7 Ways To Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a cancer. A major shift happened for me, and my life, when I let go of being a perfectionist.

I heard somebody say once “What is a perfectionist really? It’s someone who focuses on imperfection.”

“What is a perfectionist really? It’s someone who focuses on imperfection.” Share on X

That made me question where my own focus was at the time and they were correct. I was always looking at what was not perfect according to my own warped definition of how things SHOULD be and not simply letting go and accepting how beautifully perfectly imperfect everything was.

There was a lot of programming going on and powerful messaging that was drummed into my head when I was growing up, and sometimes it wasn’t even from my own family. I remember watching a good buddy’s parents tell him that 2nd place in an exam was not good enough. He should have come first. 99 out of 100 was not good enough. He should have studied harder.

I’ve come to learn that the word “should” shatters dreams. It puts us into psychological prisons. It causes grief, disappointment and self-hate because we feel like we will never be able to reach an unreachable standard set for ourselves by others at first but then adopted as our own. I know because I’ve been there, and I’m much better now but sometimes it makes the odd cameo appearance.

The word “should” shatters dreams. It puts us into psychological prisons. Share on X

In my world I should have been married 10 years ago when I was 25. I should have a well-paying and secure job, a large house in the burbs and a kid or two. I don’t have any of those things, and I’m happy. I was reminded all too much of this when I traveled and lived in Laos in 2012. Every distant relative I met would open conversation with “are you married yet?”. Talk about cultural pressure!

So I’ve learnt to shut out the expectations of others as much as possible and to become aware of my own judgements and thoughts.

Here’s 7 practical steps that I’ve taken to live a more joyful experience:

1. Meditate regularly

I’ve found that meditation helps with developing focus, and allows me to tune in to my inner voice. I might not be able to completely drown out the voice in my head, which is sometimes the influence of others, but I can observe what is going on and then choose to keep it or let it go. Often I let it go. Observe, acknowledge, and let it go. All things come to pass. All things are temporary and ever-changing. I learnt this important lesson during my 10 day vipassana meditation retreat.

2. Combine physical activity with nature

Riding my bike whilst the sun is setting or going for a short 8-minute run through the park allows me to get into my body and enjoy the experience of being alive and connected. I love the feeling of the wind in my face, and the warmth of the sun’s last rays on my skin, as I pick up speed going down a hill. It’s like I’m flying!

3. Disconnect from the noise

Getting away from the computer, and social media, allows me to disconnect from all the hundreds and thousands of messages coming from others too. I don’t have too many “friends” that are overly negative either. In fact if they are focusing so much on the negative I hide their updates or remove them from my list completely. This may seem harsh but I’m choosing to surround myself with people who lift me up and support positivity in the world, not people who are always complaining and playing victims in their own lives.

4. Be real

I stay true to who I am and what I’m feeling in any moment as best as I can. This is not easy but it’s well worth it. I’ve found that expressing that I’m not feeling great, or that I’m too tired to go hang out with somebody, or that I just need “me” time has brought me much more peace and balance.

Saying “Yes” to opportunity is important for growth, and so is learning to say “No” and giving ourselves space to refresh, reflect, and recover.

In one of the most powerful blog posts I’ve ever read titled “The Disease Called Perfection” Dan Pearce wrote:

“Perfection” is a hideous monster with a really beautiful face. And chances are you’re infected, at least to some degree. The good news is, there is a cure.

Be real.

Embrace that you have weakness. Because everyone does. Embrace that your body is not perfect. Because nobody’s is. Embrace that you have things you can’t control. We all have a list of them.

I couldn’t agree more.

When we learn to embrace and accept all parts of us – the good, the bad, and the ugly – only then will we be able to move forward. Otherwise we’re always running or hiding, and we’re not living our truth.

Several years ago I felt guilt and shame around being 34 and living in my auntie’s home, coming off a breakup with someone who I thought the world of, with no regular income, and no savings to speak of, and a mountain of debt owed to the debt collectors, but I got through it and accepted where I was in order to move on and concentrate on changing the situation.

I’m now enjoying life, surrounded by great positive influences, amazing and inspiring partner, friends and clients, and generating a good income from my content writing service. I’m learning as I grow.

5. Take imperfect action

This is a mantra that I’ve adopted from one of my mentors. Often in business and in life we get so caught up on trying to get everything perfect and all this does is render us ineffective. We get stuck.

We never release the product or service that we want to release, or the music, or our art, or our desire to connect with someone amazing and then we get disappointed in ourselves. It’s a one way street to regret and self-loathing.

What you may not realise is that in order to develop our gifts we need to share them with others and seek feedback on how we can improve. It’s in the act of putting our stuff out there, asking for what we want, and allowing ourselves to receive that we are transformed and liberated.

In January of 2014 I launched my first ever online community – Momentum Warriors.

It took me two years of “umm-ing” and “ahh-ing” and worrying about whether or not I’d be able to deliver something of great value and truly help the people who had placed their trust and money in me. What I was really dealing with was a fear of success.

The night before I was too excited and nervous to get proper sleep. All fears were dissolved when I went ahead and did it anyway and found that my clients were actually excited about it and I received wonderful messages of thanks and inspiration. The group has now grown to over 250 creative entrepreneurs.

Take imperfect action. It moves you closer to your dream and if you don’t do it now when will you ever do it? Be real and honest with yourself.

If you don’t do it now when will you ever do it? Be real with yourself. Share on X

6. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

One of my clients shared the following with me yesterday:

I once heard that if you are actively being grateful in any given moment, you cannot feel fear at the same time. – Asha Mokrosz, Momentum Warriors member

This is the true power of being thankful. When I have doubt and thoughts of imperfection appear I observe it, take a deep breath, and practise shifting my energy and my focus to what I can be grateful for in that moment. It could be the air that I’m breathing, the fact that I’m alive, or the fact that I got to the bus stop on time that morning.

Smile appreciatively at life and life will smile back at you.

Smile appreciatively at life and life will smile back at you. Share on X

7. Change your language

As a certified Master Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner I have become all too familiar with the effect that language has on our choices and our results.

Your external reality begins with your internal reality. What you think about, how you speak to yourself, and how you feel all effect what you perceive outside of you.

Our language betrays our true unconscious and limiting beliefs. If you have negative internal language then it will come out as negative external language when you speak. Observe it and then make a conscious effort to replace it with more positive language.

If you’re asking “but isn’t that just being in denial or lying to yourself?” then I want you to consider something… what if your existing limiting beliefs were simply lies that have been programmed into you in the first place? Is it possible that you’ve adopted somebody else’s beliefs as your own and are now suffering because of it? How long do you want to hold onto those stories?

It’s your choice how you want to live your life.

You can either whinge about how nothing is working out the way you want or you can make the decision right now to adjust your attitude, and your language (you might want to stop labelling yourself a “perfectionist”), drop the old stories that you’ve been holding onto until this point and get busy creating the new and happier you.

You’ll find life is much more enjoyable in no time! You could even try it out for 30 days and report back to me. Deal?


So how has perfectionism impacted your life and how have you dealt with it? Comment below as I’m sure your experience will be helpful to other readers.

(Photo Credit: jonycunha via Compfight cc)