3 Lies of Perfectionism…and Some Truth

  1. Perfectionism tells us that if we always strive to be perfect, eventually we’ll get there.
  2. Perfectionism tells us that that striving is the only thing that makes us successful.
  3. Perfectionism tells us that if we stop pushing ourselves to be perfect, that we’ll be lazy.

I know these lies very well. Most of my clients and many of my friends know them, too. Somehow, so many of us believe these collective lies. We believe that we have to be perfect, to be everything to everyone, to “never let ’em see you sweat.”

We fear that if we stop the endless striving and constant critical self-talk that we’ll end up as a lazy puddle of a person who never achieves anything ever again.

The truth is, none of that works. When we chase perfect, we end up dissatisfied, frustrated and stressed out.

Here’s what perfectionism doesn’t ever want you to know: it’s actually the ENEMY of success, progress and accomplishing goals.

Don’t believe me? Think about it this way. Maybe you have a goal to run a 5K. You used to be a runner in high school or college, so you should be able to get right back into it. You grab your headphones, lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement. You’re going to run a 5K!

…But you’re starting to breathe a little heavy after half a mile.
At the 1 mile mark, you’re legs start to get tired.
Another half mile later, you’re barely even running anymore.

You turn around and walk home, feeling dejected, and you decide that running is stupid and you’re not going to do it anymore. At least, that’s what you tell people. What’s underneath is that nagging voice that keeps telling you you’re a quitter or that you can’t do anything right, or whatever your flavor of the inner critic voice is. You couldn’t even run a 5K so clearly you suck.

…And the goal goes right out the window.

Perfectionism (in this case, the idea that you can just go out and do something the exact way your body did it in the past) has literally stopped a goal in its tracks. Perfectionism didn’t help you meet a goal or push harder – it became a road block and it busted the door wide open and let the Inner Critic voice walk in. 

Because perfect doesn’t exist, we often just stop when we can’t attain it. Instead of taking a kinder approach and taking baby steps (like using the Couch to 5K program in this running example), we expect perfection and we quit (and berate ourselves) when we can’t achieve it.

The running goal is a simplified example but think about how perfectionism shows up in your life. What lies does it tell you? How could you actually accomplish more if you didn’t expect to immediately be perfect? I’d love to hear from you – this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

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