Lesson 3.2 - Defining your perfectionism-free life
The other side of perfectionism, what does that look like for you? And how would you call it?
Answering those questions is what we’re going to be doing in this lesson.
A perfectionism-free life… we have to call that something, right? We have to give it a name. You were a perfectionist before, so what do you call yourself now?
For the purpose of this course I’ve called it ‘imperfectionism’. And I’ll be using ‘imperfectionism’ throughout this module. But later in this lesson you’ll get the chance to choose a name of your own.
So, what is imperfectionism?
Remember, perfectionism is a coping mechanism to deal with fear and insecurity and uncertainty. It’s an artificial construct that constricts and rigidifies behavior to an impossible standard and that, in turn, limits us and holds us back.
Imperfectionism, on the other hand, is a more natural state of being.
It’s not the same as laziness, low standards, contentment with failure, disinterest in excellence and improvement, or apathy. Not at all.
Imperfectionism is pursuing and doing good things in life without so much as hoping for perfection. It’s prioritizing doing over doing well. Mind you, this doesn’t rule out doing things well. It only takes away the crippling fear of not doing well. It’s about freeing yourself up to take positive action in more situations.
Benefits of imperfectionism
So, why would I want to be an imperfectionist, you ask?
First, it greatly reduces stress and anxiety.
Second, it opens up your mindspace by allowing you to focus on something else than perfection. Just imagine what you’d be able to do if you no longer think obsessively about perfection.
You’ll also get greater results by focusing on taking action. You’ll be an achiever, not the overachiever you were before because with overachievement comes severe underachieving in most other aspects of your life, but real, actual achievement.
Imperfectionism also makes you more relatable, because people tend to relate to imperfect people doing imperfect things.
Difference between perfectionism and imperfectionism
Let’s talk a little bit more about the differences between perfectionism and imperfectionism.
A perfectionist cares more about conditions and results and what people will think. On the other hand, an imperfectionist cares more about what you can do right now to move forward in work and life.
While a perfectionist is a fault finder, an imperfectionist is a benefit finder.
A perfectionist focuses on not enough. An imperfectionist focuses on not QUITE enough, which implies doing a little bit more but with an end in sight.
While a perfectionist spends all their time and effort to be the best in any benchmark, an imperfectionist works on adjusting the benchmark itself.
A perfectionist strives for their perfect ideal, which makes any and all success seem like trash. On the other hand, an imperfectionist sees and accepts themselves as imperfect, which makes any and all success seem great.
A perfectionist rejects reality, failure, and painful emotions. Instead, an imperfectionist seeks out the best, most favorable possibility while acknowledging the constraints of reality, like time, money, energy, and skills.
A perfectionist thinks in all-or-nothing: right or wrong, best or worst, success or failure. An imperfectionist understands that while these categories exist, there are countless points between the extremes that may in themselves be necessary and valuable.
All in all, imperfectionism is about finding balance between high hopes and great expectations versus harsh reality. Stretching and pushing ourselves to greater heights can be a good thing, but there’s a point beyond which it becomes a bad thing. We need to accept that there are limits and that our limits are real.
Let’s take action
You must have noticed by now that imperfectionism prioritizes taking action above all else.
So, let’s whip out the worksheet and get to work.
Start by answering these questions.
What is the best possible - not perfect - but best possible life that you can live?
I know that that’s a broad question to answer, but you likely have spend a lot of time dreaming and fantasizing about what a perfect life looks like, thinking about the perfect work scenario, the perfect relationship, the perfect body etc, so now it’s time to take on the imperfectionist mindset and start dreaming about the best possible and most optimal scenario.
Think back to the areas where perfectionism shows up most for you, that you’ve identified in module 1, and answer the same question. What does my best possible career look like? What is the best possible life I can provide for my family?
This ‘best possible’ tool can also be used in the moment, when your perfectionism has taken over and you’re stuck in procrastination. In that moment, just ask yourself: “What is the best possible thing that I can do right now? What is the best possible step I can take right now to move forward?”
From now on, the ‘best possible’ question is going to be a staple in your imperfectionist toolbox.
Next, we’re going to combat the perfectionist mindset of all-or-nothing thinking and adopt the imperfectionist mindset of choice.
First, on the worksheet, create a statement that you can use to stop all-or-nothing thinking dead in its tracks.
“Stop it with the all or nothing, Wendy!”
"Oh my god, I'm in the black or white!"
Pick a word or a short phrase that acknowledges that you’re thinking in extremes. The great thing is that using this statement will help you snap right out of this mindset.
Next, you can use these questions to get you into an imperfectionist mindset. For now, let’s practice by picking a situation in your life right now where you feel stuck between two options. Are you considering going back to school… or not? Do you want to take your business full-time but, at the same time, are you scared about giving up your well-paying job? Write it down on the worksheet.
What are you making up that you think are your only options?
As with the examples I mentioned just now, it’s usually two very specific polar opposites.
Then, ask yourself:
If I choose to hold on tightly, what else am I choosing?
It could be no sleep, stress, crankiness. Is that worth it?
If I choose nothing, what else am I choosing?
Disappointment in yourself, no self-confidence boost, having something be not as perfect. Is that worth it?
What is another option?
What is the grey option here?
An imperfectionist’s motto is: something is better than nothing. So, make that choice.
Am I going to choose all? Am I going to choose nothing? Or am I going to choose that option in between?
And the last exercise on the worksheet is to choose a name for where you want to be and what you’re working toward. You’re no longer a perfectionist, so how would you like to call yourself now?
In this course I use the term ‘imperfectionist’, but it’s totally fine if you choose a different name. Pick something that resonates with you and that you can be proud of.
For me personally, the name is very obvious: gratefulist. The other side of perfectionism, to me, feels like gratitude and so I went from being The Perfectionist to being The Gratefulist.
Other examples of names you can use are: recovering perfectionist, good enough-ist, optimalist, realist, freedom-ist, braveheart, rebel, couragemaker. Whatever rocks your boat.
This step might come across as a bit frivolous, but I’ve found it to be crucial to create some distance between the new you and the former perfectionist you. You don’t even have to use the new name that much or mention it to other people, but it will help you distance yourself from old behaviors.
Okay, that it’s for now, but… there’s more imperfectionist goodness to come in the next lesson. See you there!