Why Striving For Perfection Is Actually Holding You Back

Posted by on December 31, 2016 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living with 0 Comments
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By Jenn Hand | Tiny Buddha

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~Anna Quindlen

I used to strive for perfection in every aspect of my life. I thought perfection would make me “acceptable” to others.

Deep down, I felt inadequate, insecure, and not enough. And subconsciously, I decided that if I could just achieve perfection with myself, my body, and my life, than I would finally feel the deep love and inner acceptance I longed for inside of myself.

As a kid, I demanded a perfect report card: only straight A’s would suffice. I spent hours upon hours studying in high school and college, doing extra credit, attending office hours any chance I could get, all in a desperate attempt to maintain a 4.0 GPA.

As a young adult, I agonized over what career path to pick, wanting to pick the perfect job that would be my dream career. I was desperate to be the best, wanting to be the perfect employee, and giving nothing less than 150 percent in every project I worked on and presentation I did.

I was terrified to make a mistake and required excellence in every task. I was afraid of others judging me. I didn’t see it my mistakes as learning experiences; I saw them as a way of others seeing what I didn’t want them to see: that I was flawed, imperfect, and somehow not enough.

I demanded perfection in every part of my life. But the area I struggled the most with was the desire for body perfection.

As a teenager, I decided that 110 pounds was the “perfect” body. I spent years trying to whittle my body down with exercise, diets, and restriction in an attempt to get the figure I deemed flawless.

The pressure I put on myself to be a size 2, to eat only 1200 calories a day, to spend at least 45 minutes at the gym daily was agonizing. I lived and breathed this obsession of needing and wanting to be perfect.

Looking back, I can see how detrimental this drive was to living and enjoying my life. In my chase for perfection, I put unnecessary pressure on myself to be something I was not. I wasted hours and hours trying to be someone different and wishing I was somewhere other than where I currently was.

But the biggest lesson of all was that in my quest for perfection, I wasn’t really living.

The reality is that striving for perfection holds us back. We spend so much time doing, striving, achieving, in an endless quest to get it all “perfect,” and we end up missing out on what life is really about: being in each moment and experiencing life where we are, as we are.

I vividly remember New Year’s Eve in 2007. One of the dear friends I had met living abroad in Thailand was in town and wanted to see me. She wanted to do dinner with a group of people, then head out dancing for the ball drop.

I agonized over this decision to go or not. I remember wanting to meet up with her, but feeling so awful about my body not being “perfect” that I didn’t want to go out and have to “hide” my body in baggy clothes.

It pains me to say that I didn’t go. I gave up a chance to catch up with this dear friend, to have fun with others, and to dance the night away because I was unhappy with my body. I stayed home that night and ran on the treadmill in my parents’ basement.

It was the ultimate low in my quest for body perfection: I decided that I needed to burn off what I had eaten that day and work to “fix” myself into a smaller size.

The anxiety I felt about eating more calories at a restaurant, when I already felt “fat” in my body, pushed me to stay home and run on the treadmill. It was a moment of life that I missed out on because I was desperately pursing a perfect body.

When we’re caught up in the pursuit of achieving the perfect body, finding the perfect mate, landing the perfect job, or being the perfect person, it actually hinders us from seeing how beautifully our journey is unfolding right before our eyes.

Perfection detracts you from the incredible life path you’re on and prevents you from seeing the gifts that are always in front of us. So the next time you get caught up in the endless pursuit of perfection, here are three things to remember:

1. Perfection isn’t attainable.

We try so hard to achieve an ideal in our lives that is next to impossible. There really is no perfect body, perfect job, or perfect life. It isn’t possible to have our lives be happy, joyous, and 100 percent problem free. Unexpected tragedies happen. Something doesn’t turn out as you hoped it would. Someone you love disappoints you.

When you understand that perfection isn’t actually something you can achieve and maintain forever, you can let go of the never-ending quest for your job, your body, your parenting skills, or your relationship to be perfect.

Letting go of this unattainable goal is a huge sigh of relief. We don’t have to try to be perfect, because it’s impossible anyway! Once we relax into the idea of letting go of perfection, life becomes easier, less stressful, and a lot more fun.

Perfection leaves little room for error and joy, and while life can sometimes be messy, it’s during these times where we learn and grow (and have some adventure along the way).

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