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January 17, 2024

Defeating Perfectionism

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You don’t have to be a perfectionist to struggle with perfectionism - it’s probably coming up in your life in ways you didn't realize.

At its core, perfectionism is an avoidance tactic. It’s your unconscious mind’s attempt to slow you down and keep you from taking some form of action. Often this is motivated by our mind’s desire to resist change. Anything that is different than normal is flagged by the mind as uncertain and therefore, a potential threat to our safety. So our unconscious mind actively tries to prevent us from doing new things with the intention to keep us safe.

Another way of phrasing it - Perfectionism is self-sabotage. Seeing perfectionism through this lens, let’s be more aware of the ways it comes out so that we can more quickly identify it and remove its power over us. 

One version of perfectionism is indecision. Indecision stalls you from making progress because your time is being spent figuring out what to do rather than doing it. This is interpreted to be much safer by the unconscious mind because being unsure of which path to take is basically another way of saying you’re continuing to do nothing new. 

Another form of perfectionism comes up as a limiting belief that you’re not good enough. It comes out as a desire to guarantee success before doing it, setting the intention that you need to get the perfect result. But you can tell how impractical that is, the results are largely out of our control, and the limiting belief keeps us from doing anything at all in a freeze.

Then the classic version of perfectionism is never accepting something as finished. There’s a fine line between optimizing something and overthinking something. Fine-tuning and editing something beyond consequence is the issue here, and the best way to navigate this gray area between optimization and overthinking is to see if the changes you’re making simply represent a new opinion or is it actually generating a better outcome? And you’ll need to measure that outcome somehow to be sure.

In order to defeat perfectionism and self-sabotage, you need to take imperfect action. Send the important email when you’ve reviewed it once. Pick the diet plan that you think is likely to work. Set an app limit to spend less time on social media even if you don’t know the right amount.

You need to overcome self-sabotage to become that next, better version of yourself. And that happens through real, tangible action.

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