One Simple Practice for Overcoming Perfectionism: A Space for Mistakes

Overcoming perfectionism is a life-long process that begins with letting go of false ideas about ourselves and God. But it also requires concrete, practical steps: and sometimes overcoming perfectionism starts with making mistakes.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who isn’t too bothered by mistakes in general—if so, this post probably isn’t for you 🙂 but if you’re a recovering perfectionist, this simple practice can be a game changer.

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Get Over Your Perfectionism by Doing This

If you struggle to do everything perfectly, if you labour over the last tiny detail of every little thing, if you are afraid to ever show your work to anyone before it has reached complete perfection, you might be a perfectionist.

There’s good news for you, though: help is available. Once you realize that you can still pursue excellence without being a perfectionist, and you give yourself permission to embrace the imperfection that comes with making progress, you can take your next step on the path to recovery: increase production, on a deadline.

Perfectionism is a burden, but it’s also a privilege. If you have an entire essay to write in the next 8 hours, labouring over comma placement in one sentence becomes a privilege you no longer have. If your manager expects 10 reports on his desk by Monday morning, you don’t have the luxury of hours spent formatting margins within 1/8 inch.

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Embracing the Art of Imperfection

Several years ago, I went to an evening of art and wine for ladies, where our host had arranged for us to make Jesse Tree ornaments. She had done the hard work of drawing all the art. Our job was fairly simple: we were to cut out the little drawings and glue them onto wooden ornaments.

Despite the kindergarten-level simplicity of the task, it was remarkably difficult to do perfectly. In fact, at one point she lamented that one of mine had been glued on crooked. I was frustrated at myself for messing up something so easy—but I had begun to work on letting go of perfectionism.

My response was that I knew it, but I wasn’t going to fix it. I forced myself to accept my mistake and move on. [Does it still bother me a little every year when we pull out the ornaments? You bet. But is it also a reminder to accept imperfection? Absolutely.]

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You Can Be Excellent Without Being a Perfectionist

If you are not a perfectionist, this post may not make much sense. (As ever, it’s important to know where you are to know where you need to aim. If you don’t suffer with perfectionism, the advice below probably doesn’t apply to you.)

As a Christian, I’ve really struggled with sorting out my perfectionism. Doesn’t the scripture exhort us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”? If I want things to be perfect, isn’t that a good thing?

Turns out, perfection isn’t that simple. God’s perfection and my perfection are different things. Continue Reading