Perfectionism May Be Killing Your Dreams: 10 Ways To Overcome It
Perfectionism. It's something that I've struggled with for all of my life, and I think it's something that a lot of us deal with in general. Is it a form of anxiety? I don't know, but it has caused a lot of anxiety in me over the years. I decided to talk about this topic for those of you who have the same struggle and who are trying to overcome it. I don't think I've necessarily overcome it, but I am miles ahead of where I was before, so that's a good sign! Maybe I can offer some insight that can help you to see perfectionism for what it is and then redefine the way you see it and break free from its grip on your life.
I want to speak specifically to those of you who have serious dreams and aspirations and who have plans to do big things, yet have been held back in one way or the other by feelings of perfectionism. I know how it feels because that was (and at times, is) me. One thing that I can tell you from experience that will be the most important statement in this post is that perfectionism comes with a cost.
The reason why I say that the cost of perfection is time is because the more time you spend on visualizing the perfect plan or the perfect execution, the further and further away you get from actually achieving your goals. I'm not saying that planning things out is bad, I'm talking about reciting everything in your head a zillion times over until you finally feel that everything is perfect - which is rarely ever. Perfection is unattainable, so it is an unhealthy cycle to be in.
So, what is the biggest threat to perfectionism and the solution to overcoming it?
When you decide to act upon your dreams rather than waiting for the perfect conditions, you not only punch perfectionism in the face (take that perfectionism!), but you build your confidence. I really believe that perfectionism is a form of insecurity because we feel as if we have to live up to certain standards - unattainable ones - and since it is created by us for us, we keep creating conditions of perfection and that cycle never really ends because it is in the mind. It is also a form of fear because what we fear is not having control over things, so we do everything in our power to control the conditions until we feel that they are ideal enough.
One thing that I had to really learn is to distinguish perfectionism from being detail-oriented - which I now see are two very separate things. I've always been both, so knowing that being detail-oriented is a very positive trait and holding onto that while learning to let go of perfectionism has really changed the way I go about my life and the way I view things.
If this is something that you would like to work to overcome, in no particular order, here are strategies that I have used in my thinking process that have helped me so much in dealing with perfectionism.
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1| Don't overthink things
I tend to do this A-LOT, and I'm a prime example of someone who really can't make a decision to save her life because I tend to be an over-thinker. Overthinking is one of those time-wasters, because while thinking about all of the ins and outs of the good, the bad, and the ugly may cause you to feel a little more secure about your decision in the short-term, it will most likely lead you to many of your insecurities as well. This process will be even longer than you anticipate - we're talking years. You'll most likely come up with reasons why your idea sucks or reasons why you should just not ever do it. Ever. Perfectionism can cause you to convince yourself to believe things that aren't even true - like that you're not good enough, skilled enough, or talented enough. It's pretty overwhelming, so of course your brain will shut down out of pure exhaustion - and give up (which we want to avoid).
2| Make a decision
What is it that you want to do? What is your dream, and how will you get there? First off, making a decision to do it in the first place is your first step to overcoming feelings of perfectionism, which prevents you from ever starting. When you commit to an idea, you block out any other voice that will distract you. Decisions are hard as it is, so ticking this off from the get-go will get you moving forward rather than entertaining that dialogue of perfectionism which states that you must have this, that, and the other sorted out first before you even commit to the idea. Committing is so important because it literally switches your brain from deliberating to the process of action.
3| Just start
Now that the tough part is over, here comes another step that will be equally hard for the perfectionist. Of course - you have to make sure everything is absolutely perfect before you start, right? Wrong. No matter where you begin, whether you are inexperienced or you are a professional, you will have to start from scratch. The preparation starts now, not at Step 1 - that was the part where you were stuck in your head. Step 3 is where you already have one foot out of the door, and you're saying, "Heeeeello World!"
4| Follow through
No matter what feelings come up, commit to follow through with what you set out to do. It's easy for you to want to throw in the towel when things aren't turning out the way you had envisioned, but that is exactly what will happen. Things will not turn out perfect. You may even discover that the very thing that you wanted to do just doesn't give you the satisfaction you thought it would - and that is perfectly okay. The sooner you learn, the better, and the clearer things will get.
5| Have the end goal in sight
As a perfectionist, it's easy to give up on the process if it doesn't appear the way you want it to in the beginning. If you don't see the perfect results, you may start to question yourself and then you may not give your all to see things come to pass. Things take time, and in that, it is very hard to see things perfectly aligned as we envision it. I, myself, always have this idealistic view that can get in the way of reality. There are high expectations that I set for myself, that if I don't live up to them, I feel like I'm doing something wrong, then fear creeps in. It's something that I've had to overcome with motivating myself daily and reframing my expectations.
6| Grace not perfection
It's so easy today to feel the weight of the entire world on your shoulders. There are pressures coming from everywhere to be perfect, so it can feel overwhelming when you feel like you won't ever live up to what is portrayed out there. What I have learned is that my idea of perfection will never be attainable, so I'm just going to go for it and give it my best shot. No matter what the outcome is, as long as I am staying true to myself, that is all that really matters. When you value yourself over ideals of perfection, amazing things start to happen, and you begin to see your dreams realized.
7| Let your hair down
Just be exactly who you are and you will feel no pressure to be perfect. When you realize that you are enough and that you have exactly what it takes to succeed, you will start to enjoy the process more than you ever imagined. You won't need validation from others. You won't let fear guide you - your dreams will. You will begin to see that one dream will lead you to the next.
8| Take it one day at a time
When we visualize what we want to achieve, we usually have this fantasy in our heads about how we want it to look and how we want it to be done, which is overwhelming in itself. In creating the future you want, taking it one day at a time will get you further than trying to craft the perfect month or year or decade. For example, if you want to create a brand, you may look at other brands for inspiration and feel pressured to look so polished and put together like them. The reality is that it took that brand years to create the brand that you see today. Take it one day at a time and know that every single day you are getting closer to your vision coming full circle. It will take time, but this time it is an investment into your future.
9| Don't compare yourself to others
It's so easy to think that in order to be successful, you have to learn every single trick of the trade, which means you'll have to read every book, go to every seminar, and watch every motivational speech every recorded just to feel secure. Don't get trapped in the idea that everyone has the answers because you will end up chasing them down instead of chasing your dreams. Getting caught up in what everyone else is doing will take a toll on your individual journey. Instead of doing what you were created to do, you will stunt your growth by getting caught up in other people's journeys. Your journey is going to look different from theirs, but it is not any less effective. Do you and the lessons and results will follow.
10| Have faith
The process of pursuing your dreams comes with a lot of uncertainty, which can be very difficult to deal with at times. One day you may be having the best day of your life, then the next day you may feel defeated and torn. Realize that it will be a process that will be full of challenges and questions, but with faith, you will know how to get through the tough times and not lose your enthusiasm moving forward. Learn how to shake off your mistakes, learn from your failures, and keep going. You will reach a beautiful place even if the journey getting there wasn't perfect.
I really hope this was helpful and encouraging for all of you seeking to step out into the unknown. The next time you feel like everything has to be perfect before you start something, come back to this list and let it encourage you. You don't need to be perfect, just real. Chase them dreams, girlfriend! And leave perfectionism in the dust.
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What are your thoughts about perfectionism, and how has it affected your life? I'd love to chat in the comments below!