I keep seeing the quote, “Progress over perfection” all over my Instagram feed. I know the people posting and sharing it mean well, but I don’t know a single perfectionist that looks at that and says to themselves, “You know…I might just try that and see how it works! Progress over perfection! YES!” My estimate is that it lasts about 45 seconds.
Perfectionism isn’t a choice.
Real, true perfectionism is a compulsion to be better and do better, but it’s coming from a place of feeling insecure, unworthy, and above all, an attempt to avoid judgement. Take it from me, a recovering perfectionist, there is no “progress” unless it’s faster and of higher quality than someone else’s work. It sounds awful, but it’s the truth (and if you’ve read any of my work, you know that I speak a lot of truth).
I can accept that for a huge portion of my life, I was a perfectionist. I wasn’t happy unless it was perfect. I actually was very ticked off at myself for graduating lab school with 97%. I don’t mean that as a brag, but a reality. Who graduates with 97% and calls that a failure? A perfectionist.
I told myself that I was pursuing excellence. That I had high standards because I really cared about my work product and that I was a professional. That was my fear speaking.
Perfectionism isn’t excellence. It isn’t striving for growth. It’s fear.
Perfectionism is rooted deep. It’s often a coping mechanism we picked up a child to keep us safe. And you have to remember that “safe” to a child is simpler than what we would define it as an adult. Our brains are still very early in development and so we don’t have the rational brain to give us context to our experiences. It doesn’t have to be traumatic. Even if you had a happy childhood, if you are a perfectionist, there’s something hidden in the depths. I know because that was me.
You cannot logic, quote affirmations, or rationalize away perfectionism.
You need to change the meanings your brain made as a child. You need to go into the subconscious where it’s stored and look at it through fresh adult eyes. Is it easy? Well, the process to identify and re-interpret is easy – it’s a simple has having a session – but the inner work of assimilating it can be hard. If you’ve lived your whole life with a drive to be more and do more out of fear, it takes self-awareness to choose something different. Perfectionism isn’t a badge of honour like our society makes it out to be and it certainly takes its toll.
I’ve done a HELL OF A LOT OF WORK, to put myself into the perfectionism recovery category. Don’t get me wrong though, that work has been instrumental to where I am today and was 100% worth it.
Though I do agree that we should always focus on “Progress over perfection”, until we’ve done the inner work to get over our perfectionism, it will never be anything more than a sweet Instagram caption that we keep scrolling by.
If perfectionism is working for you, great; you can stop reading here. I bet it isn’t though. I bet if you really think long and hard about it, it’s hurting you in one way or another. How long do you think you’d last if you were more focused on progress and less on perfection? 45 seconds? 5 minutes? Until just before you go to hit send on something and then you start to second-guess everything and spend your lunch break re-doing it???
If you’re ready to TRULY embrace the “progress over perfection” motto, let’s chat! The affirmations aren’t going to change your behaviour. Hitting the heart button on an Instagram post isn’t going to change your behaviour. Only doing the deep dive to the root is going to change your behaviour. Is today the day?