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Image / Self / Advice

Striving to be perfect is holding you back


By Niamh Ennis
22nd Jan 2022
Striving to be perfect is holding you back

Progress is perfect and that’s good enough for now.

Everything around us feels a little heavy right now. We’re surrounded by bad news, and sad news, wherever we turn. Add to the mix that it’s (still) January and it’s hard not to question will life ever feel good or normal again.

Everything externally feels messy, so we’re desperate to try to have everything internally – where we believe we have more control – feel better. But even that comes with its own peculiar challenges, as we battle that ever-present feeling of not being able or not being good enough.
When I hear people saying that they don’t feel good enough I worry. Not just for them, but because I worry that they might not even understand the full extent of what being ‘good enough’ actually means.

Being good enough

So, what exactly is it? What does it look like? How does it feel? Let me ask you to consider what being ‘good enough’ would look like and feel like for you? Because truthfully that’s all that matters. We can sometimes forget, that as we grow and evolve, so too does our definition of feeling and being good enough. The goalposts keep changing, which is in fact what should happen if we are to continue to aim higher and strive to be better.
However, being good enough is also inextricably linked with being perfect, and more notably, with perfectionism itself, which is where we have the potential to run adrift.

Shame

Acclaimed author, Brené Brown, has written extensively on this topic of perfectionism, in which she explores the notion that where it exists, shame is never far behind. In fact, she goes so far as to say that ‘shame is the birthplace for perfectionism’, and who would argue with Brené? Yet our relationship with shame is such a complex one. When we feel shame, we run from it or avoid dealing with it, simply by shifting our focus and trying so hard to be perfect and to achieve perfectionism. We convince ourselves that everything will be so much better when we are perfect. We are unable to entertain the idea, that we might indeed be flawed, blemished or weak because that would lead us to believe that we are unlovable, unworthy and simply not good enough.

What is it we are so afraid of?

Simply put, we are terrified that if people suspect that we aren’t perfect, they will see the real person hiding in shame and behind it. They might then go on to discover all the things we have been about so carefully concealing; how sad we feel, how broken and vulnerable we are, how we don’t feel we belong anywhere with anyone, how we feel stuck, how we feel left behind, how much we feel we have failed. And yet I know that every single person reading this has, at some stage or other, experienced this, or perhaps even, felt all of these things. It’s natural. It’s part of growing, of learning and of living.

Perfectionism and not being good enough happens when you are driven by an intense need to please others, to gain their approval for them to say ‘you’re doing great, you are good enough, in fact, you’re perfect.’ But until you accept that there is no such thing as perfect then you will constantly be chasing something that doesn’t exist. The perfect partner, the perfect relationship, the perfect family, the perfect career, the perfect body; sorry, but none of these exist in our real everyday life, and certainly not in the form you think they are.

What you are chasing is someone else’s contrived definition of what perfection ‘should be,’ which will always feel like a far cry from what your version of perfect looks like in your life. It will always feel unreachable because it is.

Stay in your lane

This is exactly where the phrase stay in your lane was created for. Ask yourself what is it you really want? Who do you really want to be? What do you need to do to get there? Who can help you and what steps do you need to take? Then put on your blinkers, focus on your own lane and stay there. No peeking over the fence! What everyone else is doing is of absolutely no relevance to you. As you progress, you will move closer to your own definition of perfection and will begin to discover, as you do, that you are indeed more than good enough.

Wanting to be perfect is blocking you

Your constant striving to be perfect, and be deemed good enough, gets in your way more than you know. It stops you from learning, by trying and failing and trying again and doing better. Why? Because you find yourself choosing to do nothing rather than doing something and not getting it right the first time. How many times in the past do you recognise that you did not take a chance or try something new, or were unwilling to step outside of what felt familiar, purely because you were terrified not just of failing, but of being seen to fail?

It’s impossible to please everyone

No matter what you do, you won’t please everyone. There is always someone who will take offence, who will be envious, who won’t want to see you succeed, change or grow. Someone will judge you for doing nothing and someone will judge you for doing too much. As long as you keep trying to please everyone, I promise you that you won’t be able to please anyone.

This is exactly where self-compassion comes in and gives you the permission to do for yourself what feels right and most loving. That’s not to say that it’s the easiest next step, but it’s definitely the most necessary.

Look around you at those that are making strides forward and are not doing it ‘in spite of’ everyone else but because they have chosen to love themselves more and to prioritise their own needs. It is that choice that propels them forward.

When you do this and recognise that you can only influence your own actions and have no control over how others might go on and judge you, mock you or try to get in your way, you will be able to truly connect with your own sense of courage, compassion and strength. That is a beautiful thing and definitely more than good enough.

In the words of the artist Salvador Dali – “have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it!”

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Writer. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh is currently accepting applications for her 2022 The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme. She is also host of the TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or visit niamhennis.com.