This morning, sipping my first cup of tea, I picked up my phone, and as I unlocked it, my phone pinged. A notification about an article by a daughter about her relationship with her mother. After I finished reading, a phrase that stuck with me was ‘Imperfectly Perfect’. Can imperfections ever be perfect? Can we overcome perfectionism?
We look for perfection in everything nowadays. A perfect outfit, a perfect look, a perfect photo, perfect house, perfect job and perfect whatever is around us. In this search for perfect perfection, we forget to live, to enjoy life in its real sense. If you are anything like I was, you will definitely benefit from reading my experience of overcoming perfectionism.
When perfect is not good enough
The perfectionist bug bit me for a good many years. I used to beat myself up for a small slip up or even for someone else’s for that matter. Needless to say, my anxiety and stress levels were up the roof. Add to that being a new mother along with having a demanding and stressful job that warranted long hours; it was a perfect storm in the making.
Now, over time and over the years I have become wiser. Time has a way of showing what matters most in life. I am now in a place where I consider myself to be at peace with my own self. Life is not for wasting on worrying about how perfectly you have managed your home. Neither it is about how perfect a mother you have been or how perfect you are at your job.
By no means I am trying to imply that we should not give our best selves to our roles. I dedicate myself to every job that I do. However, I have now learnt to accept that my view of perfection may not be the same as someone else’s. Unknowingly but I did manage to find my own ways of overcoming perfectionism!
What is Perfectionism
According to Good Therapy, perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or appear to be perfect. For instance, perfectionists also believe that it is possible to achieve perfection. It is typically viewed as a positive trait rather than a flaw. However, make no mistake in understanding this term. Many would say it is to do with excellence and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best! This is where we miss the demarcation between perfection and excellence.
Setting high standards is good, and striving for excellence shows one has a good work ethic. Striving for excellence can be motivating and can push someone to achieve heights of success. Perfectionism on the other hand is demotivating and making even a single mistake would make the person feel a complete failure.
We as perfectionists set such high standards for ourselves that we cannot practically reach or meet with great difficulty. And failure to achieve makes them feel even worse or they feel constantly burnt out.
Perfectionism in women
The idea of perfectionism exists more in women than their male counterparts as shown in many studies. Over many years I have interviewed many candidates in my role. And a majority of the women candidates try to project being a ‘perfectionist’ as one of their core strengths! But is it really? Or is it that, we, women, perceive it as a way of increasing our self-worth.
Our society is usually particularly good at boxing up behaviours for either gender. This gender stereotyping of behaviours or attributes inherently instils certain expectations from girls from the time they are born. With today’s instant/ social media generation, expectations have soared even higher. We are under more pressure than ever before, albeit in different ways.
Studies have found that most often women tend to hold themselves back in many situations, be it personal or professional. I have realised and learnt a valuable lesson that good habits are good only until they start affecting your well-being. Be it mental or physical!
As human beings, we all, from time to time, fall into the trap of perfectionism. But it will help to remind ourselves that making mistakes and not being perfect would not make the world around us come crashing down.
I am sharing a few practices and habits that did help me back then and still does. These are my tools to streamline thoughts and overcome perfectionism!
Steps to overcome perfectionism
Set human goals
Set standards that are humanly achievable. You should not feel drained out of energy. Neither should you feel exhausted – mentally and emotionally. Break your journey down into achievable goals. Celebrate every achievement en-route, be it by treating yourself to a luxury or any of life’s simple pleasures that you usually miss out on. Remind yourself that your perfectionist thoughts may be affecting your relations with your loved ones.
Compare yourself to none
Always believe that you are unique as there is only one of you, hence do not compare yourself with any other. There will always be someone who will be better at something or the other than you are. Rather, compare yourself to yourself! Look at the progress you have made from where you were before.
Be around positivity
Try to distance yourself from sources that tend to draw you back into a perfectionist world.
I know this is a tough one, with so many channels such as social media, television etc., constantly bombarding with images and stories hell-bent upon making you believe in the myth of perfectionism. Try to distance yourself from nervous perfectionists; surround yourself with positive people who lead their lives in a healthy and relaxed way.
Do not beat yourself up
If you hear this phrase very often, then probably you are beating yourself up often. Allow yourself to make mistakes and forgive. Forgiving is a way of accepting your mistakes and imperfections. As human beings, we will inevitably commit errors and blunders.
Always remember that you are human and so is everyone else around you. On a lighter note, have you heard this song ‘ I am only human after all, don’t put the blame on me’ sung by the deep baritone-voiced Rag ‘n’ Bone Man? Hope my experience will help you. And if it does, I will feel rewarded for the energy that I spent in putting words to my thoughts on this one.
Just as my able character at the beginning of my blog concluded that although her relationship with her mother was imperfect in many ways it was absolutely perfect in many more ways; similarly I conclude that being imperfect is absolutely perfect. One simply must believe in it!
And, as someone rightly said ‘Good is the enemy of great but perfect is the enemy of everything.’