Have you heard the phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good?”
I know for me, it was one of those phrases that initially resonated with me - I thought wow, I need to apply that in my life - and then I moved on to the next thing and only recently revisited the idea.
I haven't always identified as a perfectionist in my life. You may be thinking, oh, she must be tidy, a control freak, and excel in work and back in school. While I wish my apartment was constantly neat (ha - and I’m sure my boyfriend would say the same), perfectionism actually speaks to something much deeper within me, and maybe within you - fear.
Throughout my five plus years of consuming personal development material, I’ve learned that at the root of perfectionism is acutally self-doubt. When I think back to selecting my career path while I was in high school, my immediate thought was ‘what would I be good at at?’ instead of ‘what do I want to do?’ Those around me saw me excel in my volunteer and part-time work with kids - and told me repeatedly - Paige, you need to go to teacher’s college!
I don’t think I actually stopped to consider if this was something I wanted. Mind you - I was 16 years old, I’ll cut myself some slack. I immediately set my sights on the best concurrent education program in my province, got accepted, and it wasn’t until my first year ‘Into to Education’ class that I thought - shit, this is not what I want.
When I think back to my deep-rooted passions, I always loved food, cooking, and all things in the kitchen. I literally wrote a few chapters of a cookbook in grade school - sadly, no best seller. The thought of becoming a dietitian did seriously appeal to me, but when I realized that I would have to try a little bit harder on the whole math & science front that did not come as easily to me as literature and writing, I thought - nah, let’s go with something else.
I preferred to pursue something I could be ‘perfect’ at, rather than something I truly loved, and would be more likely to make mistakes along the way.
This has played out in so many other ways in my life - I’m either training for a 10K, or my shoes are gathering dust. I was either meal prepping and following my plan exactly, or having popcorn for dinner.
Somewhere along the way of diving into personal development, I came across the idea of perfectionism actually being associated with three things:
- Procrastinating - to avoid putting in full effort, because then if you fail, you can blame it on not trying 100%;
- People pleasing - you find yourself making choices that you feel are most likely to be accepted by those around you;
- All-or-nothing thinking - you’re either following through with your plans to the books, or you are engaging in the opposite behaviour
Does this resonate with you? When I first came across this idea, it felt scarily accurate.
The good news? Perfectionism is a mindset, and a mindset can be changed.
It’s a work in progress for me to overcome a perfectionist mindset. I’ve found a few key ways to shift:
- Create effort-based goals, rather than results-based goals, such as - I will open a business and work with three new clients in the remainder of this year. This goal quantifies effort, rather than an outcome, such as making $100,000 which you would either hit, or fail.
- Do a thought download: From Brooke Castillo’s the Life Coach School Podcast, the ideas is to write down all thoughts that are swirling around in your mind. When you find yourself judging yourself, give this a go. Writing them down takes away their power and allows you to consciously choose a new thought that is more helpful.
- Plan your ideal day: To help you overcome people-pleasing, think of the details of your perfect day, if money, time, and other factors were no constraint. Would you be doing different work than your current position? Living in a different city? This will help to reveal the ways that you are, and aren’t living in line with your vision.
As always, this is an ongoing work in progress for me! Hope this helps.