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5 Strategies To Overcome Perfection

Written by: Victor Mosconi, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

I used to hate myself for not being perfect. I mean, really hate myself, I was a pro at it. I could have picked up an Olympic gold medal if it had been an event.

Why? Because I didn’t have the perfect chiseled, muscular body. Because I wasn’t perfect in my work. And because I wasn’t perfect in having my life together.

In fact, you name any area of my life back then and I probably beat myself up about it for not being faultless.

Self-loathing

I couldn’t stand to look at myself physically. Not my hair, not my nose, not my arms, chest or legs even. I only saw flaws and imperfections. I could never believe anybody when they would complement me.

I constantly worked to change who I was to be more acceptable. I would work on my appearance in regards to my clothing. I didn’t feel I would ever have the ideal face or body, so I would fake the illusion through clothing to give the appearance of being flawless. I thought it would get me closer to being seen and accepted as perfect.

I couldn’t see anything good in my work as a teacher, I would only see the flaws. If a lesson plan didn’t fully work, not only had I failed, but I knew others would see me as less than I should be. I couldn’t appreciate the work I did unless it was a full success.

But even then, I wouldn’t share any of it with my co-workers because I knew it wasn’t to the excellent quality compared to their work. Their lessons always seemed better than mine. Their lessons were more effective and had better results. They were perfect.

Everyone was better than me. Looked better than me, did better than me and they were perfect, where I couldn’t even come close. It literally ate me up. I kept trying to be flawless in everyone else’s eyes and in what I felt everyone else expected and wanted.

Perfection is what everyone aspires to be and to have! Isn’t that true? I’d see it everywhere, on TV, in ads, on social media, in how everyone talks. So to be good enough, that’s what I had to achieve.

Drive for Perfection

Over the years, my stress for achieving perfection and being accepted increased. My disappointment in myself for not achieving perfection increased, and my self-hate of my incompetence, and inability to be flawless continued to grow. Yet, my drive to be ideal didn’t ease up.

I pushed myself harder to be flawless in how I looked and would get frustrated when something as simple as my hair not looking impeccable would make me upset and I would hate myself because I still wasn’t perfect.

I would break down when a lesson plan didn’t work the way I wanted it to. I would see myself as a failure when my students didn’t do well on a test. And all I could think of was what a horrible person I was for not being the perfect teacher.

I dropped into despair and depression. I began to have difficulty seeing the point of doing anything. No matter what I did, I was never perfect, never good enough, so what’s the point.

Perfection is self-destructive because you will attribute more blame, judgment, and criticism toward yourself for not being perfect or achieving perfection.

I felt if I wasn’t perfect, I would never be good enough. But I never could achieve perfection.

My inability to ever be good enough continued to grow my mindset. My struggle at never being flawless grew stronger each day.

Learning about Myself

The drive for perfection is about avoidance in having to feel, experience, and appreciate the realities of life which just creates denial. You don’t want to accept life as it is, so you deny it by trying to achieve perfection.

I didn’t want to accept myself. I didn’t see myself as good enough. I couldn’t appreciate my own appearance for what it is.

I didn’t want to accept my work as what it is: good enough for my students. Even with me working to improve it, it wasn’t good enough. It was this vicious cycle: I wasn’t good enough, I needed to be better for others, but I couldn’t be perfect, so I wasn’t good enough, but needed to be better, and so on.

I finally hit a point where I questioned if this is what life is all about. I kept asking myself if this was what life was meant to be? Questioning myself on if I was a good person.

And even as I stated yes I am a good person, and acknowledged that life has to be more than this struggle for perfection, I then questioned why I couldn’t see myself as good enough.

And I asked myself, why do I hate myself so much?

I finally decided to go see a therapist and figure out what was wrong with me.

It was eye-opening, as she asked me questions about why I hated myself, and where this need to be perfect came from. We dove deeper into my mindset and perceptions to understand that due to my own lack of self-worth, and inability to appreciate myself due to early comments in my childhood. If I earned a ‘B’ in a class, I was asked, why didn’t I earn an ‘A’. If I earned an ‘A-‘, I was asked why didn’t I earn an ‘A+’? If I earned that ‘A+’, then the attention was directed at a different class and the question and started all over. Never appreciating what I had achieved.

Due to this and other experiences, I would seek out the approval of others to know I had achieved the acceptable level. I would push myself to for others acceptance of me.


And I felt the only way to be accepted was through being perfect. Because at that time, I only would fall short and not be good enough, so being perfect was the only option.

But, I was trying to attain something that didn’t exist. I was seeking approval of what was acceptable to everyone else but I hadn't included myself in what was acceptable.

And in pushing to achieve what others wanted, expected and valued, I only deteriorated into a mindset of self-hate and disappointment. Only seeing flaws, mistakes and being unworthy for anyone, including myself.

Growing in Self-Appreciation

Little by little through work with my therapist, I learned to identify what I valued, what I enjoyed, and what I wanted in my life and for my life. I learned that I would compare myself to everyone else and I never saw myself as good enough. So, I had to work to be better, to be perfect, but because I was going off of what I perceived others' expectations to be, I was chasing something I didn’t want and could never be.

I learned that perfection is a lie. Perfection is unattainable. Nothing and no one is perfect. And knowing that undeniable truth was (and still is) a good thing because it removed the pressure of trying to attain the unattainable.

Perfection is toxic. It’s toxic because you focus so much on trying to achieve being flawless or having a need for unhealthy excellence that you lose sight of everything else about you and around you. It becomes self-destructive. It is addictive.

Perfection is addictive because once you start down that path, you notice the flaws more than you see what’s good or even the whole of the product, relationship, or experience and most definitely in yourself.

I realized that I needed to focus on what I appreciated about myself and that if I wanted to be a better person, I needed to accept who I was and grow from there. Learning to appreciate me was difficult. But my therapist challenged me to start seeing physical features that I liked first. Then to see my qualities and character.

The biggest challenge was to push other peoples’ views and voices out of my head to actually appreciate myself. But slowly I started to appreciate my true self. Not perfect, not flawless, but appreciative of who I am and of my qualities and character.

Imperfection is normal. Flaws are normal. But those flaws don’t take away from the amazing wonder of who I am and the qualities of what I do and am creating.

5 Strategies to Overcome Perfection

Strategies I learned to help overcome perfection:

  • Focus and work toward your own healthy achievement and growth. Strive for improvement, but recognize the bigger picture. You can strive to do well, and improve on what you’re creating, but also know when it’s good enough. Ask yourself, how much time do you have for this project? Who is this end result for? What is the purpose of this creation?

  • Remind yourself this is not a competition with others. Your own growth and improvement are not to outdo others, but for your own benefit. At the same time, don’t look at the achievements of others and don’t focus on your flaws. Your abilities and skills are unique to you. Embrace your abilities and qualities in work and yourself. Ask yourself, are you happy with the results of this project? Do you like the effort you put into your work?

  • Reduce your fears of not being perfect by recognizing realistic and possible outcomes. Determine potential outcomes before you begin a project. Once you’ve achieved that goal, then reflect on if there are any areas that could use improvement. But make sure it’s for the sake of that project and not to achieve a flawless, and imperfect status for the sake of approval. Ask yourself, do the changes you want to make serve the purpose of the project? Will it actually improve the outcome or is it for the approval of others?

  • When mistakes or flaws occur, look at what you can learn from those opportunities. Failure can be seen as a learning moment. Understand the lessons of growth that can be used toward the next opportunities. Ask yourself does that flaw really take away from the overall end result? Does it add a bit of uniqueness? Is it something only you would notice?

  • Acknowledge everyone makes mistakes and nothing is perfect. See the qualities of each person and yourself. This can be tough to do, but take each situation as it comes. Ask yourself, are you doing the best you can with what you have and within this situation? Are you growing and learning?

Perfection is a mindset that is a learned behavior. No one is born or wired to want or expect perfection. You learn this mindset due to others' expectations of you and for you, and what you learn to believe is important.

But you can change this mindset and reduce the desire for perfection by focusing on your growth and development and accepting and appreciating yourself.

I made the change when I genuinely thought I couldn’t and you can too. Learning to appreciate yourself is the first step.


Follow me on Instagram, and visit my website for more info!

 

Victor Mosconi, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Victor Mosconi, is a PhD Candidate in Psychology, with a Master’s in Psychology of Leadership Development and Coaching, a Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and founder of Imposter Solution Coach. Through his life-long experience with imposter syndrome, his psychology background, and coaching skills, Victor specializes in supporting up-and-coming women leaders and entrepreneurs in overcoming their self-doubt and imposter thoughts to develop a mindset of self-appreciation and strong self-belief. Take his quiz on his website and discover what level of impostor syndrome you experience.


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