Self-awareness is the first step.
There have been several periods in my life where I've 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 I practiced over and over again back in high school because I wanted it to be absolutely perfect.
- That first class I had to teach as a student teacher where I prepared a ton of extra material to be sure I had enough.
We all find ourselves in these kind of situations at some point. Though perfectionism can seem like a good thing to strive for at times, the reality is that often times striving for perfectionism is what actually holds us back from moving forward.
Let's say you have a research paper to write for school. You want everything to be perfect, so you keep looking up more sources to reference in the paper to make sure you've explained and referenced everything perfectly. Because you're striving to 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 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. Then, we find ourselves only reading and attending workshops on relationships to become better, but we never actually date.
We're 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.
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're merely terrified about failure. We're scared to be disappointed. We're scared to be hurt again.
When we're 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 aren't worthy and that we're 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, and that we're still loved and accepted by the universe.
We can only truly learn, grow, and become better if we 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 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's still important to do your homework. Meaning, if you have a paper for school 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 you feel you need to do, because just winging it completely isn't necessarily going to help matters.
My point is to be mindful about getting too immersed in just studying and never doing. Just do it.
If you want to get some real-life relationship experience to figure out how to be better in relationships, get yourself out there. Go out with friends. Follow through with the date you were asked out on. If you want to write, sit yourself in front of a pen and paper. Ask yourself: How can I put myself in a place that's going to force me to act? And then do it.
Ultimately, it's important to remember that the universe is here to support you, no matter what. If you mess up, or if someone criticizes you or hurts your feelings, tomorrow always brings another day filled with endless new opportunities and lessons to nurture you.