definition of the project or goal.

The first rule of beating fear and perfectionism is to not have any dark corners to your projects. This means to have a plan and a concreate “why” on what to do to start, continue, and finish.

If you’re like me, my biggest struggle is just starting a project. I love to be to prepared and planned so I can keep on a set path, but that can sputter out even the most tough to fear.

“What if I’m not ready!”

How many times has that echoed for you? For me, countless times! Jumping in and just doing it will always win over stalling out. Sometimes you just have to wing it for a little bit and accept that you will make mistakes along the way. But having your “why” will catch you and keep you on your path!

Accepting the Complete You, Flaws Included

To end the vicious cycle of perfectionism and fear of failure, look deep at what you’re afraid of. Sometimes a quiet morning reflection is the perfect time to look at why you feel that sting of not good enough.

Every single person on this planet has felt that sting, no matter where they are in their journey. The difference between those who are successful and those who are still growing is that the successful ones accept their flaws.

If you admit to yourself, it’s okay to be hesitant or it’s okay to be a novice, that fear of failure starts to sting less and less. To be successful and accepting of these flaws means to have a plan in place to overcome these flaws!

For example, if you’re hesitant to start projects then look at why you’re hesitating. Is it because you’re not prepared or is it because you’re afraid of what-if. Usually that what-if is fear of failure. Again, that fear holding us back!

The best part is for that example? Failures help you grow stronger. Since you’re so hesitant, you know the project and goal inside and out. You know what went wrong and are able to fix it!

Knowing how to navigate through your flaws and stumbles will help shine light on the corners of “what-if.”

Nixing the Idea of Perfect

Ahem, let me be the first to say: there is no perfect. There is no secret sauce. Nor is there any ancient mysticism that someone found and is using that they aren’t telling you about.

Perfect is such an overused fable in today’s world. Something that was perfect last month is no longer perfect. Blue eyeshadow in the 1980’s? Perfect. Now? No. No, no, no. It’s a concept that presents itself as static but contradicts itself when it’s not suiting anymore.

With your projects and goals, look at what is best for your lifestyle and current situation. When you’re striving for a goal, does it align with who you are and your lifestyle or is it someone else’s idea of perfect?

We all fall into the trap of being pulled towards other’s ideas of perfection, but reflecting on your why will help break that cycle for each project you undertake!

Having a Loud Support Group

One of my go-to’s for any type of mindset rewiring! Having a support group is crucial!

With not-good-enough following us naturally, we need to have people who support us in our endeavors. This includes people who are active listeners. Active listeners are people who engage in our interests and are genuinely excited for what’s going on in our lives.

Every person will have different sets of people in their lives who all have different relationship standards. There will be some people who may not know how to be supportive in your life and that’s okay. The supportive task won’t be bestowed upon them! But you need to find that support for your goals and projects in others who can give you that lift when you’re feeling downtrodden.

When we talked about self-esteem, this support group can be found in person or within an online community. Writing out your emotions can be so much more helpful to those who struggle face to face, especially with goals and passions, that an online community may be the perfect solution!

Although everyone will always battle perfectionism, it will get easier with time. Building a strong sense of self will help to shake that not-good-enough feeling, along with the mindset shifts here. When you’re feeling that sting, look back at your why and find that reassurance within yourself and the support of others.