I have always struggled with perfectionism… When I was a kid, I would hesitate to try new physical activities (such as tennis or even biking or learning to jump rope) for fear I might fail and not be good at it, not be perfect. However, when I finally gave said activities a shot, willing to risk failure, I found them to be super enjoyable!
As an adult, I often struggle with receiving feedback for similar reasons. Someone giving me constructive feedback means I failed and was less than perfect! Right on cue my fight or flight defenses kick in, protesting that I could not have made a mistake. The feeling of failing and not being perfect is far too painful to bear….
However, while our brains may think they are protecting us with these defenses, in reality we are missing out … either on a potentially awesome experience or being able to learn and grow from our mistakes or simply being open to hear a different perspective.
Here are a few ways to reframe that perfectionist mentality to a more helpful growth mindset.
1) It is okay not to be perfect. This is the first step, so repeat that to yourself a few times out loud. In fact, it is more than okay! No one is perfect… including those giving you the feedback or anyone that has tried that new thing you are hesitant to try. Perfection is a trap your brain has created in the false idea of protecting you from so-called harm.
2) Shift towards growth. Now that you have acknowledged that like the rest of humanity you are in fact not perfect, you can begin to shift towards a growth mindset. Instead of that “new thing” being something you might fail at, look at it as something you might have the chance to grow in, even if you “fail” by outside standards. Succeed by the metric that you were courageous enough to try!
3) Embrace compassion. Releasing perfect and being courageous enough to embrace growth can be tough and takes practice. Remember to be kind to yourself along to the way. Part of the perfectionism trap is usually beating yourself up when you “fail.” Instead try being kind to yourself. When you make a mistake (which you will, so you may just get used to it), own it and be open to the feedback on improving from trusted others and also be willing to give yourself feedback on what you could improve without beating yourself up.
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging, have the courage to be imperfect” Brene Brown