The Myth of Perfectionism

We say it during interviews. 

 “What’s one negative thing about yourself?” 

“I’d have to say I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”

We say it as a quasi-negative trait to really make ourselves look good.

The Truth About Perfectionism

But perfectionism can actually be a crippling trait. 

Perfectionism is wanting the unattainable or unachievable plus your self worth is dependent on you meeting those standards.

The need to be perfect often develops in our childhood, from our experiences with overly critical parents that expected top marks or stellar athletic performance. We quickly learnt that to get praise and love, we needed to be perfect. 

How Perfectionism Is Holding Us Back 

Fast forwarding years into the future, this perfectionism and need to be perfect, or else be judged by those around us, has stayed with us. Except now, it is not about marks or athletic performance. It is about our happiness.

It’s about our happiness because the success that has led you to this point has been fed by perfectionism. And it has worked until now. You have graduated from university or college, you have successfully gotten a job. You are praised by people around you as a success, someone to be admired. 

But when you no longer want to do what you went to school for, when you no longer want to do the corporate job, but want to branch off and do your own thing, maybe even something so far from what you went to school for, this same perfectionism that helped get you to where you are today, is now holding you back.

Thoughts begin running through your head:

What makes me think I can do this? I didn’t go to school for this.

So many people are already doing this, what can I possibly offer?

What if it doesn’t work and people think I’m now a failure?

They’re not going to get why I’m doing something I didn’t go to school for. That all my years of schooling were a waste.

I spent so many years building a reputation of success, people are going to judge me if I fail.

What makes me think I can do something I don’t know anything about?

This is a huge risk, so it has to be perfect or people will judge me if I fail.

I’ve certainly been there – where you have something you are so excited to do, but can’t seem to take the leap forward, so you feel stuck, paralyzed. 

Practice Doing Imperfect Things 

The surprising thing that helped me move forward away from my perfectionism, to get the confidence necessary to take my own leap into my side hustle, is doing imperfect things. 

I started off small because even the smallest things are enough to trigger our perfectionism. I started by ordering a Starbucks latte off of the app – something I had been avoiding because I didn’t know how it worked and was worried I’d make a fool of myself coming to pick it up, not knowing where to stand or where to pick it up. 

Then I took horseback riding lessons. Trust me when I say, getting on and off a horse is enough to make you embarrassed and trigger any feelings of inadequacy that are fueled by perfectionism. 

Then taking an art history class – knowing nothing about art history – and raising my hand, raising my voice, sharing my opinion. 

Riding a bike, making my first dessert, going into an expensive, high-end store and asking to try something on.

These were all things I felt scared to do because I was scared of appearing imperfect. I was scared of being judged as incompetent, silly, stupid. 

How It Reframes Your Thinking 

But after doing all of them, you start to notice something. You start to notice that people don’t care as much as you think. Even if they do notice, they quickly forget about you. 

Most people are willing to help you out. And even when you do look a little silly and that snooty sales lady judges you for it, when you leave, you realize you’re still the same person. You’re not any less smart, or accomplished, or any less capable. You’re still you. 

The power that perfectionism had over you, the fear of being judged as a failure, starts to chip away and you feel a bit more confident to take that leap into the unknown. Into doing things that previously you were scared to do imperfectly. Into starting your first side hustle. Into living a life according to your own rules, not looking left or right at who is watching and what they’re thinking about you.

Final Thoughts

Doing imperfect things repeatedly becomes not only fun, but gives you the confidence and courage to overcome fear of failure. It gives you the strength to go after your dream and live the life you want and deserve. So give imperfect a chance. 

What’s one thing you can do today that is imperfect? Comment below to share!