“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”-Vince Lombardi
I have been a perfectionist since before I can even remember. I was scared to color as a child because I might have make a mistake. I avoided cooking because people might not like it. I even gave up on writing for a time due to the stress of feeling I had to attain perfection.
Yet, I always found that I grew and became stronger when I faced these fears of inadequacy. Not only that, but whereas I used to be afraid of coloring I am now an artist. While I used to avoid cooking, I am now a baker who prefers technically difficult recipes and regularly creates their own recipes. Lastly, while I backed away from writing for a time, I found that when I had the strength to come back to my passion it only helped me improve further.
It takes time to overcome perfectionist tendencies. Believe me, I know. I have been able to overcome my need for perfection in certain aspects of my life, but I still struggle with it in other areas. It is a constant battle to overcome. Yet, the battle is well worth it, as it can help you attain the goals which you have only dreamed of.
I have found that it is important to constantly strive to do my best, which my perfectionist tendencies aid in. Yet, simultaneously, I must be willing to accept that mistakes are inevitable in everything, and I need to be willing to let them go. One example of this, I always edit my writing. But, I know that it is possible to miss a mistake. Even the great writers of eras gone by have made mistakes in their writing. N
One thing I have found which helps is to realize that some “mistakes” are only a matter of opinion. For instance, I was taught to never begin a sentence with a conjunction. This includes words such as but, yet, however, and, so, or, and for. Yet, most major style guides and grammatical publications agree that it is perfectly acceptable to begin a sentence with a conjunction.
-Chicago Manual of Style
“There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10
percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”
Before you can begin to work on your individual perfectionistic tendencies, you have to come to a mental understanding that everyone makes these mistakes, you are unable to hold yourself to an unattainable standard, learn to forgive yourself, and most importantly you need to learn how to embrace mistakes as a chance to help you learn and grow rather than a reason to berate yourself.
Here is one tip: when you feel overwhelmed by a goal and the need to be perfect, write out a list of your task and the various outcomes. For example, in my life, I feel the need to make holidays absolutely perfect. This includes making a ridiculous amount of food including thirteen pies, a turkey, stuffing, four types of cranberry sauce, and more all from scratch and by myself. Along with this, I also feel as if it is my responsibility to entertain everyone and keep everyone perfectly happy, all while I am overwhelmed. Not only is this more than a single person can realistically handle, but it is impossible to control everyone’s emotions and ensure their happiness.
When I feel myself struggling in this way the list can include all of the expectations I am holding for myself, along with alternative outcomes. I can then cross out the unrealistic outcomes and replace them with those that are more attainable. It may be difficult to let my original goal go, but it is imperative for my well-being and mental health.
Please, don’t continue to allow your perfectionism to hold you back from your dream. If I had continued to be ruled by my own perfectionist tendencies, then I would not be an artist, a baker, or even a self-employed freelance writer. It will take time, it will be difficult. However, I know you can overcome your struggles.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, I hope it encourages you to move forward with hope and strength. I was inspired to write this not only by my lifelong struggle with
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