Being OK with Being Imperfect

Perfection. It’s elusive. It’s enticing. And your quest for it just might be standing in the way of being your happiest, healthiest self.


Being perfect sounds, well, perfect, right?  Who wouldn’t want to put their “best” foot forward? Second place is the first loser. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all… RIGHT??? Wrong. Heeeeeelllll no.

You can do it challenge:  Work on being a little less perfect. 

I’m Human, You’re Human

The problem with striving for perfection is that, as perfectly imperfect humans, we often fall short of the ideal “expectation.”  And that’s where the trouble really starts.  While the initial drive may stem from a desire for self-improvement, we often end up judging ourselves, feeling guilty, and likely to hinder our own growth.

There Are No Special Rules For You

You know it’s impossible for other women to work out perfectly, eat a perfect diet, get perfect grades, and be a perfect wife and mom. But you… YOU CAN DO IT! You have some sort of genetic gift that allows you to create time, energy, desire, and willpower to do it all and nothing ever gets in your way. (Are you picking up what I’m putting down?) There are no special rules just for you that you would not expect of all women.

What “special rules” do you have that only seem to apply to you?

Try Rational Imperfection

If you have a “perfect” workout planned, and something comes up at home or work, what do you do?  Do you modify original plan for something shorter and less intense? Or would you rather do nothing at all than not exercise “perfectly” (if there even is such a thing)?

How about if you have a slice of pizza when you’re trying to “eat clean” (once again, if there even is such a thing…If there is, then I prefer to “eat dirty”) Do you say “screw it, since I’m breaking my rule, might as well go crazy” and just eat the whole thing?

This is exactly how perfectionism gets in the way of being happy and healthy.

Instead, what’s wrong with “good enough” or lowering the bar even further. I call it “what’s the LEAST effort I can put into this?” Be rationally imperfect. Tolerate the fact that you want to be doing more, but what you can do, you will do and that’s good enough for right now.

I kid you not, I have done 5 minute workouts and called that a success. When I eat pizza, I understand that I love it and I’m not going to eat on slice. I don’t need to binge on it. I could savor it. I could eat vegetables with it.

Perfectionists Never Reach Their Goal

Does it sound like a good time to have a destination in mind, but the directions keep you lost and you’re running in circles? That’s perfectionism. You’ll never get to where you want to go. Ever. Ever ever.

What are you really doing when you’re reaching for unattainable perfection? How is perfectionism getting in your way of living a full, happy life?  Is there a repetitive voice in your head telling you there’s no such thing as good enough?  Is it a judgmental voice (YOU SUCK!) or a gentle observation (I WISH I DID YOGA TODAY, BUT THE WALK WAS NICE AND IT FIT MY SCHEDULE).   If your thoughts make you feel inadequate, it’s not actually helping you.

Instead, engage with thought and see reality for what it is. Just because a workout is short, it doesn’t mean it’s not effective or somehow you are a “bad/unhealthy/lazy” person.  Think about how your actions really are beneficial to your health and well-being.  When all you have to offer is just a little bit, that’s still light-years better than nothing. Lots of “littles” add up. I feel like a broken record saying this, but it’s true! I’ll say it a million more times if that is what it takes.

Getting Vulnerable to Put Down the “Shield”

Brene Brown calls perfectionism a, “20-ton Shield” that we use to minimize our potential of being hurt. She says that perfectionism is always driven by shame and fear in the areas of our lives where we feel the most vulnerable.  We think that if we’re perfect, others won’t judge us.  And we use that perfectionism as a way to establish our own self-worth.

Sound familiar?  That description absolutely hits home for me.  Learn more about Brene Brown’s take on perfectionism here – it’s an excellent article and absolutely worth the read.

You can do it challenge:  Work on being a little less perfect. 

Take baby steps.  When you hear that internal voice saying you aren’t doing something well enough, challenge it. Here are more questions you can ask:

  • Is this really self-improvement driven or do I have rigid expectations?
  • Is this expectation making me happier or healthier?
  • Is this something I would teach my children or my best friend, or is it just my own emotional baggage?

Let yourself make mistakes.  And know that every once and a while, it’s actually OK to half-ass it. I put in 50% effort on a regular basis. And I’m less stressed, more positive, and happier person for it.

What about you? What’s your story of perfectionism?

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