5 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism
The desire to reach perfection is a goal all of us can identify with. The career, the family, the body – we’ve each spent too many hours trying to re-create an “ideal” that’s frankly unattainable. But for many of us, the failure to reach these targets is more than just a blow to our egos.
As perfectionists, our self-worth, value, and esteem are inextricably tied to the unreachable standards we’ve set for ourselves.
Let’s look at 5 ways you can reach high-level achievement without being a perfectionist.
1. Aim for good enough
If reading that title gives you chills, you’re in the right place. As a perfectionist, your expectations at this point will be entirely out of whack, so the thought of setting your standards to “good enough” will be terrifying. But hear me out.
How many times have you started a project only not to see it through because it’s never perfect?
For example, your busy shop needs a website to refer clients to, but you’re procrastinating on taking the first step. You’re unable to explain what you see in your head, and the fear of an unrealized vision is holding you back.
This is where you need to find a balance for yourself. If you aim for good enough, it gives you the flexibility to put your project out there – warts and all – without getting caught up in continually trying to improve, polish and adapt something before launching. This is what’s commonly referred to as progress over perfection.
When you’re continually procrastinating or starting and stopping because you’re waiting until something is perfect, you’re missing out on so many opportunities. Nothing you create is ever final, it can always be tweaked and changed after you release it into the world – but no one will see it if you’re still waiting until it’s “perfect.”
2. Challenge your perfectionism mindset
“You’re not doing it right; let me show you how to do it correctly.”
Does this sound familiar to you? As perfectionists our brains see in terms of “all” or “nothing,” “success” or “failure” and “black” or “white” – we see things as correct or incorrect with little wiggle room, for ourselves or those around us.
This perfectionism mindset is unrealistic in today’s world. Not only do we tend to live day to day in the “grey” zone but forcing yourself to make each decision on such a cutthroat scale can be devastating to your self-confidence and self-worth.
In reality, not one of your peers or role models achieved their success without many bumps in the road. Tattoo artists begin as apprentices with many pieces they’d prefer you not see, barbers have a story to tell about that one cut that went awry – it’s our failures that make us human.
The path to success happens step by step (often going in both directions), not overnight or in an “all or nothing” manner. To overcome this hurdle you need to allow yourself to do things imperfectly and incompletely – no more “pass” vs. “fail.”
Your focus needs to be on how to travel from the beginning through to the end and to focus on each move in between. Be mindful of the progress and failures you’re making along the way so you can learn from those lessons and build your success.
3. Change your goal setting strategy
Did you make a goal list this year? With perfectionism, it’s difficult to choose what potential achievements should be a priority when everything seems important.
Say hello to analysis paralysis. It’s a good friend to perfectionism and a cousin to procrastination. This is the family tree Ancestry.com doesn’t tell you about. With your ability to endlessly focus on the minutiae of each task it can prove impossible to get anything done. You become paralyzed when trying to decide how to move forward on, well anything.
Even though you’re struggling to get started on your goal list for the year, as a perfectionist you’re super attached to what you’ve written down. Often you can see your goals as a representation of your self-worth and set about beating yourself up if you don’t meet the unattainable targets you’ve set for yourself.
So, how do you start not to dread looking at that list? Well, you need to redefine what a goal means to you.
For example, let’s say one of your goals was to increase your income for the year by $8,000 by August 1 by scheduling ten new clients. Your plan for this was to update your online portfolio, adding your appointment scheduling link to Instagram, and you’ve signed up for a convention in June. Now, if this goal is absolute and you don’t meet the targets you’ve set out for yourself, then you’re a failure. Completely terrible self-talk and as we’ve been discussing, not reaching a goal isn’t representative of your self-worth.
Whereas, if you make your goal a guide, there’s built-in flexibility that you can use as a pathway to success. So, if you end up landing six new clients and bringing in $7500, that’s successful for many different reasons. You can evaluate what did and didn’t work for your next goal-setting session. It also reiterates that you’re more than “success” or “failure.”
Don’t stop setting giant goals for yourself and your business, but remind yourself that achievement isn’t always the most critical factor. You need to readjust your mindset to evaluate and enjoy your progression towards each of your goals.
4. Celebrate the journey
When was the last time you celebrated a mistake? I don’t remember the last time I did. More often than not as perfectionists you don’t focus on celebrating anything. With such high expectations of yourself, you’re rarely satisfied with the final product, even with positive feedback from your clients and mentors.
It’s time to celebrate everything you’re doing. Start living in the moment and acknowledge how capable and worthy you are. That means including perceived mistakes and failures into your celebration as well. Maybe you finally set aside an hour in your day to dedicate to drawing – but you haven’t gotten around to implementing it, just celebrate the first step you took.
Taking the opportunity to focus on what you have, versus what you don’t will make your life so much more enjoyable in the long-term. Teach yourself to value all opportunities (failures and successes) for what they are – chances to be grateful for an experience that lets you learn and grow.
5. Delegate and move forward
The idea of relying on someone else to handle a portion of your dream may be as appealing as swallowing glass, but the alternative isn’t pretty either. Your inner dialogue is telling you going it alone is more comfortable, faster and the job will get done right if you’re the only one doing it.
But let’s step back into reality for just a sec. There’s a reason people suffer breakdowns, get searing ulcers, and end up sitting alone on Saturday after spending another 16 hour day at work – they don’t want to delegate.
I understand as a single entity you’re able to do everything exactly the way you envision. The thought of relaying instructions to another human; having to deal with their mistakes and the possible communication breakdowns is daunting. But, you need to get over yourself and delegate.
Here are 6 reasons why:
- To scale your business (add more chairs to your shop for example)
- Increase your clientele
- Keep your high standard of work
- Excel with your clients
- Maintain quality relationships
- Stay healthy (physically & mentally)
Look for the people who get you and your business, then train them to help you in the areas you need it. Be clear about your expectations and keep communication open and honest. It’s going to take time to loosen your death grip, but if you don’t, the stress of life is going to force you into early retirement. Be open to the fact that no one will do things exactly as you would, or as you’d expect – and that’s fine.
The goal of delegation is to relinquish control and accept help from others.
Perfection is an impossible outcome
Perfectionism isn’t simply striving to perfect something – your art, your craft or your game. It’s the drive to improve or repair one’s imperfect self, believing you’re flawed and equating mistakes and failures as a diminishment of your self-worth.
Perfection is an impossible outcome, and those who become preoccupied with it ultimately set themselves up for disappointment. Instead, embrace failure as a learning experience and celebrate your progress over perfection.