How Overcoming Perfectionism Changed My Life
Updated: Aug 20
When I accepted that it's ok not to be perfect, my life improved. A lot. Here are 5 ways accepting imperfection made my life better.
Overcoming perfectionism helped me become a happier and healthier person.
Despite all my efforts, I failed at being perfect. Not once, but many times.
And I’m ok with that.
When I accepted that it's ok not to be perfect, my life improved. It improved a lot.
Sometimes Hard Work Isn’t Enough
I wanted to be perfect in every aspect of my life – at my job, for my family and friends, and in the general grind of daily life.
It didn’t matter what it was, I wanted to do it perfectly.
The drive to achieve perfection was a constant presence in my life. I pushed myself by working harder and refusing to quit.
Over time, I realized that while I might hit the elusive perfect outcome occasionally, I would never achieve it consistently.
Much like the odds of winning the lottery, the odds of achieving perfection are stacked against us. Our bodies and brains just aren’t wired to produce consistent results like a machine.
We’re also limited by factors we can't control, like the weather:
No one mows their lawn during a hailstorm. It's uncomfortable and it's unsafe.
We're also limited by the actions of those around us:
If I need approval to move forward with a project, I'm not going to do anything on the project until it's been approved.
The bottom line is this:
Don't let your inner voice try to convince you that you aren't good enough. When you can't control the situation, you can't control the outcome.
Do the best you can given the circumstances, and move on.
Perfection isn’t Sustainable
It took a long time for me to realize that the harder I worked to be perfect, the unhappier I became.
Discouraged, disappointed, and dispirited, I blamed myself for not living up to my (unrealistic) expectations.
While we might believe that pushing for perfection helps us reach higher goals, we may find that we are pushing to reach goals that aren’t realistic or sustainable.
In fact, the push for perfection often causes more harm than good. It can lead to depression, self-esteem issues, anxiety, and other mental health issues
When I made the commitment to simplify my life, I committed to letting go of my perfectionism.
Accepting that it’s ok to fall short of perfection has made a huge difference in the quality of my life.
5 Things That Happened When I Quit Trying to be Perfect
When I let go of the idea that I had to be perfect, my life immediately improved.
Here are five ways my life changed almost immediately:
1. I worried less. A lot of worry accompanies the pursuit of perfection:
Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things? What if something goes wrong?
For a perfectionist like me, worry was an ever-present companion.
Letting go of perfectionism allowed me to relax more and worry less.
2. I felt free. I viewed perfectionism as a core part of who I was, and I was rather proud of it.
What I didn’t realize was that my perfectionism kept me from enjoying my life.
In many ways, it controlled my thoughts and actions.
Letting go of perfectionism freed me from the constant, nagging stress of trying to perfect.
3. I enjoyed life more. I didn’t realize it at the time, but perfectionism hung over my life like a dark cloud.
Worry drove me to spend more time and energy chasing perfection than enjoying life.
Letting go of perfectionism provided me with more mental and physical energy to enjoy my life.
4. I felt more accomplished. As odd as it may seem, when I let go of perfectionism, I felt more successful.
As a perfectionist, even if I achieved a goal, I focused on what I could have done better.
The results were never good enough.
Letting go of perfectionism allowed me to see achievements as successes, not opportunities for future improvement.
5. I had more free time. What drove my perfectionism was a toxic desire to avoid mistakes, disapproval, and failure.
I wasted a lot of time and put forth a lot of effort reaching for a level of perfection that I was never going to achieve.
Letting go of perfectionism freed up time that I could spend in other areas of life.
Good is Often Good Enough
Letting go of perfectionism doesn’t mean that I’m not motivated or that I don’t put effort into doing a good job at work, caring for my family, or managing my day-to-day life.
Now, I’m ok with a standard that’s less than perfect.
My efforts are proportional to the importance of the task at hand:
If I’m dusting a table, getting it mostly dust-free is good enough. It doesn't have to be perfect.
If I’m developing new training materials - a more important task - I strive for excellence. While I put forth more effort in this situation, the effort is in line with the importance of the task.
Letting go of perfectionism allowed me to see that - depending on the task - good is often good enough.
Overcoming my perfectionism changed my life for the better. I'm happier and my life feels more balanced.
I've learned that something less than perfect is perfectly fine.
Are you a perfectionist? How do you deal with your perfectionism? Feel free to share your thoughts with me at anita (at) simplelife35.com.
NEXT: You might also enjoy reading 6 Awesome Reasons to Simplify Your Life.