Why it’s Perfect to be Imperfect

Hey overachievers. Yeah, I’m talking to you (from one overachiever to another). You know what your problems is (okay wait that sounded like the beginning of a lecture…let me try that again). You know what’s so great about us? We care. Deeply. The tricky thing is, the person who usually sufferers the most is us.

If we’d managed to kick perfection to the curb, then Brene Brown wouldn’t have released her 10th-anniversary book in September “The Gifts of Imperfection“.  And frankly, I wouldn’t have preordered it (note to self, read it this weekend).

Who among us is perfect?

I’ve written about this before and I’m bringing back the tips as frankly, if there was EVER a time to give ourselves a break, I’d say a pandemic where we’re working differently, more isolated, worried, and unsure of the future is as good a reason as any to cut ourselves and others some slack. If you’re a hardcore “we can’t let standards slip” kind of person, check out these concerning stats about the status of our mental health  Let’s just say that although this is a much more complicated issue than just perfectionism, not letting ourselves adjust expectations certainly isn’t going to help our physical and mental wellbeing.

perfectly imperfect with Sarah McVanelSo, let’s revisit some perfectionism modifying strategies. You can also watch this video (shot a year or so ago while knee-deep in a reno that thankfully is behind us).

If you were to pull up to my home right now, you would not experience what they call in real estate, “curb appeal”.

We have some major renos in progress. As we build the future home of Greatness Magnified (a converted barn), the rest of our property looks disastrous. On top of that, there’s road maintenance, our neighbours are fixing their septic system, and piles of topsoil, lumber, and scaffolding decorate the property.

Not the best first impression. Nor would you suspect a place you’d want to bring clients.

But this would feed into the belief that things need to be perfect to be professional. What if, by still having meetings at my home and hosting retreats here, it was a visual reminder that life isn’t perfect, just like our work-in-progress renovations? What if it were a reminder that life and business are perfectly imperfect, but we need to just keep going?

Progress is better than perfection.

Perfection trips us up all the time. We don’t want to make a mistake. We want to ensure we’ve got everything right. We need to look our best. However, it’s not reality, is it? We’re all completely and perfectly imperfect.

What if we decided that all the work and extra effort of trying to get it 110% every time just wasn’t worth it? What if we looked at the toll it was having on our kids, partners, staff? What if it was actually making us less accessible and relatable as people and professionals?

imperfectImagine the possibilities if we embraced our imperfections. Imagine what it would be like if our standards weren’t so high? Imagine how free we would feel if we don’t get caught up in our negative inner critic that says louder, meaner and untrue things than we’d ever to say to somebody else. What if we didn’t hesitate to pursue what we were most passionate, proud, and motivated about?

What if we were able to decide that we didn’t need to be perfect? We just needed to be great. And we already are…great.

Can we agree that you’re not perfect and neither is anyone else? Can we agree that any evidence you see about perfect lives, bodies, faces on social media is not the full story? Can we agree that it doesn’t actually matter that much anyway?

In other words, don’t look for evidence of perfection that isn’t there.

Using the metaphor of our renos, here are three tips I’ve learned about how to chip away at perfection.

perfect leaf1. Give credit to “good enough”

There’s beauty all around us. See the beauty in whatever surrounds you. Instead of looking at my imperfect work-in-progress property, I can look across the street at the beautiful vineyards (even though they’re not mine). Appreciating what is present and not attending to what doesn’t matter helps with perfectionism.

2. Look for what is working

Sure, most of our property needs a lot of work, but I can also look at the gardens across the front of our house that, with my mom, we lovingly planted. I can remember the joy we spent together. I can remember the feeling of a hard day’s work with pleasantly sore muscles. I can remember the care we spent picking each plant. I can even remember a rather comical discussion the nursery owner overheard about the right roses to plant to match the “lipstick red” shade of door my husband picked out.

3. Look past imperfections that don’t matter

perfect flowerOur front door has scratches on it. We have a piece of tape that’s stubbornly stuck on from a long-forgotten note. Spiders love to form nests around our light fixtures (we understand a by-product of living on the water). But do any of these things matter? Not really. I no longer feel I need to apologize for these things or try to clean them before every client visit. It’s exhausting, and I don’t think they really notice anyway. They’re here to see me and do business, not evaluate my place of business. When we look for the things that aren’t perfect then we see them. But instead, if we look at everything else around it we will see beauty. I don’t know about you but I would rather live my life looking at what is working and the beauty that exists, the extraordinary in the ordinary, than to spend so much of my time and energy looking at the few things that don’t quite measure up.

Who’s to say they don’t measure up? Maybe they’re actually somebody else’s version of pretty darn good, or maybe even amazing.

How is perfectionism robbing you of your time, focus, attention, patience, compassion? How is it creating tension in relationships with staff, co-workers, suppliers, partners? How is perfection stopping you from trying new things, taking a risk, following your passion, getting something completed? And is it worth it?

For more insight on perfect imperfection, check out these other resources:

greatness magnified home with Sarah McVanelGreatness Magnified Venue with Sarah McVanelAnd by the way…here’s the outcome of our reno.
It was definitely worth it!

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– Mother Teresa

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Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

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Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

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Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

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Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

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Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

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Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

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