Do you refuse to leave your house without mascara? Does the thought of an error on an expense report keep you up at night?
If you are tossing and turning over tens of thousands of dollars, it’s one thing. However, you might be one of many who grapple with stress brought on by unrealistic expectations. Here’s how the idea of perfection could be weighing you down without you knowing it, along with some tips for finding a healthier sense of priority.
The Weight of Unrealistic Expectations
If your pet Schnauzer pulls down your holiday tree, you get to decide if it’s a disaster or a hilarious memory you’ll chuckle at through the years. Too often, the weight of unrealistic expectations makes you overlook the best way to relieve stress — laughter.
Unfortunately, society often contributes to unrealistic expectations. For example, while one-quarter of men and 87% of women say they prefer straight teeth, only the most fortunate Americans can afford quality dental care, let alone orthodontics. The consequences often create a perpetual poverty cycle — those who are missing teeth may struggle to gain the very employment they need to have their smile repaired.
Other times, though, you might create a crisis where none exists. What’s worse? Failing to make a token appearance at your office holiday party or showing up with a chipped manicure?
When asked objectively, most people would say you should attend even with imperfect fingernails. But perfectionism whispers, “everyone will notice.” In your embarrassment over a minor detail that no one but a bonafide mean girl would mention, you draw more attention to yourself by hiding your hands behind your back instead of shaking the proffered paw of the department head where you wish to transfer.
Perfectionism can paralyze progress. If you have a business you want to launch, get started on it today. If you study entrepreneurs, you’ll learn you should be embarrassed by your initial product or offering — but you’ll never nurture a gorgeous rose bush to perfection if you don’t first plant that seed.
Reasons to Embrace Imperfection
Embracing imperfection is, frankly, pretty awesome and liberating. If you aren’t convinced yet that letting go of your need for perfection can make your life better, here are five ways it will revolutionize your existence.
1. It Makes You Human
People don’t like superheroes outside of comic books. If you look at the stories of the folks people admire most, you’ll see nearly all share the trait of overcoming terrible odds.
What sets them apart? They kept going even when things got messy or downright mortifying. You can do the same when you let go of perfection. Making mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a failure — only human.
Other people will relate to your humanity. Learning to take ownership of your mistakes instead of brushing them under the perfectionist rug will make you more powerful and showcase your leadership potential.
2. You Serve as a Role Model
It’s one thing to exhibit patience in the checkout line while the lady in front of you counts their change one coin at a time if you have nowhere to be. If you are running late to work, it proves much harder to keep your cool — but that’s when you demonstrate your character.
Staying calm amidst chaos only occurs when you let go of the idea of perfection. Why ruin a stranger’s day by making them feel guilty when a “thank you for waiting” will help ease the stress of running a few minutes late? When you look in the mirror, you’ll see someone who treats everyone considerately.
3. It Helps You Prioritize Your Time
Some things can wait, but others shouldn’t. If you put off inviting friends to visit until you have your dream pad, you’ll miss out on valuable memories. Are you really going to skip your BFF’s wedding if you think your bridesmaid dress makes you look chunky?
When you let go of perfection, you can prioritize your time more effectively. When it comes to a choice between getting a pedicure and spending an hour reconnecting with a long-lost friend, you pick coffee and chatting every time.
4. It Eases Stress
Perfectionism can lead to burnout — a state of utter mental and physical exhaustion. When you reach this point, you might find it impossible to get out of bed, which only leaves you feeling more overwhelmed about the things you left undone.
Letting go of perfectionism eases the pressure. Maybe you leave the dishes in the sink overnight on hectic days, but you still attend your kid’s soccer match after putting in an honest eight hours. You accomplish what counts instead of hitting a wall, throwing up your hands and doing nothing.
5. It Strengthens Your Relationships
Perfectionism can ruin relationships — you could deny loved ones your presence when you don’t look or feel your best. While you want to give your friends, family members and colleagues the best version of you, they understand that everyone is human.
Learn to love the little quirks that make you — and your loved ones — unique. Someday, after all, you’ll miss the trail of muddy footprints your mate always drags in from the garden. Instead of griping about your clean floors, appreciate each day you share your home with someone who’s, frankly, pretty darn great overall.
Finding Your Balance
There’s a time and place for perfectionism. If you work on an aircraft carrier, you know you need to keep things ship-shape — pun loosely intended — to protect pilot safety.
However, you can’t allow your need for everything to go swimmingly cripple your forward motion. Ask yourself the following question when perfectionism threatens to keep you from doing something you know you should:
In five years, will it matter?
When you look at the situation this way, you see that literally no one — not even the office’s most boastful fashionista — will remember your chipped nail polish at the holiday party. It won’t even cross your mind as you enjoy your new office in your coveted department.
Keep Going Instead of Letting Perfectionism Weigh You Down
Perfectionism can weigh you down without you knowing it by paralyzing you with fear when you know you should act. Take back your power by declaring that you are human and proud of it — then rock your next accomplishment!
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.