Last time, we talked about the importance of choosing healthy striving over perfectionism. As a recovering perfectionist, I recognize how challenging it can be to let go of those thoughts. They feel safe, and they give you a sense of control. Letting go of perfectionism means opening yourself up to vulnerability and, even worse, the possibility of failure. Any perfectionists (or recovering perfectionists) know, failing feels like the worst.thing.ever. Many of us try to spend our entire lives avoiding it. However, avoiding failure often leads to less risk taking and less joy (as we discussed last time).
You may think that the antidote to perfectionism is leaping into situations where failure is a possibility. However, it can be helpful to have a few tools in your back pocket before you take this leap. Here are a few things to consider when letting go of perfectionism:
1. Let go of the hustle. Start from a place of feeling worthy.
How many times have you made a mental list of all the boxes you can check to determine whether you are a good person or worthy of something? What would happen if you started from feeling worthy rather than needing to earn it? In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown discusses this concept, saying:
“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
2. There is a difference between saying “I failed at x” and “I am a failure.”
Language matters. The phrase “I made a bad choice” means something different than “I am a bad person.” The same is true for failure. We often equate these two statements, believing that our actions automatically translate into beliefs about ourselves. This is a slippery slope. How do you grow and change if you are a failure or a bad person? It is a lot easier to recover from a failure or a bad choice than from being a failure or a bad person. I like to think of this as the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset says that your actions describe who you are a person and are rigid. Failures beget failures. Bad choices beget bad choices. A growth mindset says that failures and bad choices are information. They are neutral information, neither good nor bad. We can grow and change based on this information, but it does not impact our fundamental belief that no matter what we are worthy of love and belonging.
3. We are all imperfect. It makes us human.
We all have times where we make mistakes. These mistakes make us human. While Facebook and Instagram may depict mistake-free lives, I believe almost everyone would answer “yes” if you asked them “Have you made a mistake in the last month?” We are all imperfect. Being imperfect can stir up feelings of vulnerable and afraid, but that does not change that the fact that we are worthy of love and belonging.
4. To let go of perfection means you have to engage with fear, disappointment, and regret. Feeling worthy of love and belonging is a pretty good source of protection.
May worthiness be your shield when you let of perfectionism. It can be scary to open yourself up to fear, disappointment, and regret, but it is hard to experience love, joy, and belonging without also risking these things. Moreover, experiencing fear, disappointment, and regret is much easier if you can hold onto the growth mindset (aka these emotions are just information) and a fundamental sense of worthiness (these emotions do not make you a bad person). We are all worthy of love and belonging.