Ok, I don’t want to put labels on myself or anything, but if there was ever a label I fully identified with it is being a perfectionist. And, not in that way when your future employer asks you what your biggest fault is.
In the actual, soul-crushing expectations and disappointments that come with being a perfectionist. Because I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but nothing in this world is perfect.
While the Mona Lisa may be beautiful, and your child a seemingly obedient angel, the reality is everything could be improved upon.
Now, great. If it just stopped there, it would be fantastic. The acceptance that nothing is perfect but we can always be growing and improving, sounds like the ideal personality trait.
But, no no no. My perfectionism (and I bet yours too if you’re still reading this post) takes on a life of its own. I don’t just expect perfection, I get woefully disappointed in myself for not achieving it when it’s not even something I want to be good at. Crazy, right?
Ooh, and the other pitiful tendency I have is that I compare myself to the top people in my field and forget that they had any journey or struggles at all. Instead of realistically setting my expectations for myself and where I am at in my journey, I focus on the top-performing people (who have probably spent hours, days, and years getting to where they are), and think well, I must suck if I can’t be like them.
Well, we are going to try to curb some of these traits today.
So, how to overcome perfectionism?
1. Focus on growth, and visually remind yourself of it
It is easy to focus on the end goal, but every step you take should inventively get you closer to climbing whatever “mountain” you may be aiming for.
And without each step, the journey itself would not be progressing or even possible.
Now, it’s great to say that to yourself as kind of a positive affirmation, but for me, visually seeing it is even more powerful.
Go back and look at your first ___insert item here___ and now look at the latest attempt. It is pretty remarkable to see the difference. For instance, this was my first “influencer/fashion blogger” post on Instagram.
Now, about 1.5 years later, here is what feed looks like including current brand collaborations.
Seeing the progress helps me understand that the only way to get to level I want is to not give up. And with each disappointing experiencer, I have actually learned an incredibly viable lesson that will push me towards (not away) from my goal.
2. Stop setting unrealistic standards
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For instance, as an influencer, I could easily bog myself down by comparing myself to a fashion influencer like Tezza, who crushes the fashion game. Her photos are epic, stylistically enviable, and speak to so many people.
Now, she has also been taking photos for I believe 15 years and has been cultivating her Instagram presence for at least 8 years.
I’ve been doing it for 1.5 years. Would you compare the math skills of a third grader to that of a senior in high school? Would that comparison be apt or helpful?
No, absolutely not. And while, it is my instinct to think of myself as capable of accomplishing what others who inspire me have, the work I put into it has to come first.
Now, ideally, I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone and I would live a happy and fulfilling life doing what I love. But, we are perfectionists, and that’s not going to happen.
So, while I still look up to people who achieved the goals I want, I compare myself to people along the same part of the journey as me.
Everything happens at different points for different people, but the one factor that doesn’t change in anyone’s process is hard work. Even the “overnight success stories” put in tons of hard work you didn’t see. Which brings me to the next point….
3. Stop expecting things to happen. Do the work, and don’t quit.
As a perfectionist, it can be easy to abandon something when we don’t get the validation of perfection early in the journey.
I get it, we are used to being good at things and we are used to having results that reflect that.
But, when we are tackling a new endeavor there is a learning curve and an upfront effort that is required. Rarely, does that give us the “win” we so desperately need to stick with it.
Now, I’m willing to bet as a perfectionist you are also pretty stubborn. So use that stubbornness to push your forward even when your perfectionist side is beyond frustrated.
The only way to fail is to give up. And, as a perfectionist, I KNOW you don’t want to fail.
4. Accept you don’t know everything.
You actually don’t know everything.. Oof, I know that’s a hard pill to swallow.
But, what’s even more challenging is that when tackling a new goal/journey/task your instincts may not be on point.
And the only way to get them on point is to keep trying and adapting. Which, I have no doubt you are good at when you want to be.
For instance, I recently joined TikTok, and I put out content that was in line with other TikTok fashion bloggers and was what I felt “on par” for my brand and merged with the style of TikTok.
They received very bland responses. Nothing horrible, nothing great. Average, at best. Which is hard for me to even type…
But, then one Saturday while I was waiting for my pizza to cool (yes, you read that right) I did a 15-second video (no editing, no retakes, no planning) about a few pairs of shoes I love. It has over 100k views.
I choke saying that because I think it is anything BUT perfect. But, here’s where I have to let that go.
What I think is good, or what you think is good is not always what others will resonate with.
So, put your ego in check and sometimes just throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. I know its crazy to say, but not everyone out there is a crazy perfectionist like us. Some people don’t nitpick details or efforts into the ground and can just enjoy something for the intention, the way it makes them feel, or even for no discernible reason at all. So stop trying to control every last detail and don’t be afraid to put something out there that isn’t “perfect”.
5. Focus on what is working, and accept that you can’t do it all
When you have a lofty goal it can be easy to all of a sudden want to deep dive into every book, resource, class, and webinar related to the success of your goal.
However, I’m going to tell you at some point you need to focus and stop trying so hard. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have a plan to tackle multi-faceted areas of your goal, but make sure you aren’t overloading yourself and that the effort has an actual ROI.
When I first started blogging, I tried to do absolutely everything, and learn absolutely everything. It was not only exhausting but it made me less successful at everything.
I hate to admit this, but absolutely nothing was close to perfect.
After a year and change, I’ve slowly honed in on where I want to be and what skills I need to craft to get there.
it’s a slow process but focusing on a specific goal, and creating a step by step approach to getting there has helped curb my perfectionist tendencies.
I can’t tackle ALL social media platforms.. In fact, I openly admit I suck at Twitter, Facebook, and haven’t touched Linkedin in over a year.
But, Instagram, Pinterest, and even youtube or TikTok- they are worth my time. They have a high ROI and they are facilitating my goals.
Tip: Try to find cross-sections to utilize your skills. The above lists of “focus” may appear very broad to some but the fact is Instagram and Pinterest go hand in hand with my photography and graphic design skills (something that comes easy to me). And TikTok and youtube can be combined into the growing umbrella of shooting content, editing, and getting my message out succinctly and efficiently.
Use the skills you already have to further your goals. And tackle a new skill with a bit of brevity and patience.
Try these books to help you keep perspective on your goals and perfectionist tendencies
I love to read, and I’ve found these books really inspiring and eye-opening. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers really takes a hard look at what factors determine “success” and Shoe Dog chronicles the very tireless efforts of Nike’s founder Phil Knight. I recommend them both if you are a perfectionist and belive somehow you haven’t found the success you want.
It can be so easy to feel absolutely worthless when your perfectionist tendencies take over and you not only feel like a failure but even worse you lose your motivation to continue.
I get it, I’ve been there, and I can only say that the only way to conquer these tendencies is with these 5 tips to progress through perfectionism AND to keep going no matter what.
If you REALLY, really want to accomplish your goal, there is no other way than forward. And when I talk about motivation, the root goal has to be for you and not to prove someone else wrong.
What you accomplish doesn’t actually have any impact on your personal worth. So, set your goals with this in mind. Because if you are doing it to prove to others you matter, it will be very tempting to quit when you hit that perfectionist roadblock.
Find goals and journeys worth your skill, dedication, and time. If they feed your soul, you’ll continue no matter how many people doubt you or how poorly you do something in the beginning. And if you like posts like these, check out my lifestyle section.
And because perfectionism can creep up on you when you least expect it, pin this for reference and to keep you in check!