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Breaking Free from the Perfectionism Trap

“Perfectionism doesn’t make you feel perfect. It makes you feel inadequate.”
—Maria Shriver—

Every day, we are bombarded with images of perfect bodies, perfect homes, perfect relationships, and perfect lives. The pressure to measure up can be overwhelming, and it can feel like the only path to success is through perfection. But the pursuit of perfection can come at a great cost, leaving us feeling frustrated and disheartened.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that everything must be just right before we can pursue our goals. We tell ourselves that we’ll start that new project once we have all the resources, or we’ll launch that business when the timing is perfect. But in reality, waiting for perfection is just an excuse for not taking action.

The truth is, perfection is an unattainable goal. There will always be room for improvement and something that can be done better. The question arises: how can we resist the allure of perfection and go after what we want right now?

The Perfectionism Trap and How It Can Ruin Your Life

At its core, perfectionism is all about setting excessively high standards for oneself and relentlessly pursuing flawlessness. While this may seem like a positive trait, it can lead to a host of negative consequences, such as:

• Procrastination
Perfectionists are notorious for procrastinating, as they tend to wait for everything to fall perfectly into place before taking action. This is because they fear that they might not be able to meet their unrealistic expectations.

• Never feeling good enough
Perfectionists often struggle with a constant feeling of not being good enough, no matter how much they achieve. This can lead to a never-ending cycle of self-criticism and doubt that can be incredibly damaging to one’s self-esteem.

• Burnout
Perfectionists are so focused on achieving their goals that they often neglect their own needs for rest. They set unrealistic expectations for themselves and work tirelessly to meet them, which ultimately leads to exhaustion and burnout. This state of chronic stress can have serious physical and emotional consequences, including cardiovascular disease, insomnia, and depression.

How can You Resist Perfectionism and Go for What You Want?

Imagine standing at the edge of a magnificent lake, eyes fixed on the distant shore. You’re determined to swim across, fueled by your unyielding determination to succeed. With a deep breath, you dive in, feeling the cool water envelop your body.

But soon, you feel the weight of something pulling you down. The more you swim, the heavier it feels. You begin to tire, your limbs heavy with exhaustion. Then you hear a voice calling out to you, urging you to unlatch the fanny pack you’ve been carrying on your back. It suddenly dawns on you that it’s been slowing you down this whole time.

As you release the fanny pack, you feel a sudden burst of energy, and the water seems to lift you. The weightlessness and freedom that comes with releasing that burden is invigorating.

The fanny pack represents the self-defeating thoughts and perfectionist tendencies that we often carry with us, hindering our progress and holding us back from achieving our goals.

The thing is, we may not even be aware of the fanny pack’s weight until we unburden ourselves. It’s only then that we can experience the liberating feeling of being free from our own limiting beliefs.
If you’re someone who constantly strives for perfection and finds it difficult to take action, know that you’re not alone. Here are some tips to help you resist the urge to succumb to perfectionism and instead embrace the freedom of pursuing your goals with passion and purpose:

Set Realistic Goals
Instead of aiming for perfection, set manageable, realistic goals. This will enable you to put more emphasis on growth than perfection. Divide your major goals into more achievable, smaller activities, and order them according to importance.

Embrace Failure
Accept failure as a chance to grow and learn rather than as a measure of your value. Recognize that mistakes and setbacks are a natural part of the process and take advantage of them to strategize and get better results.

Focus on the Present Moment
Perfectionism often stems from a focus on the future and a fear of failure. Instead of worrying about what might happen in the future, focus on the present moment and what you can do right now to achieve your goals. Take action now and trust that you can handle whatever comes your way.

Exercise Self-Compassion
Perfectionism can be fueled by self-criticism and negative self-talk. Exercise self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding. Recognize that you are doing your best and that mistakes are part of making progress. Treat yourself with the same understanding that you would extend to a friend.

Make Self-Care a Priority
Incorporating self-care activities into our daily routine can help us feel more grounded and relaxed, which can reduce our tendency towards perfectionism. Some examples of self-care activities include:
• Exercise: Engage in physical activities that you enjoy, such as yoga, running, or swimming.
• Meditation: Practice mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises to increase relaxation and reduce stress.
• Spend time with loved ones: Spend time with friends and family who are supportive and make you feel good about yourself.
• Hobbies: Engage in activities that you enjoy, such as reading, writing, or playing music.
Celebrate Progress
Recognize the effort you put in and the steps you took towards achieving your goal. This can help boost your confidence and self-esteem, making it easier to continue taking action towards your goals.
It can also help you stay motivated, even when progress seems slow. By acknowledging the small steps you are taking, you can gain a sense of momentum that will keep you moving forward. This momentum can help counteract the negative feelings of discouragement that can arise from the perfectionist mindset.

Final Words

While the pursuit of excellence is admirable, perfectionism can result in negative outcomes. The key is to strive for progress rather than perfection, celebrate small wins, and practice self-compassion. By adopting a growth mindset and focusing on continuous improvement, we can achieve our goals without compromising our mental and physical health.