How perfectionism limits you — and tips for shaking loose
Are you the type who likes to dot your i’s and cross your t’s? Do you pride yourself on having been an A+ student, a high performer, a generous leader, a harmonious helper — all the things?
Welcome to the anti-paradise of perfectionism, where an earnest intention to “do good” and ego collide.
I’ve written before that I have nothing against egos, that they are (usually) functional and necessary. And egos are amoral (I mean without morals, not anti-moral) and limiting.
And flow states, genuine no-strings-attached generosity/contribution, and ultimately peak performance states all lie beyond the constraints of your ego. That is, beyond your perfectionistic need to avoid failure and confrontation with your shortcomings. Likewise perfectionism can make it hard to delegate, collaborate, and effectively/efficiently prioritize (not to mention to rest and enjoy yourself).
If you’re interested in breaking loose from what can be very entrenched patterns — for the sake of outcomes you want versus to “fix” yourself (which would be perfectionistic also, see how that works?) — here are some practices to take on. A big caveat that depending on the degree of freedom and expansion you’re seeking, these can be incredibly challenging to take on without ramping up of external supports. They’ll require new skill sets in how you regulate and relate to yourself. So if you’re the kind of perfectionist who also likes to be very self sufficient, you’ve been warned… :)
- Do hard things — meaning things that are hard for you to accomplish while also being a perfectionist about it. This can be unfamiliar challenges, genuinely lofty goals, playing with a lot of white space. Tip your personal or business KPIs further toward innovation, and a little less toward firm-and-fast achievement. Play a new game.
- Lean more into what you love. Love cuts through perfectionism (and any ego limitation) better than anything else. If you’re a new or veteran parent, you probably know what I mean. Aspiring toward outcomes that give you powerful feels — and continuously being reminded of your purpose and the feelings associated — will resource you in ways that make perfectionism a moot point, without detracting from a very high level of motivation. Instead, it will add to it and create more integration of your values and best interests.
- Expose your shortcomings or uncertainties on purpose. This can mean more collaboration, vulnerable shares, saying what you don’t know, asking for support. There is an upward trend in the popularity of vulnerable and authenticity in leadership for a reason. When we hide things that pain us, they have no chance to heal and there are sure to be unhealthy outgrowths, the harmful effects of perfectionism being just one of them.
Like most things in life, the simplest things can also be the hardest, and the 3 practice areas probably are things you’ve heard before. Use your high performing gifts to create a concrete plan of attack — and be a little more willing to make shit up, change or wing it.
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