If you are anything like me, you hold yourself and others to ridiculously high standards that no one can ever meet. Years ago, perfectionism was respected and admired, but now it is seen for what it is: unhealthy. I have adopted a new way of living: progress, not perfection. As long as I am working on it and trying my best (based on my circumstances), I don’t have to get it just right.
Perfect Isn’t Possible
It is not possible for us to do, think, act, and be perfect all the time. We may excel at some things, but in others, we won’t. Therefore, holding ourselves up to such unattainable goals is counterproductive. When we fall short of that perfection goal line, we feel bad about ourselves, which makes it worse.
I don’t honestly know why we all strive to be perfect 100% of the time, but we do. We want our health to be exemplary, our work flawless, our parenting admirable, and our relationships smooth and easy, but it’s unrealistic to think that way.
Many things affect our ability to be good at something. If I am in pain one day, I may not be as great at my work. If someone is in a bad mood, they may not be that great in their relationship. On any given day, we may be great, or we may be terrible.
It doesn’t matter what we strive to be good at, losing weight, painting, writing, or athletics; we will have good days and bad, and our progress may not even move in a straight line. Accepting that makes it easier. Resisting it will make it harder.
Progress is Enough for Me
The AA program preaches progress, not perfection, as its mantra. Dealing with a challenge like substance abuse is hard enough without heaping on tons of guilt if you fail. The AA founders knew this, which is why they preach progress, not perfection, and I love that!
As part of my coaching services, I have joined a Facebook group for women in relationships. I offer help and support where I can. Recently, I shared a post about how it is so much nicer to be in a relationship with someone in a program working on themselves like I am. I respect Glenn’s commitment to AA and bettering himself. So even if he doesn’t get it all right, at least he is trying, which is enough for me.
How to Move to a Progress, Not Perfection Mindset
The first step is becoming aware of your thoughts and how often you beat yourself up when you don’t do something perfectly. Mindfulness training and meditation help a lot.
Once you start to hear those little “digs” about not measuring up, you can immediately replace those thoughts with something kinder like “at least I am doing my best” or “I tried, and that is enough.” I find that using the word “yet” helps a lot. For example, “I am not there yet, but I am working on it.”
Changing old habits takes time and effort. But, with practice, you will improve and reach a point where you allow yourself to be what you are without any unnecessary pressure.
How do you practice progress, not perfection?