John Steinbeck once wrote, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” How often do we allow the fear of not saying or doing just the right thing get in the way of contributing or creating in our lives?
Being a perfectionist has cleverly positioned itself as a badge of honor wrapped in the facade of achieving your best self, when it’s the opposite. It is a dangerous and unachievable quest that undermines the ambitions of countless talented people.
The knock-on danger perpetuated by attempted perfectionism is that you may never push yourself enough to learn that it’s okay to fail since you are afraid to do so. Then you keep waiting and working to make everything perfect before you present, speak, or try anything, which means you present, speak, and try nothing – since none of us are actually perfect. Then, when you finally do fall short (and you will), you can’t stop thinking about what you could have done differently to have avoided it. This can trap you in a destructive loop.
In fact, did you know perfectionists tend to achieve LESS and stress MORE than regular high achievers? It’s true. Obsessing over perfection will only take a toll on you and the people around you. The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of perfect is “being entirely without fault or defect.” I think we all understand from a practical perspective that is not possible; heck, it is not even human. Plus, isn’t it our differences—yes, even our imperfections—that make us who we are? So why would anyone strive to be perfect? Who decides what that is anyway?
Even so, I am frequently asked, “You’re a mom, a wife, and a successful businesswoman. How do you do it all?” My short answer is “I don’t.”
My oven is dirty, my bed often remains unmade, we have weeds in our yard, and our basement is a disaster. My kids don’t always eat healthy food and have gone to school without lunch, with the wrong outfit, or with the incorrect school supplies. I’ve stared blankly at my boss while searching for an answer, have had the wrong numbers in a deck and typos in an important correspondence. I’ve missed meetings, flights, events, and appointments. My PowerPoint slides have frozen in front of hundreds of people. I’ve gone to work with baby snot on my blouse, tiny handprints on my skirt, and a dollop of breakfast yogurt in my scarf. I’ve missed my children’s parent/teacher conferences, band concerts, and sporting events.
And, I have learned that, like so many things in life, “perfect” is a relative concept. The key is to know your real definition of perfect in any given situation. Because, the real truth we should all embrace is that you are already uniquely, wonderfully, perfectly you. You are 100 percent equipped to be who you are meant to be and do what you are meant to do. It will not be a perfect process, but the only person who can figure out what that means for you—is you. The moment you can understand and accept this is the moment you will be happier and more empowered to be your best self.