Almost daily I speak with one of my fitness sisters and, at some point in the conversation, she is beating herself up over something she doesn’t like about herself or something she failed to do right. I’m guilty of it too. As a recovering perfectionist I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect at everything: work, school, relationships, family, training, etc. That was exhausting and, of course, disappointing, as perfection is not possible and will always evade us.
Now I’m not suggesting that we should give up on our quest for our best, but we shouldn’t torture ourselves when we fall short. A number of years ago, I made the decision to think of myself as “perfectly imperfect,” allowing my flaws to inspire rather than stress my life journey. This liberated me. I now spend a lot less time and energy worrying about being perfect and a lot more of these precious resources living authentically, enjoying the moment and making progress with my goals. Here are a few habits that helped me lighten up and love life as a “perfectly imperfect” individual:
Don’t Let Your Weaknesses or Flaws Define You – Let Them Fuel You. Every day, we have the opportunity to take another step toward our best selves. It’s really exciting to wake up in the morning with that attitude and opportunity. However, in our quest for our best, we oftentimes become entirely too focused (or even obsessed) with our “opportunities for improvement” that we lose sight of what makes us fantastic. For example, just today, I ran into a girlfriend who has lost a bunch of unhealthy weight and looks great. When I complimented her, she said, “Thanks, too bad my arms are still fat.” I, of course, did not notice her arms, but she is so hyper-focused on this one attribute that she does not appreciate how far she has come and how beautiful she is.
As “perfectly imperfect” individuals our goal should be to have the awareness of what we need/want to improve and put empowered energy into doing so. However, we should not let our areas of opportunity dominate our view of self. This quote by Ellen Goodman speaks to this, “The things we hate about ourselves aren’t more real than the things we like about ourselves.” Although, I prefer to say it like this, “The things we like about ourselves are just as real as the things we don’t.”
Make it Happen: Take regular inventory of your assets and what makes you fabulous. For example, the next time you look in the mirror pay attention to the things you love about yourself not just the areas you would like to improve. Before you hit the sack, recount all the things you are proud of accomplishing rather than reviewing where you made mistakes. Also, make it a habit of refuting the negative things you say and think about yourself and replace them with something affirming.
Have Confidence in the Face of Criticism. We all face criticism in life. From being called “entirely too enthusiastic and bubbly to be taken seriously in business,” to being told “your body has too much fat, not enough muscle and not a good structure for physique competitions,” I am certainly no stranger to it. We can choose to learn something from criticism, even it is seems crazy and off base, or we can be defensive and hurt by it.
Some people are so uncomfortable with criticism that they will play it safe in life to avoid it, while others will carefully calculate and perfect every single move in their life to prevent it. These mindsets waste precious energy and time that could be invested in living big and fulfilling our destinies.
As “perfectly imperfect” individuals, we must accept that we will always have areas to improve upon. We also understand that not every bit of criticism needs to be cause for change, but that there are often nuggets of insight available in all feedback, even from the most poorly packaged message or ill-intentioned messenger.
Make it Happen: Taking criticism is difficult for everyone. I have personally found that it helps to practice and “fake it until you make it.” To do so, start asking for feedback more often in life. Shut off your defenses and smile through it. Thank the person for the input and don’t argue or try to defend yourself. Find a quiet place and really think about the feedback. Is it helpful? Can you do something with it? Was it ridiculous? Decide for yourself and make a decision on how you can use the information. After that, move on.
Laugh at Yourself. One of the most important aspects of being “perfectly imperfect” is to be able to laugh at yourself. Stop taking yourself so seriously and realize that you are flawed and fabulous. This does not mean you shouldn’t be careful with your choices and put forth your best effort in everything you do; rather, it just means that you will make mistakes from time to time and it is okay.
Make it Happen: This one is pretty simple. Next time you make a mistake, refuse to obsess over it. Laugh at yourself and then address the issue. Take responsibility, make amends, re-strategize and move on.
Push Toward Your Best
By and large, women are very critical of themselves. While this column will not change that, I hope that it can help you ease up on the unrealistic expectations you place on yourself and start celebrating all that you are. So, join me in being “perfectly imperfect.” Life is too short not to. Keep pushing–your best is waiting.