How to get over perfectionism

Woman in field with hands in her hair, text over image reads "how to get over perfectionism"

Perefctionism kills progress. I know because 2 years and 2 months is exactly how long I let my need for perfection stop me from working on Cocktails and Ambition. I had so many ideas for building the site and creating a community of awesome women , bringing back the old happy hour advice column and even creating a black business directory. I brainstormed, I wrote tons of content, and edited but never published because no matter how much I wrote, no matter how excited I was to share, I wanted it to be perfect. Perfect never came. 

That’s the problem with perfection, it’s mostly unattainable. On one hand,  Perfection  can drive us to work hard and strive for excellence, but on the other hand, it can also hold us back and prevent us from reaching our full potential.  Perfectionism for me was  a source of stress, and anxiety that severely limited my creativity

If you struggle – like me –  with perfectionism,  here are some steps I am taking to overcome it 

Let go of the imposter syndrome

Perfectionism and imposter syndrome are like the popular couple in high school, they go everywhere together and you never see one without the other. Imposter syndrome tells you that  you are not good enough, or qualified enough. It tells you that the only way to make sure you are not called out is by being absolutely perfect every single time (and that’s just not realistic). Chasing perfection keeps you stuck, in an endless loop of finding faults in yourself, never being enough, and never being able to create or even move forward. Letting go of imposter syndrome isn’t easy and it’s a process. To start, you need to stop  thinking that everyone is smarter than  you, or have it all figured out when you don’t. 

Read: A girl’s guide to imposter syndrome  

Allow yourself to fail  

Letting go of perfectionism means being comfortable with the idea of failure 

In the past, I have chased perfectionism so much that if I started a hobby and I wasn’t good at it right away I would quit. I’d jokingly tell people that my hobby is to have hobbies but it was just a rebranded way of saying “I’m a perfectionist and I cannot deal with failure.”  

As a result, I developed no skills in the things that I wanted to pursue.  Whereas if I just practiced and accepted that failure was a part of the process I would at least get better, even if it wasn’t perfect

So, ask yourself, Is failure worse than never starting?

Oftentimes, it isn’t. I understand that accepting the possibility of failure is jarring, and  it is scary but it’s something that we need to do in order to move forward. My advice (and what I’m trying to do personally) is to start small.  Maybe, the idea of tackling this massive project and possibly failing is keeping you stuck, so break down that goal into smaller steps. Allow yourself to work on those smaller steps and just start. Start imperfect, start not knowing everything, give yourself the grace to learn as you go, and learn from any failures along the way.   

Celebrate your wins

Chasing Perfection is not a realistic end goal. You become blind to any progress that you’ve made when you always chase perfection. It is important to take some time to think about and celebrate tthe small wins in your journey to get where you are.  Remind yourself that you are working towards something and taking smaller steps to get there. Those small steps are what make up the big picture however imperfect it might look. 

Be kind to yourself in the process and practice self love

overcoming perfectionism is not easy and it’s okay for your progress to not be linear. You are trying to overcome years of learned behavior . So, be kind to yourself in the process. You don’t just wake up one day and decide “oh wow I’ll no longer be a perfectionist anymore”. It takes work,  it takes practice and it takes being aware of yourself.  Overcoming perfectionism  won’t happen if you beat yourself up in the process.  When you find yourself reverting to old habits,  show yourself some self compassion and  be a kind to yourself as you talk to yourself through this process. Remember that you are human and progress takes time.