Perfectionism is Asking For Failure


Let’s be honest… it is a natural human desire to succeed and feel accomplished. While there is nothing wrong with this, (in fact, it’s what gets us motivated and to act in our lives), I’ve recently seen a trend in those around me, and even in myself. There’s a strong desire to avoid failure– this is the perfectionism belief. 

My daughter, Jordania, has always been a very driven and motivated person. However, as she grew into adulthood, I noticed her anxiety (and even panic attacks) increase as she started to succeed in her career, finances, and making a great life for herself.

The taste of success can inhibit us at times. When we know the feeling of accomplishment, it makes failures feel much worse, therefore instilling a perfectionism belief. What we aren’t grasping quite fully is this: Acceptance and even appreciation of failures. The ability to manage our happiness expectations and say, “that’s ok, I’ll know better next time, or now I know what NOT to do” is really a good tool to have in our mental health toolbox. 

Many times perfectionim comes from the programming of our upbringing and/or surroundings. If you had parents that were very strict or demanding, this inserted a “failure is not an option” mindset.  Or if those you cared about were disappointing and hurtful to you, it may have lent itself to the “I’ll show them” mentality.

Here are some identifiers and steps to overcoming the perfectionism beliefs you may have: 

  1. Identify the behavior and self-talk– Notice the way you tackle your tasks. List areas in your life that you feel perfection is necessary. Then determine if it is possible to have perfectionism in those areas, (hint, it isn’t). 
  2. Realistic Thinking– Replace overly self-critical thoughts with realistic ones, such as “I’m doing the best I can”, “No One is perfect”, or “I’m figuring it all out.”
  3. Set Realistic Goals– Write down your goals, set an attainable timeline, and don’t procrastinate. Procrastination is common in perfectionism thoughts because we only want to do (and have control) over things we KNOW we will succeed at. This is unrealistic as there are no guarantees in life and disappointment, along with unexpected hurdles, leads to frustration and anxiety. 
  4. Evaluate your perspective– Try to see yourself from a 3rd person view. What would you say to a friend who made the same mistake? Is the mistake irreparable or is this a lesson on how to do it differently? Show yourself mercy and kindness like you would a child, family member or friend.

    In today’s society, comparison is becoming an epidemic due to social media. We are judging ourselves so harshly based on what we see others succeeding at. It’s a mirage, you are only seeing the best side and not the same struggles you experience. Put blinders on and stay in your lane, in your own race!
  5. See it as a process– All of life’s experiences are a learning process and mistakes are a part of it. They HELP us, not hinder us. Be more at ease in your undertakings, approach with this thought, “I’m excited to see what happens and will accept all that comes with it.”

We are all human beings, not human doings. Your job is to BE and learn. The point of this life is to learn from every single moment, person, and situation. How you view those is up to you-whether it’s with acceptance and ease, or anxiety and expectation.

What will you do differently today to gain a better appreciation for “failure?”

Love and Blessings, 
Maureen Scanlon