Living a purposeful life means you need to drop all your notions of perfection.
Have you ever felt like you lose sight of what’s truly meaningful by trying to be perfect? Do you think you had to let go of your dreams and aspirations to meet societal expectations? Do you ever stop and wonder what even is the point in all of this?
For so long, perfectionism has been presented like a miracle tool that can give you everything you desire. But what you weren’t told is that perfectionism makes you lose sight of what could make you happy. In trying to meet some unreasonable standards that weren’t even created by you, you have to give up more than you could imagine. If you were fooled by this portrayal of perfectionism, and you are trying to find a purpose again, here is how you can do that.
What Is Perfectionism?
The need to be or appear perfect is known as perfectionism. In society, it presents as a positive and desirable character trait. Advocates for perfectionism say that it can motivate you to achieve anything you want. But it can also often cause stress, anxiety, and even depression. If taken to the extreme, it causes self-doubt, to the point where it becomes an obstacle that keeps you from achieving your goals.
Professor Brené Brown explains that perfectionism isn’t the same as becoming the best version of yourself. Because perfection is an unattainable goal, the journey towards it can never focus on personal growth. It is an unhealthy behavior used as a way to protect yourself from the burden of being judged.
To be perfect, you have to monitor being the best constantly, no matter the cost. This leads to unhealthy competition and encourages selfishness. Instead of focusing on how the road towards a goal might help you grow, the only thing that matters is the goal itself. There is either achieving the goal or failing; no in-between. This kind of mentality only brings out the worst in you.
While finding a purpose in life means striving towards a goal, two key factors differentiate this from perfectionism. First, finding a purpose is more about the journey rather than the destination. Second, for a plan to be purposeful, it has to be aligned with your values, passions, and it has to make you happy. In comparison, perfectionism couldn’t care less about your happiness and desires.
Learning to live a purposeful life is a long process. It’s all about understanding yourself and finding a goal that you feel is more significant than you. Here are some tips for how you can achieve that:
· Be Present
There’s no better way to get a sense of who you are than to live every second to the fullest. By constantly paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, you can get a sense of what you enjoy, what matters to you, and what your morals are. Even if you don’t learn everything about yourself, living in the moment is essential either way. Allowing yourself to enjoy little things, like going on walks, will bring you happiness. The closer you get to emotional fulfillment, the more meaningful your life will become.
· Allow Yourself To Dream
If you don’t let your mind wander, you will limit the goals you allow yourself to aspire towards. The more things cross your mind, the more options you have. Therefore, the better you can get a feel for what you honestly want to do. It doesn’t matter if your dreams are profitable or not. It’s irrelevant whether they are socially acceptable or not. Life is short, so you should indulge in your wildest dreams when you get the chance to.
· Practice Self-Love
If you are unhappy with yourself, you will not find meaning. Only by being kind to yourself will you be able to enjoy your achievements to the fullest. There’s no point in reaching a goal if you don’t even allow yourself to take pride in your accomplishments. Just as you would be kind and understanding with someone else, be the same with yourself. Learn that every victory, no matter how minor, matters. Therefore, you should always be proud of yourself.
Taking the steps towards having a meaningful life will bring you happiness. But, does perfectionism stand in the way of living meaningfully? And if that’s the case, how?
3 Ways Perfectionism Prevents Us From Living A Purposeful Life
Being a perfectionist can get in the way of living a purposeful life. Here are the ways that it impedes your self-growth.
1. Perfectionism Leads To Self-Criticism
The moment you decide to value perfection above all else, you put your self-perception on the line. The further down the perfectionist rabbit hole you get, the harder it will be for you to have confidence in the actions you take.
Perfection is not an achievable metric. But when that’s the criteria you follow, it’s like shining a spotlight right on your flaws. You will no longer be able to make peace with the fact that you are imperfect. It will not matter anymore that imperfection is human nature; you will start beating yourself up over minor things.
Perfectionism quickly turns you into an overly self-critical person. Instead of understanding yourself and acknowledging that progress takes time, you’ll engage in destructive behaviors. Overthinking becomes part of the daily routine. Everything that you do will feel like too little. This way of thinking leads to many issues, including anxiety and lower self-esteem.
In trying to be perfect, you will impose unrealistic standards on yourself. Say you want to get a promotion. A purposeful person understands that this takes time and energy, and if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want, that’s alright. But perfectionists will not stand themselves if they don’t get it right away. And even when they do, it won’t be enough. They will still feel like they did too little and will not allow themselves to feel any joy.
This negative way of thinking doesn’t allow for any acts of self-compassion and self-love. While you might get material things, like promotions and such, you will feel empty on the inside. This type of life doesn’t have meaning; it’s merely about meeting unrealistic expectations.
If you feel like you are becoming overly self-critical, take a step back and introspect. Put things into perspective and understand that imperfection is normal. Change your goals from material to trying to achieve personal growth. Look inwards rather than outwards when searching for happiness.
Once you embark on the word towards achieving perfection, there’s no turning back. Doing little things will stop satisfying you. A perfectionist isn’t fulfilled by what they see as half-measures. They either have it all or have nothing at all.
Perfectionists are often driven by fear. They put so much pressure on themselves that they will be crushed emotionally and psychologically if they fail. Because of that fear, if they’re not 100% sure that they’re going to succeed, they’re not even going to try.
This is why so many perfectionists become procrastinators or even give up on trying at all. Not only do they waste their abilities, but they don’t pursue things they might genuinely like. You never know how something will turn out if you don’t even try.
Doing things just for show brings you no satisfaction. Sure, you might feel pride short-term, but you will not be fulfilled. Instead, stop focusing on the end goal. Understand that enjoying things just because they’re fun is good enough. Doing something partially is always going to be better than not doing it at all.
3. Perfectionism Kills Your Dreams
Perfectionists only care about the pragmatic side of things. The idea of doing something just because they enjoy it is foreign to them. They don’t understand why they would put effort into doing something if they don’t get something in return.
What they don’t understand is that your reward doesn’t have to be material. It doesn’t have to be a higher salary or a bigger apartment. It can be joy, excitement, whatever makes you feel good. By being overly pragmatic, perfectionists are prone to choosing activities they might hate just because it’s practical. They might hate law but still choose to become a lawyer just because it’s a financially rewarding job. Instead of becoming an artist, a teacher, or whatever they might have wanted, they bury their dreams for all the wrong reasons.
Often, they see pursuing hobbies as a waste of time. And the only hobbies they engage in benefit them pragmatically. For example, they might hate tennis but still play it every Sunday because the “right” people also play tennis, and they have an opportunity to create connections.
There is no meaning in living your life like this. You will not find your passion, your purpose, something you feel is more significant than you, by playing it safe. You have to allow your mind to wander. Let your thoughts roam free. Explore ideas that might seem crazy. Force yourself to gather the courage to try that thing you always wanted to do. Who cares if skydiving isn’t financially productive? It doesn’t matter. Being happy and taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health and social status. By trying as many things as you can, you will be a step closer to finding your meaning.
Finding your purpose in life is no easy feat. It requires a journey of self-discovery that has you looking inward to understand what makes you genuinely happy. Some people might never find their true meaning in life. But the journey will make you more comfortable than trying to achieve perfection ever will.
Perfectionism is a toxic mentality for several reasons. It makes you self-critical, to the point where you might lose all self-esteem. It enforces an “all or nothing” mentality that might make you less productive. And, it makes you give up your dreams to chase some unrealistic standards. In every conceivable way, perfectionism is antithetical to living a purposeful life.
Forget about being perfect, forget about social standards, and have fun. Experience new things, love yourself and dream big. Remember, the road is often more important than the goal.