The Prison of Perfection

Daily we are bombarded with images of “perfection.”

Every time we turn on the television, open a magazine, or sign into social media, our eyes cannot help but focus on all the perfect bodies, perfect careers, perfect families, pets, vacations, and airbrushed Kardashians.
These images paint a picture of what we’re “supposed” to want, what we should strive to achieve, how we should act, and how we should look.
I’m here to tell you, it’s a trap. 
I used to strive for perfection.
Heck, for the past 12 years I’ve participated in a sport that’s all about perfection! Every day I worked my tail off to be “perfect.”
For who? For a panel of 11 judges.
I know, sounds silly, right? But there was a point where I really thought my life and livelihood depended on it. I really felt my ultimate success was dependent on how perfect these men and women thought I was.
I desperately wanted approval, from judges, my family, friends, colleagues, strangers, you name it.
Eventually it all became too much, and I crashed and burned.
Over the course of the next few years I was able to pick myself back up, and with the help of some amazing individuals to whom I will be forever grateful, I was able to break free of this prison and discover who I really am, what I want and what is important to me.
Letting go of “Perfect” has provided an indescribable feeling of freedom, and I’m a much happier person for it.
 It’s a long process, but here are a few thoughts to help you to begin to  break out of the prison of perfection:
Prison, image 2

1). As my mama used to say “Worry about yourself!

There comes a point where you just have to stop giving a crap what everybody else is doing and just focus on your own journey!
This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy for your friends, family and internet acquaintances when they achieve a new milestone. You just simply cannot compare your personal journey to anyone else’s. You are uniquely you. No one will have the same experience you do.

Plus, you can’t really ever know what someone is going through or what personal battles they’re fighting.

The fitness model with the perfect body? She may be suffering from depression or an eating disorder.
You neighbors with the brand new car and fancy house may be in debt up to their eyeballs.
You friend from high school with the seemingly perfect family (well, at least according to social media)? Her marriage may be on the brink of divorce.
I like to refer to what we see online as “filtered reality.” Of COURSE people are always going to put their best face forward, and advertisers certainly don’t care about the underlying message. They only care about how you feel when you look at the photo and that it makes you want to buy their shiny new product.
Remember “curiosity didn’t kill the cat…comparison did!”
If you must compare yourself to something, compare yourself to where you were yesterday. Or last week, or six months ago. Or six years ago. Become your own measuring stick. This is the only real way to measure progress.

2).  Honor your preferences: 

Have you ever stopped to really think about what YOU want and what YOU like, regardless of social or societal influences?
What we are “supposed” to do or “supposed” to be, how we’re “supposed” to look is shaped largely by how we were raised, the people around us, the country we live in, our family religion, and so on.
But what do YOU really like?
This is a question worth asking. And when you realize that there are other ways of doing things, maybe ways that are a better fit with what YOU really like, it can be extremely liberating.

Suddenly, ‘Their” idea of perfect may not look perfect for you.

3). Fail forward 

Confession time:
For the majority of my life, I’ve been completely terrified of failing. 
I can think of countless times  I didn’t go the extra mile or really stick my neck out for fear that it just wouldn’t work out.
Instead I kept to my “safe zone,” where I knew I could be close to my idea of perfection and there was a pretty good chance things would go my way.
Then sometime around the time I turned 30, through “a series of unfortunate events”, I was confronted with several EPIC failures.
And you know what happened?
I learned.
I didn’t die.
The roof didn’t cave in.
And I became a stronger person for it.
I NEEDED to fail so I could move forward.
I’m convinced that the only way we really learn or move forward in life is by trying and failing. Over and over and over again.
Can you imagine what would’ve happened when you were a baby if the first time you attempted to walk and fell down you thought ” Oh my, that wan’t perfect! I guess I shouldn’t go for that again.”
Yeah, somewhere along the way, some of us lost that fear and determination we had when we were at the age where everything was a “first.”
Failure is feedback. Remember that. 

4). Simply begin, and then do your best: 

One of my favorite quotes courtesy of the great Voltaire:
“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”
If we’re always waiting for the perfect time, the perfect situation, the perfect first draft, we’ll never actually DO anything! 
You know who’s REALLY good at this concept? Apple.
Was the original iPod perfect? Compared to today’s standards? No.
Did that stop them from releasing version 1.0? No. They shipped it, and then adjusted along the way.
Whatever it is you are working towards, simply begin where you’re at, with what you have. You just might be amazed how the right people and resources appear in your life to help you along the way.
Ship the first draft.
Try a new workout or a new challenging activity.
You know what will happen? You’ll get feedback, and then you’ll be ready for “version 2.0”
As a coach, I do not expect perfection from my clients, I simply want them to try their best, observe what happens (feedback) and adjust accordingly.
So what if you screw up? No one ever climbed a mountain by quitting the first time they tripped and fell. 
Repeat after me: you are not in competition with anyone, save yourself. 
I finally came to realize that I am not perfect, and never will be.
 And I’m ok with that.

 Are you stuck in a prison of perfection? I’d love to hear your story and how you are working to overcome and break free. I am listening. 


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