Mastering the Art of Imperfection: How I Am Learning to Let Go of My Perfectionism

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I was born a perfectionist and it is something I have fought with for the better part of my life. I believe my need to be perfect has kept me from going out and truly embracing everything that life has to offer. I have often wondered why I expected more from myself than I would ever expect from my friends and family. For me, anything short of what I deemed was perfect was like a Scarlet Letter I wore for everyone else to see.

A few months ago I was watching an interesting documentary on the masterpiece painters. They told the tales of how it took some of the painters years and years of painting and repainting a particular portrait or landscape before they felt all was just right--and even then it may not have been right for them. What surprised me was the sheer beauty of their work and yet these great painters were, many times, never satisfied as they always saw the flaws in their own work when no one else could.

That is precisely what I found true with myself-- my need to be perfect was keeping me from ever accomplishing anything I wanted out of life. I would set the bar so high that the minute I fell flat on my face I did what so many others did and that was to give up. Giving up was so much easier than forgiving myself for not being perfect and moving on.

Perfectionism was a crutch, a character flaw for all the world to see, even if no one else saw it, I believe they did. It was what held me back from taking risks and in some way kept me safe and comfortable. If I didn't try, I couldn't fail and if I didn't fail, I was not a failure.

But what if I do fail? Will that be the end of the world? Will I be any less of a person?

Next week as I celebrate my five year anniversary for reclaiming my life and my health, below is a list of what this journey has taught me about accepting my imperfections.

  • I am fallible and I will make mistakes- I am not going to say there isn't a sense of anxiety when I do make mistakes, but the more mistakes I make, the easier it is for me to accept my imperfections. I believe we all learn more from the mistakes we make than we ever learn from doing everything perfectly.
  • Others do not judge me as harsh as I judge myself - I love it when I read on the message boards how members help one another by saying, "Would you ever speak to a friend like that? Then why would you talk about yourself like that?" Letting go of judgment is by far one of the biggest lessons I have learned from you all. I would certainly never call my friend a 'fat cow' so why is that I would call myself that.
  • Love and accept the body I have- In all honesty, when I embarked on my journey I was doing it for my health, but there was a little hope that when I got to my goal weight I would have the body I had back in my college days 25-30 years ago. That has not happened. I am older. I have had a child and my body is what it is. But one thing I can say, my 20 year old body never ran a marathon either, WOO HOO!
  • Hold your nose, jump in and either, sink or swim-If you said to me five years ago, "Nancy, you are going to have one of the best jobs in the world doing what you have a passion for and that is helping others reach their full potential, I would have said, yeah, right?" But when SparkPeople approached me 18 months ago, I must say not only was I honored but I was scared to death. What if I failed? What if I couldn't live up to their standards? What if I can't do what they ask me to do? And for the first time in my life, I jumped at the opportunity, and while I can't say I haven't made a mistake, I have learned so much about taking risks. I am swimming!

    The past few years have taught me to go out of my comfort zone and as the Nike ad says JUST DO IT! I am taking risks I could have never imagined doing so before I began my journey. In a few short weeks, I will be traveling solo to New Orleans to run in the Rock 'N Roll Mardi Gras Half/Full Marathon. Never would I have pictured myself traveling alone and running with 20 other Spark Friends I have met over the years. This is allowing me to break the mold of perfection and appreciate all the flaws that make me who I am.

    Have you allowed your need for perfection to stand in your way of achieving your goals? Do you judge yourself more harshly than others judge you? What risks would you like to take on in the next year even if it means you run the risk of failing?