I used to be (and sometimes still am) obsessed with perfection. I thought that if I could be perfect, then I was accepted, validated, and loved. Dr. Brene Brown calls it “hustling for worthiness.” Man, did I hustle. But, here’s the thing about perfection: it is intolerant of failure.
Some of the world’s top professional athletes have commented that perfection can be their own worst enemy. It makes sense, since when we aim for perfection, we tend to focus on the end result. And when that end result doesn’t meet our idea of perfection, we become our own worst critics. Instead of growing from our failures, we beat ourselves down for not measuring up.
How about instead of demanding perfection, we aim for excellence? In a culture that continually perpetuates the need for perfection (especially with the female body), it seems like RIGHT NOW would be a pretty decent time to make this shift. Are you in?
Here are three questions to pose when you sense perfection winning out over excellence:
1.) Why do I feel the need to be perfect in this moment? Unearth the myth of perfection. Asking “why?” digs beneath the surface of the illusions we create. Perfection is a part of that illusion. Why do you need perfection? What is it serving? Are you ‘hustling for worthiness’? Hoping to be validated? Perfection deludes us, masking what we truly want and need. Get to the bottom of those needs, so you can begin to form new thought patterns and shift your aim to excellence.
2.) What am I asking of myself or others right now? Is it perfection or excellence? Truly understanding the difference between perfection and excellence is essential. Perfection means we're never enough, no matter what. Excellence means we're working at it. We are digging in, gritting it out, and trying our best to reach a goal or dream. Excellence allows us to fail and get back up. Perfection keeps us down, begging for validation and acceptance.
3.) At the end of the day, how do I want to feel? In 12 hours, 1 week, 5 years, 10 years, it’s not going to matter how perfect your house or hair or body or script or book or parenting looked. What will matter is how you felt about your accomplishment and what it took to get there. When we focus on how we want to feel, we're more likely to stay present. When we're present, we ironically get more accomplished.
As I always say, aiming for excellence (not perfection) is a daily discipline. Even now, I find myself wanting to write the ‘perfect’ last few lines, hoping to inspire you. That perfection trigger loves to rear its ugly rear, especially when I’m writing. So, I take a deep breath, acknowledge the struggle for excellence, thank the perfection for teaching me a lesson, and remind myself that I want to feel authentic. I know that, like every person on earth, I amperfectly in progress.