You Have to Be An Imperfectionist

A scoop of ice cream that fell out of the cone

I was a kid with extremely high standards for myself. I wasn’t the cutest kid in the world, but by golly was I smart. I was a near prodigy when it came to reading, and it showed in school. The information I’d stockpiled through literature got me into courses and material far beyond my actual grade level– as early as the 1st grade. I derived a sense of pleasure from getting an A+, or testing my way out of a class entirely.

I received trophies and medals for my academic accomplishments, and upheld a strict “All A’s” rule for myself. Anything less was unacceptable.

This worked for a while, until the content began to match my capabilities, and then sometimes surpass them. I became overwhelmed, and eventually I could no longer receive only A’s. It was devastating to my prideful little heart. By the time I reached high school, I figured if perfection wasn’t attainable, why try at all?

Of course in hindsight, a little more effort would’ve gone a long way. After all, I was still smart! There was no real reason I couldn’t manage a nice gpa and be equally as happy as I would’ve been with a 4.0. No one even talks about it once you’re an adult anyways. 

There was literally no good reason to have that all or nothing mindset.

If you want to get anywhere in life, you’ll have to realize you’ll never completely have your shit together.

Most of us are in the grips of toxic perfectionism. Toxic perfectionism creates a tendency to avoid failure, rather than chase success. Perfectionism is a self-imposed prison that holds us back from upward growth.

We become perfectionists when we believe that the only way to be worthy of love, success, and happiness is to live a perfect life.

But perfectionism is a myth. There is no such thing as a perfect life or a perfect person. It is only our fear of imperfection that prevents us from living authentic, joyful, and fulfilling lives. When we grasp at an impossible perfection, we rob ourselves of the greatest gift of life: the opportunity to learn and grow from our mistakes.

The truth is, success isn’t perfection. You can experience achievements and make a million mistakes along the way. You’ve likely heard the cliche about Thomas Edison, that he failed a thousand times before creating a working light bulb. The attempt at inspiration is usually annoying, but it holds true– sometimes, you need to learn what doesn’t work, before you figure out what does.

It’s time for you to ditch perfectionism, and introduce self-compassion. Self-compassion is the ability to treat yourself with a little more kindness and compassion when you’re having a bad day. It’s the ability to forgive yourself for mistakes, or to give yourself a break when things don’t go according to plan.

Why is self-compassion important? Because without it, you’re much more likely to beat yourself up over mistakes or failures. You’ll beat yourself up for breaking your diet, or for forgetting to pay a bill on time. You’ll beat yourself up for not being a better parent, a better employee, a better partner, or a better friend.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing your attention on self-improvement. But self-criticism is so pathologically common — and such a waste of time — that it’s worth looking at ways to combat it.

Start with embracing your imperfections. Notice them, but don’t give them all your energy. Pay the most attention to your successes, big or small.

When we spend more time celebrating, we are happier. 

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