Be it in relationships, at work, in public, or on social media — people are often trying to show up as society’s version of “perfect”. But maybe what we all need to be better at is how to overcome perfectionism.
Because media is feeding the picture-perfect portrait of the ideal human living the ideal life, you can get lost in striving for perfection. However, you may forget that it cannot actually be achieved when a utopic representation of this is built.
And should you even try to? What would your life look like if it were perfect? And why don’t you feel it’s perfect, just as it is right now?
Many answers could be given to these questions. But this is why we turned to Mindvalley experts for their insights on how to overcome perfectionism. And this way, you can free yourself from the burden of needing to be something else than what you are in this moment.
- What Is Perfectionism?
- Pro Tip 1: Embrace Your Imperfections | Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani
- Pro Tip 2: Use the Power of the Sucky Moments | Dr. Neeta Bhushan
- Pro Tip 3: Start Small but Start | Jimmy Naraine
- Pro Tip 4: Believe in the Power of I Am Enough | Marisa Peer
- Pro Tip 5: Leave Room for the Authentic You | Petra Kolber
If you’re willing to pause and realize you can fully enjoy who you are and what you do, here’s the perfect moment of breakthrough for you.
What Is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is the concern of striving for an ideal that includes anything from work, relationships, environment, appearance, behavior, and feelings. It’s rejecting anything that doesn’t match the standard of what you think you should be like or what you should be doing.
According to the American Psychological Association, perfectionism is defined as “the tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation.”
A great example to depict the character of a perfectionist is Nina Sayers from Black Swan.
What causes perfectionism?
According to psychiatrist Alfred Adler, who first talked about perfectionism from a psychological point of view, the main cause of it would be the human superiority complex.
In his theory, every human being has a part in their psyche that feels inferior. Therefore, a superiority complex is developed to compensate for what one feels is lacking. In Adler’s words, people who are struggling with perfectionism are “perpetually comparing themselves with the unattainable ideal of perfection, and they are always possessed and spurred on by a sense of inferiority.”
Following his work, other studies have found that perfectionism can be the result of a childhood experience where people in your environment had extremely high expectations of you or made you feel like whatever you were doing could never be enough.
In other words, perfectionism is a good old coping mechanism that your psyche creates as a form of protection.
Is perfectionism a disorder?
No, it’s a trait of one’s character. However, it can be more common for people with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Think of the extremes Nina went to in order to prove how perfect she can be as the Black Swan.
Oftentimes, perfectionism is also associated with:
- Low self-esteem
- Chronic fatigue
Even if it’s not clinically diagnosed as a mental illness, studies have found that it increased dramatically among young people from 1980 to the present day. However, the great news is that learning how to overcome perfectionism is not only possible, but once you do it, your life will shift significantly.
1. Embrace Your Imperfections | Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani
“The pursuit of perfection is often the catalyst behind our disappointment and discontent whenever we face unmet expectations,” says Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley and trainer of 7 Days to Happiness Quest.
Think about a happy moment in your life. Maybe you were watching a golden sunset on a quiet beach, feeling the breeze and the soft sand beneath your feet. If the water was a little less vibrant or if the waves were a little bit more silent, would the moment still be beautiful?
Probably yes. That’s what happens in your life as well.
You’re striving for perfection, but in reality, less than what you consider to be ideal can still be beautiful, miraculous, and mesmerizing.
The world doesn’t need your perfection, it needs your imperfection.— Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley and trainer of 7 Days to Happiness Quest
Try this today
As a self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist” herself, Kristina encourages you to try out a mind-shifting practice that will help transform your thinking: allowing yourself not to be perfect just for one day.
When you catch yourself desiring to be the absolute best at anything and everything — the absolute best at the work assignment, or the absolute best at that date tonight, stop for a moment. Remind yourself that, at least for today, you don’t have to be perfect. And maybe it gives you so much peace that you’ll try tomorrow as well.
2. Use the Power of the Sucky Moments | Dr. Neeta Bhushan
“That sucks, now what?” asked Dr. Neeta Bhushhan, performance coach and bestselling author, at Mindvalley’s Supercoach Event 2022 in Tallinn, Estonia.
One big lesson to learn on how to overcome perfectionism is what to do when life happens, and how to normalize and grow from the sucky moments that you go through. The thing that most people start doing is trying to be perfect, so they won’t “suck” anymore.
However, you can never learn from being perfect. But what you can do to learn is build the audacious resiliency to increase, what Dr. Neeta Bhushan calls, your bounce factor (how fast you can recover from a sucky moment).
Can you be comfortable with being uncomfortable?— Dr. Neeta Bhushan, performance coach and bestselling author of Emotional Grit
Try this today
Dr. Neeta Bhushan recommends an embodiment practice on how to overcome perfectionism and anxiety. This will build up your bounce factor:
- Bring on a moment that sucked for you.
- How did it feel? Can you recall all the terrible emotions and invite them to be present with you?
- Why did it suck? Think about all the reasons and say them out loud.
- Start laughing out loud to activate your vagus nerve. This helps to move the energy.
- Sit down and integrate the experience. Take a few deep breaths and let it go.
You can repeat this practice as many times as you want, working through all the sucky moments you’ve experienced. Or the ones that hurt you the most and made you want to be perfect. You’ll learn that you don’t have to strive for perfection; you just have to grow and move forward with each one of these moments.
3. Start Small but Start | Jimmy Naraine
In Mindvalley’s Course Pro Quest, Jimmy Naraine emphasizes the idea that putting pressure on yourself to do things perfectly leads you to procrastination. When you never feel like it’s the right time, you don’t take the necessary steps towards your goals.
This is when perfectionism is sabotaging you. You set yourself huge goals, but you actually never feel ready or good enough to work for them.
When it comes to how to overcome perfectionism and procrastination, Jimmy advises to always start small but start and be consistent. It’s easier to have huge expectations of yourself but not take any action, thinking you are not good enough now.
It’s nice to say to yourself that ‘one day I will do this, one day I will do that.’ And it’s nice to lie to yourself that there is a chance, and there is hope that you will do it if you don’t start now.— Jimmy Naraine, trainer of Mindvalley’s Course Pro Quest
Try this today
You will handle your own insecurities by starting small, but starting at this moment. And taking a step each day toward your biggest dreams will help you learn, grow, and become even more capable of achieving them all.
This the knowledge and tools you gain from taking small actions, you can ultimately get closer to your massive expectations.
4. Believe in the Power of I Am Enough | Marisa Peer
Marisa Peer, renowned psychotherapist and trainer of Mindvalley’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest, teaches the power of knowing that you are enough in this very moment.
Knowing that you are enough doesn’t make you do less, but it makes you recognize that you’re worth more.— Marisa Peer, trainer of Mindvalley’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest
Truly believing in your enoughness will support your journey on how to overcome perfectionism, especially when it comes to your relationships. Because what connects us to people is our vulnerability. People who are trying to be perfect are often alone.
Why? When you’re trying to be perfect, you don’t show up authentically. It’s like building a thick wall between you and the person you want to connect with. Think about someone who loves you; wouldn’t it hurt if they didn’t know who you truly are?
According to Marisa, you should stop trying to convince the world that you are perfect, that you are enough. You can start by convincing yourself. And once you do that, you won’t even need someone else to tell you this, but you will probably attract them anyhow.
What happens is that, most often, you’re waiting for someone to make you feel loved, so you try to show up as the perfect person. But then, even if you meet a partner that will tell you all the things you thought you wanted to hear, you might not believe them in the end. Because imposter syndrome kicks in.
Try this today
Tell your mind as often as you can that you are enough, and it will follow. Then you’ll realize that people like other people who are real, not perfect. As Marisa beautifully puts it, “I’m flawed, you’re flawed. There goes a flawed person having a flawed relationship with another flawed person.”
You don’t have to achieve perfection to be loved. You can just start with yourself. And the fastest way to love yourself is starting now.
5. Leave Room for the Authentic You | Petra Kolber
In an episode on The Mindvalley Podcast, mindset coach Petra Kolber talks about how your view on perfectionism is the one helping you let go of what is no longer serving you.
You tend to magnify what’s going wrong and minimize what’s working well.— Petra Kolber, mindset coach
When thinking about how to overcome perfectionism, it’s important to first conclude what you associate perfectionism with. What does it bring in you? Is it play, curiosity, and a sense of bringing value into this world?
Or is it draining you, sucking the joy out of anything you are doing, and creating self-doubt?
Try this today
Petra points out that it’s important to remember how you only learn from failures, not from perfection. So separate yourself from what happens in your life. The job you didn’t get, the break-up you went through, the presentation going badly — they were all new opportunities for learning and growth.
Instead of getting stuck into perfectionism paralysis, you will be able to ascend in your journey. And instead of unconsciously trying to control situations, you surrender to the flow of life and let things happen organically.
As Petra reminds us, perfectionism is rooted in the desire for control. However, it also leaves no room for creativity, authenticity, and the real you.
Connect to the Perfectly Imperfect You
When you truly embody the idea that you don’t have to be perfect, you can really let go of the burden of perfectionism. And this way, you can let yourself be perfectly flawed and perfectly human.
You might find that a little guidance on your journey of self-love and acceptance has never hurt anybody. And if you’re ready to take it, check out a new book by Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life.
Go on and explore the journey of how to be the most authentic version of yourself. And that will always be the perfect you. Welcome in.