Perfectionism and How it Impacts Our Life

There is a constant demand for authenticity in a culture that strives for perfection. I don’t think these two things can coexist… in fact, I believe that perfection doesn’t exist. In a recent post I describe perfection as a mirage. 

Perfection is like a Mirage that we see when we’re in crisis in the hot desert… 

We think that this mirage is achievable, and we push ourselves to unmeasurable extremes to reach it. But ultimately, when we get there, we realize that it was nothing that we thought it would be. We’re left feeling unfulfilled, disappointed, burnt out, and lonely. 

In our reach for perfection, we often disconnect from our relationships, from ourselves, and from our community. Our desire for perfection becomes priority in our life. The risks become:

Losing touch with our values.
Isolating ourselves from support.
Harming those closest to us.
Feeling shame and resentment.
Mental and Physical health issues.
Emotional distress. 

I could go on… 

Perfectionism is bad. Perfectionist thinking is bad. Expecting anything and anyone to be perfect is bad.

Brene Brown says, “Shame is the birthplace of perfectionism”. She goes on to explain that being internally driven inspire us to make progress toward our goals in healthy ways. When we are drive by external factors we aim for perfection and have a constant looming fear of what others will think.

How often does perfectionism impact your life? Does perfectionism keep you from being your true self, and experiencing life in a more meaningful way? If you’re concerned about the thoughts and feelings of other, it seems likely that you will present in whatever way you think people want to receive you. That sounds like a lot of work, and it must be truly exhausting trying to get into the minds of everyone around. 

Maybe it’s not everyone, maybe it’s just one person that you find in almost every close relationship. A parent, a caretaker, a teacher, or a coach? Whoever it is, do they show up when you feel doubt, shame, or fear? Are you hoping that their validation and approval will heal something inside you?

Shifting our focus to progress instead of perfection is a wise saying I see all over social media and within leadership communities. 

Strive for progress… not perfection. 

That’s all well and good… but what if you think, like many of us do, “I don’t want to come off looking like a perfectionist, so I’ll perfect looking like I’m making progress”. Maybe that’s a reach, and maybe many of us don’t worry about what other people think. But, I know there are people out there that want to achieve huge goals and reach a level in their profession, career, personal life, health, fitness, and life that requires insane levels of focus and commitment. 

So the question becomes… how do I know if I’m a striving for perfection or if I’m reaching for high goals?

Let’s take a piece of advice from Brene Brown, the expert on emotions…

If you are seeking the approval of others, or worried about external opinions, you may be reaching for perfection (and that will never exist). 

If you are drive by your own motivation, have an intrinsic desire to achieve your goals, you may be a “healthy striver” as Brene Brown puts it. 

If you find yourself striving for perfection and external validation, examine your values, and ask yourself how you can show up more for yourself and not the opinions of others. Ultimately, when you reach for that “perfect thing”, you put yourself to the side. So, at the moment of celebration, when you think you’ve achieved something that doesn’t exist, you may feel disconnected and alone because your true self didn’t make it to the end, and that person, your true self, is at risk for being collateral damage on this journey to a mirage. 

Want to learn more on how to change your narrative about perfectionism and being perfect?
Check out my latest podcast episode here!

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