Perfectionism can be paralyzing. It stops you before you start. It plagues you with the words of your worst inner critic. Your worth is conditional on your performance. Or so you tell yourself. I know, because I'm a recovering perfectionist.
Now having high standards is a good thing. But too much of a good thing can be counter-productive. Like chocolate cake. Ask my waistline.
Perfectionism is also the fast tract to frustration.
Perfectionists so badly desire success, but are so focused on avoiding failure. The problem: failure is an integral part of success. So how will you ever reach your destination if you can't bring yourself to step foot on the path to get there?
The irony is that perfectionists have so much to offer. They are ambitious, motivated, and driven. They are idealists, visionaries, and trailblazers. They are just trapped inside this self-imposed cage, withholding the bounty of gifts they have to offer the world. So how do you overcome perfection paralysis, and give the world what it so desperately needs from you?
1. Start Anyway
You'll never win if you never begin. And you'll never start if you wait until you're ready. And that alone, I imagine, has kept a million great ideas from ever making it into the world. No one was born an expert; no one crawled out of the womb as Olympian. But they all started somewhere. And they never started based on the convenience of their conditions. The thing is, the perfect conditions never come. And in the rare event that they do, you'll probably come up with another excuse as to why you're not ready. So don't be ready. But do it anyway.
"Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction."
2. Set Realistic Goals
I'm notorious for neglecting this one. But success comes from the habit of setting goals and achieving them. On the other hand, setting unrealistic goals can be demoralizing, and can send you on a cycle of counter-productive thoughts. A list of smaller attainable, and attained, goals is inspiring, motivating, energizing. So set bite-sized goals, then achieve them. Do them imperfectly. But do them. And with each item you cross off, watch the mental shackles begin to shake loose.
"Start by doing what is necessary;
then do what's possible,
and suddenly you're doing the impossible."
-Saint Francis of Assisi
3. Embrace Failure
Every successful person in the world knows this: failure is the secret to success. Well, learning from failure is the secret to success. So you, my fellow perfectionist, need to stop seeing failure as this massive boulder between you and success; you need to start seeing them as the necessary stepping stones that will help you cross the chasm between where you are and where you want to be. So fail. Fail often. Fail forward. And fail your way to success.
"Don't burry your failures.
Let them inspire you."
4. Acknowledge Reality
Let's face it. You're not perfect. And neither am I. It might be crushing to hear. But let's put it in context. Think of your biggest role model; someone great in history; even a saint. Not a single one was perfect. And yet they managed to do great things, despite their flaws. And in some circumstances, they've even used their weaknesses to minister to others. So realize that your imperfection is a part of your humanity. And if anything, that vulnerability helps you relate to the people you so deeply desire to connect with.
"Every saint has a past
and every sinner has a future."
5. Redefine Perfection
Now let's be clear. We are not advocating a total disregard for standards. If we never aspire to a goal beyond our current capabilities, we will never force ourself to stretch and grow. So sure, let's set high standards. But remember that, in our case, perfection is not a state of being. It is a process of refinement. Even the dictionary describes perfection as an action or process of improving something until it is flawless. Perfection should be pursued as a process of personal growth, instead of a pinnacle of personal achievement.
"Perfection is not a one time decision, but
a process to be pursued throughout one's lifetime."
-Spencer W. Kimball
One more thing. And just to reiterate. Perfection is an "action or process". Perfection is an action. Perfection is a process that requires action. So if you're a self-proclaimed perfection that is too paralyzed to act (on your dreams, passions, goals), are you really perfecting anything? You can't perfect something that doesn't exist. So start. Act now. Act boldly. Act imperfectly. Act consistently. Because consistent action makes practice. And only practice makes perfect.