Not being a perfectionist is something I really like about myself.
My “just go!” attitude has made sure I haven’t held back from saying yes to intimidating opportunities, like writing columns, starting a business, authoring a book, and generally throwing my hat in the ring whenever there’s something I see out in the world that I’d like to be part of.
I don’t think you have to be perfect to still be pretty darn good—of course, this attitude has taken years of self-help and working on my confidence, folks. I know perfectionism is paralyzing for many people. Recently, as I was talking with my friend Petra, a happiness expert and author of the fantastic new book The Perfection Detox, she highlighted some scary truths about perfection.
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I asked her, “Am I somehow missing out by not giving an A+ effort, always?”
Her reply surprised me.
So buckle up, perfectionists. Here are five lies that perfectionism will perpetuate in your beliefs:
1.Forget the lie that perfection = success.
Success, in many cases, requires us to ask for help—which perfectionism will rarely allow us to do. Perfectionists also take way fewer risks than other people, due to the fear that something might go wrong. This means that as a perfectionist, what you think of as a success could actually just be your middle-level effort because you’ve been limiting—not stretching—your potential!
Wow. This is enough cause to self-evaluate. What if your perfectionism isn’t making you more successful, it’s actually holding you back? What might you become if you learn to let it go?
2. Acknowledge that people don’t really admire perfectionists.
Put simply, we don’t relate to perfect.
Because “perfect” doesn’t exist. But when we’re surrounded by what feels like perfection, it’s easy to feel pressured to live up to unrealistic expectations. Anyone have a friend who inspires that pressure? I do. I worry if I’m bringing the right wine or flowers to her house. Or I’m thinking, Should I be using a coaster?Is it rude if I’m the first person to tuck into the cheese platter? And, man, is my H&M dress going to be a bit shabby at her dinner party with these fancy friends?
Yes, I love (and respect) my pal, but I’m also kinda scared in her company. Which—if I must admit it—does make me less inclined to see her all the time. I just wanna relax and be myself on my downtime with people I can kick my heels off around. The kind of people who don’t care what kind of Chardonnay it is. Don’t you?
3. Remember that perfection isn’t power.
This one really resonated with me as a coach, and I’d never connected with it as “perfectionism” before. Perfection, like any fear, lives in a state of disconnect, as it’s always trying to stay one step ahead of any potential mistake. That’s the most powerless way to live!
I mean… present moment, anyone? It’s all we have. And if you’re not in it, you’re giving away all of your power (not to mention your joy).
4. Perfection and your self-worth are not connected.
“To love and value ourselves requires owning all of our self—the good, the great, and the not-so-wonderful,” Petra says. “Perfection looks at our faults and flaws with a sense of disdain and keeps us from building self-acceptance and embracing our true self.”
Yep. That’s what self-love really is, folks. It’s not being perfect, which is impossible anyway. It’s the subtle, undramatic, but revolutionary act of just liking yourself as you are. The more I think of it, the more I think anything else (yes, including that sneaky perfectionism!) is insanity.
5. Much as Instagram may make it feel that way, perfection isn’t normal.
Perfection has come to feel like the new normal as a personal aspiration—we want to rear the perfect child, land the perfect job, score the perfect relationship, rock the perfect body, flaunt perfect skin… so where does it end? It doesn’t. There’s nothing normal—even rational—about thinking this way. The normalization of perfection, when you consider it for even a moment, is alarming.
As Petra says, “Companies that want us to buy their products sell perfection; they sell to your weaknesses. It’s time to buy into your strengths.”
Because you’re full of strengths if you’ll just allow yourself to remember them.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!