For some time, I had this sinking feeling that my curiosity and creativity may have peaked at age ten. Back then, I felt I was full of stories to tell, pictures to paint and inventions to be discovered. My audience deemed everything I wrote to be a masterpiece, while everything I painted was a Picasso. As I got older and expectations grew, the bar raised. Yet, I felt like I could not keep up with it. All of those years of unconditional validation began to weigh on me, and I found myself wondering, how can I possibly compete with my talented 10-year-old alter-ego? I began to notice irony in the fact that this perfectionism had progressively presented itself as more of an inhibiting force. I found that I had less motivation to create something of my own or try something new, for fear that the results would be anything less than perfect.
Dr. Brené Brown speaks about how “perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows perfectionism hampers achievement and is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis, or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds.” Hence, throughout the years, I have tried to challenge myself to partake in activities that I do not excel in, but that I enjoy, regardless. For instance, I am a terrible bowler, yet I have pushed myself on several occasions to go bowling with friends, as it is an activity that I find great fun in, regardless of the outcome of my score.
For years, I have been encouraging clients to challenge perfectionistic tendencies and embrace an activity or create something that brings them joy, despite the risk of “failing” at it.
I’ve more recently noticed an emerging trend in the midst of the COVD-19 pandemic and months of isolation. I’ve found that some clients have been expressing even more pressure to master certain hobbies, create works of art, get in shape, or accomplish everything on their “bucket list,” now that they feel there is the time and space to do so. This in turn, has appeared to create more stress for some, with less inclination to try something new that one feels they cannot fully master. Even the popular online classes called “MASTERCLASS” encourage users to learn from the experts and become the best. Here are a couple of tips for using this time to find fulfillment, even if that means embracing your imperfections.
- Practice self-compassion.
If there was ever a time to be kind and patient with oneself, it is in the midst of a pandemic and human rights movement. Remind yourself that you do not have to be a top chef or write that flawless piano sonata. A good litmus test- if you are no longer enjoying it, let it sit for now.
- Embrace mediocrity.
Try utilizing some positive self-talk to encourage the idea that sometimes “good enough” is enough. Practice finding joy in the experience vs. the results.
- Find acceptance and gratitude.
As the saying goes, no one succeeds without some failure first. Finding acceptance in this notion may help mitigate procrastination and self-doubt, allowing one to access more gratitude in the process.
Karen Chuzmir, LCSW, is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in incorporating self-care into your life, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.