This may sound familiar: You're working on a project (essay, work project, presentation, portfolio, your health, cleaning up for a guest, launching a new business, etc) that someone is going to view. You want it to be good, like really good! Because first impressions count, right? Not only that, most of us want to please others and deliver good work.
So you work on this project for all the days that you have scheduled to work on it. And then in the day or two before its due, you work extra hours. Perhaps even sacrifice sleep to get in a few more hours of tweaking. Maybe you turn to some caffeine, or chocolate to get through. The exercise routine seems like a distant memory. Takeout becomes a more regular habit than it should. Meditation? Don't have time for that right now, Im busy!
Before you know it, you are worrying about the shade of magenta you used in the title font doesn't exactly match the shade of magenta you used in an image. Or fret that you may have used the wrong word in a sentence. Or perhaps, the guest room is tidy, but gosh darn it - to make it even better, you may just need to sew a new set of curtains before the guest arrives tomorrow morning!
This, my friends, is a prison. It's called the Prison of Perfection and if we get trapped in it, the to-do list never ends. For those of us who want to make a good impression, or just have a lot of pride in our work, this is an easy prison to get trapped in.
I know, because for the last month, I have been trapped in my own Prison of Perfection with this website! (the new re-design launched today) I wanted it to be perfect before releasing to the world. And when I realized I was compromising my self-care for the sake of getting it perfect, I knew I had to let go of the perfection. It was either that or finish the project in the year 2021!
"The stress over the perfection is more damaging than the imperfection itself."
This is true for health and wellness too! Sometimes we can get so caught up in the perfection of health, or the perfection of following a prescribed diet (AIP, anyone?) that we loose sight of the big picture. The stress over the perfection is more damaging than the imperfection itself. Meaning, the stress over whether you are ingesting a small quantity of a food on the "no list" is usually more damaging to the body than the food itself would be.
I'm not saying that we don't want to strive for high levels of achievement or go after lofty goals or try that difficult elimination diet to see if it will help improve our health. On the contrary, I think taking on challenges like that helps us grow as humans and discover what might be possible for us! But, I am saying to watch out for some of the pitfalls that may occur.
So here are my tips for getting out of the prison of perfection:
- Schedule time in your routine to take a step-back and look at the big picture.
- When you notice you are compromising self-care in any way, let that be a trigger that its time to let the perfection go.
- When thinking its "not good enough" (and we all have those thoughts), ask yourself, "according to whom?" Chances are you wont be able to think of anyone but yourself.
- Decide - before you start - what components are a MUST HAVE and what are a NICE TO HAVE. In the case of diet and eating out, for me a must-have is gluten-free. A nice-to-have would be pasture-raised, grass-fed meats. That way you wont get stuck in <insert diet protocol here> Prison of Perfection paralysis that happens at a restaurant.
- There's no such thing as failure, only feedback. Sometimes that perfection drive comes from the fear of failure. And under that paradigm, anything that goes "wrong" is only feedback and a chance to make it better!