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Image / Self / Advice / Health & Wellness

Why you need to stop pursuing perfectionism, according to a transformation coach


By Niamh Ennis
09th Jul 2024
Why you need to stop pursuing perfectionism, according to a transformation coach

In a world that is constantly bombarding us with images of flawless lives, immaculate success stories, and the relentless pursuit of excellence, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of chasing perfection. Whether it’s in our personal lives or professional endeavours, the desire to be perfect can be both alluring and destructive.

The perils of pursuing perfection

Perfection, as the world around us defines it, is an unattainable ideal. It’s a mirage that always seems just out of reach, no matter how hard we push ourselves. The perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect relationship—these are concepts sold to us on social media and in today’s societal standards, but in reality, perfection simply doesn’t exist. It’s also important that we recognise that perfection is subjective, and what one person considers perfect may be far from it for another.

In our quest for our definition of excellence, we often find ourselves chasing perfection, believing it to be the pinnacle of success and happiness. However, this can lead to a host of unintended consequences that can negatively impact various aspects of our lives. Let’s explore what happens when you chase perfection and why it’s important to rethink and amend this mindset.

Signs of increased stress and anxiety
Pursuing perfection can significantly increase stress and anxiety levels. The constant pressure you put on yourself to meet impossibly high standards can leave you feeling overwhelmed and perpetually dissatisfied with your efforts. This stress can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and even more serious health issues.

Fear of failure and procrastination
When perfection is the ultimate goal, the fear of failure becomes increasingly magnified. This fear can lead to procrastination, as you might delay starting or completing tasks out of concern that the end result won’t be flawless. This cycle of procrastination and fear can stifle productivity and hinder personal and professional growth.

Diminished creativity and innovation
This one has plagued me for years! It’s the realisation that perfectionism can really stifle creativity. When you’re overly focused on achieving a perfect outcome, you get so inside your head and can become overly critical of your ideas and very hesitant to take risks. Creativity thrives in an environment where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities. By chasing perfection, you limit your ability to innovate and explore new possibilities.

Strained relationships
It might appear a little obvious but you need to acknowledge that the pursuit of perfection doesn’t just affect you; it impacts all of those around you! Unrealistic expectations can really put a strain on relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. You may even come across as demanding, critical, or controlling leading to tension and conflict. It can also cause you to distance yourself from others out of fear of being judged.

Damaged self-esteem
Unsurprisingly perhaps, perfectionism often leads to a constant sense of inadequacy. No matter how much you achieve, it never feels like enough. This perpetual dissatisfaction can over time erode your self-esteem and self-worth, making it difficult to appreciate your accomplishments and recognise your true value.

Missed opportunities
The fear of not achieving perfection can prevent you from grabbing new opportunities. Whether it’s a job promotion, a new project, or a personal endeavour, the reluctance to take risks can result in missed chances for growth and development. How many of us can relate to that – whereas embracing imperfection allows you to step out of your comfort zone and explore new possibilities – which instantly feels more exciting!

How to break free from the perfectionism trap

The answer lies in embracing imperfection and adopting a mindset of growth and self-acceptance.

Aim for progress, not perfection. Set achievable goals that allow you to grow and learn along the way. It’s so important that you celebrate all of the small victories while also recognising that mistakes are part of the journey.

Be nicer to yourself! Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a friend. Acknowledge your efforts and don’t be so self-critical when things don’t go as planned.

Focus on the process: Shift your focus from the end result to the process. Embrace all of the learning experiences it brings. When you focus on the process, you actually become more resilient and far more adaptable.

Cultivate a growth mindset: Engage with a mindset that views challenges and failures as opportunities for growth. Understand that skills and abilities can be developed over time and that setbacks are in truth, stepping stones to success.

Surround yourself with good people: Build a support network of people you trust who encourage and uplift you. Share your struggles and successes with them and lean on them for guidance and motivation. Don’t feel you have to go it alone!

It’s the imperfections that make you unique and beautiful. So, celebrate your quirks, learn from your mistakes, and chase a life of real authenticity and purpose, rather than an illusion of perfection. In doing so, you’ll find that success is not only more attainable but also far more rewarding. By letting go of the need for perfection, you free yourself to live a deeply more fulfilling, and far more joyful life.
I’ll leave the final words to Audrey Hepburn “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Niamh Ennis is a leading Transformation Coach and Business Mentor who through her private practice, programmes, workshops, and podcast has helped thousands of women to find clarity and confidence to create a life and business that they love. She’s an accredited Leadership & Executive Coach and Lead Coach in  The IMAGE Business Club. Click here to get Niamh’s free copy of ‘5 Mistakes I Made When Starting My Own Business.’

Illustration by Laura Kenny.