Alive & imperfect
This is the fifth post in a series about self-leadership: how your choices impact your health and your life, taking you towards a specific future. Today: trying to be a super-power version of yourself undermines your health and your life.
Perfectionism is a killer. I tried it – for years. I was trying to be everything to everyone, to do it all, to fit more in less time, and to finally achieve the perfect version of me, the super-achiever business owner, mom, housekeeper and friend. I believed that once I could fit it all in, I could finally enjoy life. Only, it wasn’t happening, or at least not anytime soon enough. And then in an a-ha moment, I realized that I was the one caging myself into perfectly crazy beliefs – on my way to burning out fast.
Fast forward a few years? Changing lanes, I became a coach, and realized that perfectionism is an issue for most people I meet: they want coaching not to have a better life, but to find ways to fit more into already overfull days. Being either perfect or never good enough takes a toll on mental and physical health, as we push our limits in the hope of becoming super-human, of becoming perfectly perfect. Only, it’s a killer – of life, joy, health, motivation and feeling human.
I am definitely not perfect – but I’m pretty good, and so are you. My technological IQ hovers around zero. On the other hand, I’m a pretty good teacher, writer, coach and parent (say my kids). I can also bake, teach Yoga, scuba dive and roll my kayak. I take care of myself to stay fit and healthy. I’m not perfect, but I’m doing pretty good. And I feel alive, uncaged by the impossible dream of doing more and being more perfect. Do I want a more perfect version of myself? Life has shown me to be realistic and if I’d like the reward of being admired for my incredible abilities to do it all, I am well aware of the cost on my health, potential and life.
So many of us are closet perfectionists. We don’t want to admit to ourselves (and god forbid, to anyone else!) that if we only did a little more, if we only crammed more into our days (and slept less), then we’d finally feel like we belong and deserve to have a life. Do you feel good enough; or do you feel like you’re never doing enough to deserve a break and have a life?
As you fit more into your days, you lose feeling alive. You lose who you are as a Human Being – not as a human ‘doing’. Because we, being human, are not perfect. We can’t do it all. We can’t compress or expand time. We are not clones. We are not Barbie/Ken dolls, empty inside and perfectly identical. What makes us human is that we are not superpowers. We need to sleep, to play, to feel. We are alive, and we need enough self-care to stay alive.
Being a perfectionist means being never satisfied with what you do and who you are. It means examining your life under a microscope and finding fault for everything that is not absolutely perfect – which is pretty much everything. How many perfect days have you had in your life? Whether it’s your performance yesterday, the phrasing of something you said, what you ate for lunch, or how clean your house is, you can always look for imperfections… The life of a perfectionist is exhausting, and there’s no end to being more perfect. So what’s the solution?
The solution is to become an Imperfectionist. Allowing your life to be imperfect but good enough gives you more space to feel alive, to enjoy life – without needing a clean plate. This creates a huge shift: it means that instead of creating perfect, unachievable plans, you are allowing reality to set in. You are doing your best, and leaving some space and time for you to rest, relax, restore yourself – and feel fully alive.
Being an Imperfectionist means you focus on what matters – most. Instead of trying to do it all to perfection, to fit it all in, you choose a focus, you aim for what matters most, for what works for you in your life. And you fully let go of what matters less – or not at all.Y
Accepting your imperfection doesn’t mean you’re powerless, or a smaller, insignificant version of you. Just the opposite, in fact. Once you free yourself from the impossible dream and burden of having to be perfect, you can show up as a full, life-size version of yourself. Imperfect, alive and human.
You can only be yourself. You can’t be everything to everyone, or a super-achiever, super-power. Allowing yourself to be human is becoming a proud imperfectionist. We all are. Let go of the myth that one day, you’ll be perfect. No one does. Instead, show up in your life, imperfect, but good enough.
Meet Diana, the closet perfectionist. NOTE: the following story is a composite of many people I’ve met in my lifetime, a fictional character with characteristics to help you relate to the story. Diana first contacted me because she wanted to make better use of her time. She is a executive with a busy job, a mom with 2 young kids and a husband who travels for work. She reasoned that if she could only multitask more, she’d accomplish more, be more present to her kids and do less overtime. How much overtime? We assessed it at 12 weeks last year, uncompensated, made up of working evenings after the kids are in bed, and on weekends. She was clearly exhausted, and after a few conversations, Diana realized that what she was hoping for wasn’t realistic. Over the next few months, Diana (1) claimed her overtime, and planned to use it as vacation time; (2) structured her work days for what mattered most, instead of trying to fit all in; (3) realized that life was more than her cumulative roles as worker-mom-housekeeper; (4) got extra support from her husband and hired household help so she and her husband could have restorative time and outings individually and together; (5) allowed herself an hour a day to read, relax or do something fun; and (6) started to walk at lunch time (instead of cramming in more work) to get some fresh air, light and food to restore herself. One year later, Diana’s life has changed. She’s healthier, kinder to herself and her family, her relationship is stronger and she feels ready for new challenges and maybe even a promotion, using what she learned.
What can you learn from reading about Diana? Choose one thing you can do differently this week, to allow yourself space and time to feel more alive… And let me know? I’d love to hear about how this post connected with you!