When I first decided to start my own business many years ago, I fell into a pattern that many people do – I thought I always had to be perfect. I had to return phone calls immediately. I had to respond to emails right away. I went over each presentation multiple times to make sure there were no mistakes. If I made an error in a class, I overthought and overanalyzed it afterward, just to make sure I didn’t do it again.
Looking back now, I realize how I was exhausting myself. As if trying to get a business off the ground wasn’t enough, I was putting more pressure on myself than I needed to. Over time, I have grown to understand that I do not need to be perfect in everything I do.
Some of what I have learned does come with the comfort of having built my business to what it is, so I do write this from a certain level of success. But I also realize that I could have made it so much easier on myself along the way if I had allowed things to happen even if they weren’t perfect.
Hindsight is 20/20, and that’s what I’m hoping you get from today’s blog. Learn from my mistakes.
Take a look at this cartoon. Can you see the obvious problem? The person is never going to get the carrot. That’s what perfectionism is: a never-ending chase. Whenever I did something that I considered perfect, I put the pressure on myself to at least duplicate it each time it came up. More often, though, I wanted to do better.
So, it really wasn’t perfect after all. I was constantly moving my goalposts of what “perfect” looked like. In doing that, I made it impossible to ever achieve true perfection. I put more pressure on myself to achieve a goal that I was never going to reach.
Perfectionism isn’t really about being perfect. People generally don’t think, “I have to be perfect for the sake of being perfect.” There is usually an underlying cause, and the main one is fear of failure or not being good enough.
You don’t have to be starting a new business to have a fear of failure or of making mistakes. Those situations come up in everyday life all the time. But that fear can translate into a misguided notion of “if I’m perfect, I didn’t fail.”
And nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, it’s the opposite. Trying not to make mistakes almost guarantees that you will make mistakes.
How many times have you heard in life, “you learn from your mistakes?” Often, right? Well, if you’re a perfectionist and you make no mistakes, when and how do you learn? I can pinpoint quite a few specific times where I second-guessed myself and changed the situation to be “perfect.” But, if I had allowed myself to make those mistakes, I could have actually learned a lot and avoided future mistakes. Again, hindsight is 20/20.
Nobody is perfect by nature (in spite of what you might see on social media); it’s hard work. Embracing the flaws and mistakes we’ve made is what makes us human. And that’s so much better than being a “perfect” robot.
Because I was perpetually chasing that carrot, I was never satisfied with the results. I always had to do better or be more. As I said earlier, it was exhausting. It also started to seep into my everyday life – and that was a wake-up call! I found myself not only analyzing my own efforts but also looking at other people and thinking about how I would have done it differently…or more perfectly.
That’s a trap! I’m glad I recognized and got away from it!
In spite of the growth of my business, I sometimes didn’t allow myself to celebrate the little milestones. I took each step that was successful as one on a ladder to the “top” (that I was never going to reach). Moreover, I couldn’t be happy for being successful and look at achievement as a job well done.
I wonder how I made it through some of those times. I certainly didn’t give myself much grace. There are other reasons, but they all boil down to one thing: I am not a perfectionist anymore. I have seen the importance of going with the flow and allowing things to happen naturally while learning from less-than-perfect occurrences along the way. I have definitely seen the benefits of celebrating even the smallest successes.
I’ve learned to embrace who I am and what I do, flaws and all. I hope you can see the benefits of this mindset and apply them to your own life. A change in attitude can make all the difference.
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