Drive the latest car, go to the best restaurants, boost sales month on month. It sounds perfect, right? But is it really perfection? Do these things guarantee happiness and fulfillment? Probably not and the dogged effort to maintain them can be mentally and physically exhausting.
The strive for perfection is timeless and elusive. We all want to do our best but having expectations built on perfectionism can end up being restricting and leading to tunnel vision. And at worst, they can lead to bad decisions and burn-out.
Being able to let go of lofty, impossible perfection can help you see life through a different lens. Throwing out the need to prove something to yourself, and to others, at all times, means that you can rid yourself of ridiculous self-imposed expectations you wouldn’t dream of having for others.
So, why have these expectations for yourself?
Fear Drives Perfection
At its core, perfectionism is fueled by fear. Fear of what happens if you fail or don’t get the result you wanted. Fear about what to tell your family and friends if you fall short. Being afraid in your personal and professional life means that you’re limiting your choices and you’re not choosing the best options – you’re not in a free frame of mind.
You’re making breathing space for yourself, so in the end, you’re completely limiting the number of scenarios that are acceptable, because the only acceptable outcome is perfection.
And if you’re achieving ‘perfection’, satisfaction isn’t inevitable. You’ve got to hop back on and keep going so you can do even better next time - after a while, the stakes become so high, and your anxiety levels are too.
The fear of not being good enough can be completely overwhelming.
It’s completely understandable to feel fear too. Our society is a pressure cooker, where we’re acutely aware of arbitrary milestones and targets we feel like we should be reaching. Money, followers, kids – whatever metric it is, we can feel like a failure if we’re not living up to what we think society expects.
Give yourself a break. You’re a unique person with your own story and context. Random ‘rules’ don’t take your life, your aspirations, and your journey into account.
Even when you’re achieving success externally, that doesn’t mean you’ll feel internally happy. The fear that’s driving your perfection is built around societal pressure and expectation, and often there’s a clash between what you think society wants from you and what you truly want to achieve.
The most outwardly ‘successful’ people can still be unhappy - they’re busting a gut every day to try and maintain their successful lifestyle, but it still doesn’t seem enough.
Why is that?
Perhaps it’s because their version of success, and the goals they’re aiming for, never really came from them at all.
It’s what they think they should be doing, not what they want to be doing.
Pressure and fear designed their path, and not feeling good and fulfilled in the perfect life you’re trying to achieve makes it difficult to see and identify what it is that you actually want to do.
Perfectionism looks to others for validation instead of yourself, and as long as you do that, and live off other opinions rather than your own values, the strive for perfectionism will continue.
An Alternative to Perfectionism
How can you start to rid yourself of burdensome and impossible perfectionism?
- Change your Perspective - Crash through the limiting idea that society defines your goals and objectives. What are your values? What do you believe in? What drives you? Look at the world differently and remove unrealistic goals and focus on using the effort that it takes to maintain perfection for working on being your true self.
- Self-esteem Building - When you start making changes and take action that aligns with your inner value system and passions, you’ll feel more authentic and confident. Trying to be something you’re not is exhausting mentally, so look to progress and make decisions that are based on what you actually believe in.
- Remove Negativity - This is easier said than done, but you don’t have to be completely defined by your past. Hurtful and painful experiences will build you, but they don’t have to restrict you. Try to let go of the negativity that makes you fearful of making mistakes and fuels your perfectionism.
- You’re Enough - The fear and self-loathing that can make us feel like we’re never reaching our potential can be damaging for our wellbeing. Being able to accept that you’re enough can be incredibly liberating. Your effort is enough, your best is enough, your life is enough. Convincing yourself that you’re in a constant state of failure will never get the best out of you. Be kind to yourself.
- Acceptance - Looking at your present situation, and accepting and appreciating who you are and your unique skills and personality, will help you to move forward. And you can only really move forward positively when you do this. You’ll feel more satisfaction when you’re making progress as the real you.
Letting go of perfect can help you to manage your expectations in a healthy way, and look for ways of living that offer true authentic accomplishment.
What I really think is worthwhile is learning to accept. Learning to accept that anything other than perfect is fine. Once you learn this lesson, your life will get a whole lot happier.
This post was first published on Bryan Kramer's blog.