Let’s face it. You can strive all you want, but you’ll never achieve perfect. Yet knowing this isn’t enough to quit cold turkey. I’m one of those people who practically writes “strive to be perfect” on her to-do list each day, and I’ve already written about the negative effects of this. What would happen if myself and other fellow perfectionists saw the need to be perfect as a flaw in itself? If we viewed it that way, would we put less – or no – emphasis on it?
Our lives are not reduced to black or white. Hot or cold. Good or bad. Perfect or ruined. Perfectionists need to break free of this thinking. Once you’ve read that five more times and really, truly believe it, here’s how you can learn to really, truly love your imperfect self.
1. Begin by picking a word(s) that describes you. A word you like that conveys something positive. Own it. Let’s say, for instance, your word is thoughtful or considerate. Every time you get that recognizable pang of perfectionist disappointment that you had to cancel plans with a friend or you turned in a report with a typo, ask yourself if you at least were considerate while canceling plans and if you still put a lot of thought into the report on a whole. If you did, then congratulations…you were being true to yourself, which is sometimes harder than it seems. It’s not about being perfect, but about being you.
2. Similarly, the next time you’re tempted to set a goal – whether it be on New Year’s Eve or for any random reason – you could instead make it a point to just focus on being a good person. Attach no definition to what a “good person” is and have no expectations, like…good people donate lots of money and organize clothing drives and adopt lots of puppies. A “good person” to you might be calling Gram, treating a coworker to lunch or buying cookies from a Girl Scout. It’s all good, and it’s all so rewarding!
3. For every negative thing you think or say about yourself, acknowledge it first, but then find a positive. It’s ok to recognize your weaknesses, your ugly side. I think that’s what keeps the needle on our moral compass pointing north. But let’s face it, if your downfall is just that you’re not so great at responding to emails, you owe it to yourself to acknowledge that when you do reach out to people, you hand-write heartfelt letters on pretty stationary and send it in the mail. Who cares if that happens only once a month? Same goes for if you find flaws that tend to be of the physical kind. You might think your thighs are the enemy, but I bet you love your curves! Let’s hear it for the curves!
4. Let average be your standard for most things. When people ask me, “wouldn’t you love to be naturally skinny?” my response is always “no.” I know very thin people who struggle to keep weight on, and they would give anything for a little skin on their belly. Knowing that, I’m ok with being average. Likewise, would you really want to live the high life of the Hollywood stars? Every move they make is followed and recorded. Not making six figures? That’s probably ok, because many extremely wealthy people are too busy making money to have a life most of us find fulfilling. Stop wasting your energy working toward – or simply envying – someone else’s life. Learn to appreciate yours just the way it is.