How to Let Go of Perfection and Enjoy Being ‘Okay’ at Things

October 25, 2016 • Rehack Team


Do you want to stop striving for perfection?

Maybe your first thought is “no”, because you were taught to aim high and you equate perfectionism with hard work. But picture a kid beating himself up for getting 96% on a test instead of 100%. He doesn’t just have high standards — he can’t enjoy his own success.

Were you that child? Perfectionism often starts young. However, unhappiness, even depression, is a huge downside of it. You might also suffer from other negative effects.

Maybe you can’t sleep because you’re thinking about work. Or you procrastinate, either because things aren’t “just so,” or because you’re afraid to fail. You may even have relationship issues because you focus too much on their work, or try to hold others to your impossible standards.

If you stop being a perfectionist, you’ll feel better physically, too. Working long hours under stress can contribute to insomnia, and lack of sleep is a risk factor in conditions like heart attacks and strokes.

You can let go of perfectionism and still be successful — as well as happier and healthier.

See the Forest for the Trees

Accept that at least some parts of your life will include moments of being “good enough.” If you get bogged down in the details, you lose sight of the big picture.

When you’re planning a big family dinner, attendees won’t focus on whether the napkins match the tablecloths. Your co-workers only care that you do your job well enough for them to do theirs. Not that you stumbled over a word or two during the presentation. Every little thing can’t be perfect all of the time.

Embrace Your Mistakes

Some of the most successful people in the world have failed spectacularly, but they learned from their mistakes instead of wallowing in self-doubt. This “fail and learn” model became so big in Silicon Valley that entrepreneurs founded a conference called FailCon, which now operates in cities around the world.

Instead of being hard on yourself when you fail, think of how you’ll do things differently in the future.

Keep Moving Forward

Fear of failure plus the need to succeed can create a trap that leaves perfectionists stuck in the status quo. To get moving again, think about what you most need to do to accomplish a goal. You’ll probably realize that only about 80 percent of the things you’ve been focusing on are necessary to succeed — the other 20 percent are details that won’t ultimately affect anything.

Celebrate Your Victories

You expect to always succeed, so when you do, it’s a given. And you’re still never satisfied. History is full of celebrated people who never truly enjoy their successes. In a 1980 interview, even John Lennon said he wanted to remake every record the Beatles recorded.

Nobody is happy all of the time, but if you don’t stop to celebrate when things go well, what was the point of your hard work?

Take Care of Yourself

Practicing self-care will help you along the way as you try to stop being a perfectionist. Take breaks at work to re-energize. Chatting to colleagues — about work or anything, really — gives you a different perspective.

Don’t let personal relationships fall by the wayside. Carve out chunks of time for hobbies and interests. You might even try new ones because they sound like fun, without worrying about whether you’ll be great at them.

Letting go of perfection doesn’t require you to stop doing your best. It just means that your health and happiness are more important to you than going after something that’s unattainable. You might see the value of being “okay.”