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The Real Reason You Try So Hard to Be Perfect

There have been several periods in my life where I have found myself caught on the perfectionism train and unable to get off.

  • That one college relationship where I desperately tried to be the perfect girlfriend who never complained or had any problems.
  • That flute solo that I practiced over and over again back in high school because I wanted to be absolutely perfect.
  • That first class that I had to teach as a student teacher where I prepared a ton of extra material for to be sure I had enough (the material ended up actually covering 3 or 4 classes).

We all find ourselves in these kind of situations at some point in various different aspects of our lives.  Though perfectionism can seem like a good thing to strive for at times (I mean, it was beneficial that I over prepared for my first class because then I had work done early!), the reality is that often times striving for perfectionism is what actually holds us back from moving forward.

Allow me to explain…

Let’s say that for example you have a research paper to write for school.  You want everything to be perfect, so you keep looking up and reading more sources to reference in the paper in order to make sure you have explained and referenced everything perfectly (*Raises hand!* I’ve done this all the freaking time, btw).  Because you are striving write your paper perfectly, you end up wasting time thinking about how and what to write rather than actually doing it.  Pretty soon it’s the night before the paper is due and you’re still up at 2 AM still writing.

Sound familiar?  I thought it would.

We tend to do this whenever it comes to our own personal development as well.  We may want to improve our relationships, so we start reading book after book about how to create a relationship filled with love and fulfillment.  Pretty soon, we find ourselves only reading and attending workshops on relationships in order to become better, but we never actually date.  We are so immersed in becoming perfect in our knowledge about relationships in hopes to avoid any further emotional pain that we forget about the absolute best way to learn: real-life experience.

The reality is that when we find ourselves stuck on the perfectionism train, we actually aren’t on the path to reaching any kind of “perfection” at all.  Instead, we are merely terrified about failure.  We are scared to be disappointed.  We are scared to be hurt again.

When we are striving for perfectionism, it’s our inner “I’m not good enough” complex coming to the surface.  It’s our inner dialogue telling ourselves that we are not worthy and that we are incapable of success, love, happiness, or whatever it is that we desire to have at that point in time.  We’ve forgotten that we are, in fact, good enough as we are and that we are still loved and accepted by the universe whether we mess up or not.

The reality is that we can only truly learn, grow, and become better if we hop off the perfectionism train and just act.

When we act, we give ourselves the opportunity to truly come closer to our heart’s desires.  By acting, we can begin to really embody what it is that we wish to be in life.


So what should we do if we find ourselves stuck on our perfectionism train?

For starters, remember that it is still important to do your homework.  Meaning, if you have a paper for school do and you need to do some research on it, then go ahead and do the research.  If you feel the need to read some books on relationships, then do it.  Go ahead and do the extra work that you feel need to do because just winging it completely isn’t necessarily going to help matters anyway.  My point, however, is to be mindful about getting too immersed in just studying and never doing.

Second, just do it.  So if you want to get some real-life relationship experience to figure out how to be better in relationships, then get yourself out there!  Go out with friends.  Follow through with the date you were asked out on.  If you want to write, then sit yourself in front of a pen and paper.  Ask yourself: How can I put myself in a place that is going to force me to act?  Then do it!

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the universe is here to support you no matter what.  If you make a mistake or not, the universe still supports you and loves you on your journey.  If you mess up and if someone criticizes you or hurts your feelings, tomorrow always brings another day filled with endless new opportunities and lessons to nurture you and help you become whole.

Take action now!

Ask yourself: How has my perfectionism been holding me back from truly moving forward in an area of my life?  Once you identify how you have been holding yourself back, ask yourself: What can you do today to start busting your perfectionism?

8 thoughts on “The Real Reason You Try So Hard to Be Perfect

  1. When I was in my 20’s, I was such a “little miss” perfect. I cringe at the thought of my actions now that I’m in my 40’s. I think a lot of my perfectionist tendencies were because of my insecurities. The older I get, the less perfect I know I am and push to really learn instead. Great post!

  2. Wow, great article, Jennifer! I chuckled knowingly at your perfectionism examples because I can completely relate! As a pianist, sometimes it’s tempting to “over-practice” for a show, which I’ve learned really can’t be done, and it’s just plain time consuming. I realize now that once you’ve got your piece, you’ve got to let it go and trust that it will be performed just as it should be. Makes me think of your flute example! PS also enjoyed Brenda’s comment above! What a nice community you’ve built in here. Congrats and see you on Huff Post someday I think!! 🙂

  3. Your article really reminds me of John Lennon’s quote “life is what happens when we are busy planning for it.” Perfectionism is exactly that… letting life pass by in favor of an ideal that doesn’t exist. At the same time, like you said, it can be both useful and detrimental. So it is up to us to make the most of it! Thanks for your words of wisdom on the subject 🙂

  4. I just had that hurdle recently. I’ve written an eBook and had been tweaking over and over again. Yesterday, I blasted social media with news of my eBook along with a date for it’s release. It’s time that I let it go and put it in the world! It may not be perfect, but what is?

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