Designing your best life is a wonderful goal to shoot for, but many of us confuse that with having a perfect life. We get hung up on all the details, trying to make sure everything is just right. We tell ourselves it has to be the right time or the best circumstances before we’re ready to try something new or make a change.
We let perfectionism hold us back.
If you feel you fall into this trap, keep listening and learn how you can design your best life without waiting for it to be perfect.
Perfectionism is a destructive compliment
It gets lots of credit for greatness in our society, but it can wreck people, even though we use the term like it’s a great compliment. In reality, perfectionism destroys much more than it creates.
Perfectionism is a cover-up, a way to avoid failure, a hopeless attempt to avoid rejection by performing at an impossibly flawless level all the time. Perfectionism binds people to unrealistic standards. It’s a guarantee of constant disappointment.
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Let’s find Out If You Are a Perfectionist?
- Do you think in absolute terms? Things are either great or terrible, black or white, happy or sad? Perfectionists tend to think in opposites, while others think along a continuum.
- Does one small flaw in something you’re doing make you feel it’s worthless?
- You can’t delegate because you just know others won’t do the job right?
- You’re often late getting work in on time. Do you wait to turn in a project so you make it perfect?
- Does your self-image and self-confidence depend on your accomplishments and what everybody thinks?
- Do you recognize your errors and focus on those far more than your successes?
- After a success, are feelings of accomplishment fleeting or not at all?
How’d you do? Did you answer yes to many of these?
First Let’s Consider What’s at Stake
When you get caught up in feeling like things have to be just right, take a minute to consider the stakes. Ask yourself the following questions:
What will I miss out on if I wait until things are perfect?
What opportunities am I giving up?
What’s it costing me to not pursue my dreams
Often, these simple reflections will be enough to push you toward going after your goal, rather than waiting for a better time.
Second, Know It’s Not All or Nothing
The all-or-nothing trap is one that is common. This is the belief that you have to have all the resources in place or know everything there is to know before taking on a task. This line of thinking is false. It’s simply a way of getting caught up in the cycle of perfectionism and remaining stuck in place. Start Taking baby steps and give it a try even if you don’t have everything in place. Often things come together on their own.
What baby step towards your dream can you take today?
Third, Change Your Self-Talk
If perfectionism is holding you back from designing your best life, chances are good that you’re probably sending yourself some negative messages. Listen to what your inner critic is saying to you the next time you decide that you shouldn’t do something and then see if you cannot turn that message around. If you hear yourself saying that you’ll never get the life of your dreams because you’re not good enough, try giving yourself some realistic reasons why you might just have what it takes and what actions you can take to get the life you want. Refuting negative self-talk can go a long way to stopping perfectionism in its tracks.
Here are some ideas for what to say to yourself:
— Good enough really is good enough
— Having fun is not a reward I have to earn
— Asking for help is a good thing
— I can not control everything so I can focus on what I can control
— I accept myself just as I am
“Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Finally, Start Before You’re Ready
Try embracing imperfection and see what happens. The next time you want to do something different or step out of your comfort zone, but don’t think you’re ready, just go for it. Pay attention to how you feel and what it’s like to push past those feelings. Note the end result. Maybe things won’t turn out perfectly, but you may discover they end up being worthwhile anyway.
Keep these steps in mind the next time your inner perfectionist tries to sabotage you and keep you from designing your best life. You may be surprised at the results.