There’s definitely a clear mismatch between different cliched pieces of advice that we often get from others either urging us to “aim for perfect” or asking us to “just do your best”…
If we have perfectionist tendencies, “our best” may not match the “perfect” outcome we’re aiming for as a result of those external pressures. This let down could lead to a sense of defeat and a subconscious blow to our self esteem.
It would be nice if these cliches were updated to “do better – aim high but let go of perfection, and, if you need a break, take the time you need to recharge and adapt your goal to the reality of whatever your situation may be”. This is probably too long to be a cliched piece of advice but.a gentler, more accepting culture that embraces improvement rather than perfection would make space for people to grow and evolve while being more accepting of themselves in the process.
I do think it is possible to aspire to excel while accepting and embracing our imperfections. If we were to let go of the perfect image of what we could have been or think we should be, and let ourselves settle into and embrace the messy and glorious imperfection of who we actually are, then we can aim for our bigger goals from a place of adaptability, strength and self worth.
Some of the challenges that can come from having perfectionist tendencies are:
- We’re always waiting for perfect to be happy. If we get that raise or promotion at work, purchase that particular product..etc..etc..then we’ll be happy. The problem is that the goal post keeps moving. Why not, instead, decide to aim for happiness while in the process of living well and doing good things and have those “perfect” outcomes be an added bonus instead of the goal?
- The simplest of decisions can lead to analysis paralysis. I’ve often noticed my own perfectionist tendencies when I need to make a more expensive purchase . I’ll pore through endless Amazon reviews, Consumer Reports comparisons and articles on the subject – the time spent is often not equal to the value that purchase would contribute to my life.
- It is harder to pivot and change direction if we’re aiming for perfect. Sometimes we do fail. A particular direction in life is not the right one for us for any number of reasons – none of them related to our worth. If we keep trying to push through with what isn’t working for us, we won’t be able to clearly see that our particular goal needs to be adapted to something that is holistically better for us.
- It is harder to be discerning about where we should maximize our efforts and where to scale back. If we’re trying to be perfect in every area of our lives, we lose the ability to strive for excellent in the areas most important to us while accepting being “just okay” in others. This is where burnout also makes its appearance. We can’t aim to do everything perfectly at all times.
- We project our version of “perfect” to the world rather than being our own authentic, quirky, ever so human selves. It is much harder to build connection if people don’t see us as we are – plus, there is not as much joy in perfection as there is in being our fully imperfect and beautiful selves .
I think it is good to let go sometimes.
What are your thoughts on aiming for perfect vs. aiming for better?