How to Get Over your Perfectionism and Start Getting Real


It can be hard to appreciate how great your life is when you’re consumed with feelings of self-doubt. And really, in this day and age, who doesn’t have some insecurities sometimes? Our culture loves perfection in all its forms. Whether the pressure to be perfect is explicit or implicit, and whether we’ve internalized the messages or not, there is plenty of chatter to lead us to believe our homes, bodies, emotional selves, families, and career should all be perfect. Here’s how to tune out the perfectionist crazy talk and start getting real.

You’re not perfect. Thank goodness.

Perfection is manufactured. It comes to us through Photoshopped pictures, edited movies, and images agreed on by committees, boards, and market research. Real life is messy, exciting, and vibrant. Perfection, on the other hand, is inert, predictable, and, well, boring. Let’s embrace the idea that imperfection can be charming, like Lauren Hutton’s gap-toothed smile and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Write yourself a love letter.

Alright, this might be a little hokey, but when you need to reminded of all you’ve got going for you, there’s no better way to feel treasured than to receive an adoring epistle. Write down what you love about yourself and what you’re proud of. Do you make a killer steak? Do you have a knack for toasts? If you’re having trouble thinking of things, remember what people tend to compliment you on, like being a great boss, or how gifted you are at keeping in touch with far-flung friends. Read this letter to yourself every day until you’ve got it memorized, if necessary; the idea is to internalize its message.

Develop a mantra.
I know a woman who shrugs and says, “God isn’t finished with me yet!” every time she makes a mistake. It may feel a little Stuart Smalley at first, but developing a refrain reminds you of your intrinsic self-worth. Maybe you want to borrow an inspirational quotation, or just greet your groggy-eyed morning reflection in the bathroom mirror with, “I’m good enough just the way I am.”

Forgive your mistakes.
Maybe you feel dogged by regret or once made a mistake that still makes you cringe. You’ve got to let it go in order to move on. So often, we’re harder on ourselves than we would be to someone else. Imagine what your best friend would say to you, and then forgive yourself the way you would forgive someone else. Think about the wrong that was done, put the consequences in context (is it really as bad as you think?), and let it go. One way to do this is to write down the wrong-doing and then throw it in to your fireplace, watching the past regrets go up in flames.

Mistakes = growth.

If you don’t ever fail, then you’re not taking enough risks. And what is failing really? It’s a time when you fall on your face and later, you look back on the event and can appreciate it. If we never goofed up, we would never learn, and if we never learned, we would never grow. If we didn’t grow, we’d never change. And how boring would that be? Just remember, life is a journey. We’ve got to fix flats, stop for gas, listen to great mix tapes, and enjoy the scenery. What initially might seem like a wrong turn, can lead you to the world’s largest ball of twine and an incredible sunset. And who would want to miss that?

Here is a reader’s comment:

I enjoyed the realism in your words. My husband suffers from lack of self worth and I am just the opposite. When we met he was lively and confident. As he (we) have gotten older, he has become withdrawn and almost mousie. I feel guilty sometimes because I am still vivacious and lively. I feel like I am leaving him behind when I really only want him to enjoy life with me. Sadly, he does his “living” thru me as I tell him about my day.

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