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The Value of Imperfection

Image of stone steps and wooden fence in green setting. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, imperfection, Katherine Broadway

Everywhere we look, it seems we're being told to pursue perfection in all that we are and all that we do. The messages tell us that anything less is unacceptable. Turns out, that's far from the truth. Being less than perfect is perfectly okay.

Research shows that being a perfectionist has a negative effect on many areas in one’s life. The pursuit of perfection can cause serious health problems, and contributes to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, fatigue and even early mortality.

Some of you are going to be tempted to stop reading right now because you don't think you are perfectionists. After all, you are fully aware of your imperfections. You make mistakes every day and acknowledge them, so how, you're asking, can this article apply to you?

Actually, one of the characteristics of a perfectionist is seeing all your imperfections and focusing on them to the point that they overshadow your


Characteristics of a Perfectionist

Being a perfectionist does not mean that you do everything right. It means holding yourself to an impossible standard. Even when others consider your work excellent, you are dissatisfied and criticize yourself. You are brutal with yourself when you make a mistake, or simply think that you did. The standard you live by is the “mythical perfect.”

Perfectionism is developed early in life by children living in a family where their needs are not adequately met. Because of the early genesis, people do not realize that they are a perfectionist. They are astonished when a friend, family member, or co-worker points it out. Their usual response is, “How can you think I am a perfectionist, when I never get anything perfect?”

This response is an indication that they are, in fact, a perfectionist. They believe that no matter what they do, it is never good enough, even if they do recognize that they have done something well. At times, they will point to an area in their life that is a mess or needs improvement as a way to prove their inadequacies.

These people believe that what little success they obtain is because of their high standards. This belief nurtures the Harsh Inner Critic and gives it freedom to belittle them and push them to do more, work harder, or be better.

In reality, being a perfectionist can cause you to be less productive and successful because of the anxiety it causes. Therefore, letting go of perfectionism can contribute to a happier life.

1. Leaves you free to grow and learn:

It is necessary to make mistakes in the learning process. By denying themselves the chance to make these mistakes, perfectionists essentially expect themselves to know something before they begin to learn it. Being imperfect allows you to work to learn a skill and to practice in order to develop what you have learned. The need to be perfect takes the joy out of learning and growing.

2. Makes it possible to learn through experience:

Sometimes life does not go as you want or expect. You get disappointed and you disappoint others. You do not know how to handle new experiences and you get angry and disappointed with yourself. Each experience you go through and how you respond adds to your resources and problem-solving skills. The need to be perfect prevents you from processing the experience and learning from it by redirecting your mental resources into self-criticism and regret.

3. Opens the way for connect and respect:

It is very difficult to connect with yourself and with others when perfection is the standard. Everyone makes mistakes, but your Harsh Inner Critic tells you something is wrong with you for doing so. This leads you to constantly judge yourself and others against your high personal standards. Being imperfect leads to acceptance of yourself and others. Being kind to yourself and to others will cause your relationships to be more satisfying.

4. Allows curiosity:

Curiosity is a state of active interest and wanting to know more about something. It creates openness to new and unfamiliar experiences which provide the opportunity to experience discovery, joy and delight.

5. Opens the way to enjoy the journey:

Life is a journey of exploration, learning and growing. Being able to make mistakes, go in different directions, be lost and not knowing what to do can make life exciting, fun, and adventurous. Self-criticism and judgment take the pleasure out of life. It creates discontent and disappointment.

Mistakes can teach you. Mistakes can be interesting. Mistakes can be funny. Learning to find the humor– the great story -in these experiences brings joy to your life.

6. Makes life more interesting:

So many of the struggles we experience in life are not necessary and are not

helpful. Instead of criticizing yourself and wishing you could be different, become interested in yourself. Learn who you are, why you make mistakes and how you are unique. Being a perfectionist prevents you from knowing who you really are and what your true worth is. It takes the fun and joy out of life. It will take your happiness and joy away.

6. Lowers anxiety:

Take a moment to think about what makes you anxious. You will probably find that much of what you discover is caused by the fear of making a mistake, not being good enough and not knowing what to do. Being able to relax, ask for help and accept that life is full of uncertainty, not knowing and that you are not alone will reduce anxiety.

Change Is Possible

There is something you can do to change the impossible standards you believe are necessary. In the short term, it will feel frightening and be hard. In the long run, it will free you to be more of who you are and to enjoy life even more than you may already. Do you struggle with a Harsh Inner Critic that tells you nothing you do id good enough? I can help you create new ideas inside that allow you to be more relaxed in your life. Call me at (919)881-2001.

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