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Time to Put the Perfection Obsession Aside

Let me tell you where I was not too long ago, I was living in the hamster wheel of never ending expectations of perfection from myself.

All these expectations of perfection had me asking a lot of questions: Why am I so insanely hard on myself? Why do I expect there to be perfection in most aspects of my life? And worse when I somehow ‘fall short’ of those expectations why do I attack myself? It had become this obsession with perfection. It would find its way in to my life in various forms but it would be there. It was not every day or every week but too often I would find myself questioning my ability to do what I wanted with my life. Do I really have things to offer to the world like I thought I did? Am I really able to succeed the way I want to? Do I really think I am capable of accomplishing these things? Why do I expect so much from myself?  I had failed many times but it was still a fear of it that would hold me back from doing things I wanted. We all fail, I knew that. We all have imperfections, I knew that too. But somehow I would still find myself holding extremely high and often unattainable expectations over my head. It was maddening. What I started to realize is that I was holding myself back from any success I wanted to obtain simply by an unwillingness to give myself a break. It was time to stop.

Here is what started to help me and I hope will help you too if you start to find yourself in the same position I was in. Change your mindset. Believe me I know that this isn’t simple but it will make a huge difference, so hear me out before you think this isn’t for you. Carol Dweck has done some amazing research on mindset, and her research ultimately shows you either have a fixed or growth mindset. A fixed mindset has already self-determined their level of ability in pretty much all aspects of life and becomes extremely frustrated and ultimately gives up when things don’t go right the first time. They quickly determine ‘they are not smart enough or good enough’ and that is why they can’t accomplish something. Someone with a growth mindset realizes that hard work, perseverance, and grit can change their levels of intelligence and their response to a challenge. They see challenges and setbacks as an exciting way to learn something, not as the end of something. Heidi Grant Halvorson actually takes that research a step further and explains that most females from early age were praised for their intelligence, instead of praised for the process it took to gain that intelligence. “…bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.”  This has actually led to some of us, myself included, to become harsh on ourselves when we feel we have ‘failed’ our own expectations. Worse we think that we either can or cannot do something just naturally instead of realizing we may be able to change the outcome. Halvorson explains these mindsets embedded in us at a young age unfortunately make us “grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves–women who will prematurely conclude that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.” I think this also speaks to why we judge the way we look so harshly as well. When we get down on ourselves for things we haven’t accomplished we start to question everything, and this can make us very insecure in every aspect of who we are. In order to put the perfection obsession aside in our lives we have to start believing in ourselves more, we have to change our mindsets. And that takes work since it has been embedded in many of us from a young age. But if we can remember that this whole life is a journey, that we won’t get it right every time and that everything won’t go our way the first time we try, then those things will remind us to not give up when things get tough.

Truth time: I still fail a lot. I still get down on myself and expect perfection in times I should not. It took a long time to get to this point and it will take a long time to get to a better place but I know I CAN CHANGE. I have already seen so much change in my life since I stopped letting my expectations hold me back. I know that I am not the only woman that feels like this and I know we have to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves. We have to stop expecting perfection in every aspect of our lives, we can’t be expected to know everything in every situation, to accomplish everything in the home and in the work place, and we have to know that this is especially true when starting new endeavors. We have to start seeing challenges and roadblocks as exciting puzzles to solve not as another reason to get down on ourselves. We have to put the perfection obsession aside.