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Letting Go of Perfectionism

eft self-help social tapping Apr 24, 2024

Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.” – Brené Brown

Perfectionism, the relentless pursuit of flawlessness, seems to be an admirable ambition at first glance.  However, this extremely high standard comes with its own set of problems. 

It is unattainable. While there may be times when things turn out perfectly, expecting perfection 100% of the time is unrealistic.  Striving for this impossible ideal contributes to anxiety about the outcome of our efforts.

It is deceptive.  We often believe that if we perform perfectly, we can shield ourselves from pain or judgment.  However, perfectionism is a barrier that prevents us from revealing our true selves and sharing our gifts to the world.  It often amplifies the very vulnerabilities we seek to avoid. 

It prevents success.  Because we are overly concerned about what others may think of us, we don’t put ourselves out there.  It’s just too risky.   We don’t want to fail, make mistakes, or disappoint other people, so we don’t do it. And our dreams go unfulfilled.

It is not self-improvement.  We sometimes justify our perfectionistic tendencies as efforts to become our best selves.  True self-improvement involves learning and growth, which inherently involves making mistakes and experiencing failures.  Think about a time of significant personal growth in your life.  Did you grow because of flawless execution or because of mistakes and failures?

Are you ready to let go of perfectionism?  Here are 7 things you can do:

  1. Recognize Perfectionistic Tendencies: How does perfectionism show up in your life?
  2. Challenge Expectations: Are the expectations you have for this reasonable?
  3. Shift Mindset: Can you see this from a different perspective – an opportunity for growth rather than a stressful pursuit of perfection? Does it really have to be all or nothing?
  4. Address Fears: What exactly are you afraid of? What will happen if this is not perfect?
  5. Cultivate Self-Compassion: Can you treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer to a friend? How can you be kind, patient, and understanding with yourself?
  6. Focus on Progress: Can you shift your attention from the outcome to the process? How can you celebrate each step along the way?
  7. Practice Vulnerability: What small steps can you take to let others see the real you?

If you don’t know where to start, try addressing perfectionism in one of these areas:

  • Work: Does that presentation that took you 8 hours to create need 4 more hours to be “perfect” or will it achieve the intended purpose as is?
  • Appearance: Do you have to achieve your ideal weight before you can go to that pool party? Or can you find a swimsuit you feel comfortable in and have some fun?  What would you tell your friend in a similar situation?
  • Home: What would happen if guests came over and noticed the dirty baseboards in your home? Would they stop being your friends? If your house is perfectly clean when they come over, how do you think that shapes their expectations when you go to their house?
  • Relationships: If you don’t respond to that text immediately, what would happen? Maybe it would weed out toxic, demanding relationships that don’t promote wellbeing in your life.
  • Creative Pursuits: Are you holding off on showing your creativity to others because you fear what they’ll think or say? Can you create that website, display that painting, make that video, and share it no matter what “flaws” someone may find?

An excellent book on this topic is The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.  For additional support, tap along with me in my Stress Relief for Perfectionism video on YouTube.