You Can’t Be Awesome at Everything

For most of my life, I would’ve proudly called myself a perfectionist. Doing things well and with precision is important to me. But over the years I’ve realized that the ‘perfectionist’ label is one of the most unhealthy stories I’ve told myself.

You know what really bugs me? When people *brag* about being perfectionists. If that’s you, I mean this with all sincerity: stop it. You’re effectively saying that everything is harder for you because you have higher standards than everyone else, leaving those around you feeling looked down upon. I know, because I’ve been there. I’ve been held prisoner by my own compulsive need for everything to be just right. But bragging about my captivity never did anything to free me from my enclosure.

I felt so much pressure to do my absolute best all the time. And my “best” was a moving target; the finish line kept moving ahead every time I got close.

When I was depressed I felt guilty that I couldn’t do what I could when I was well.

When I was stressed or sick I felt ashamed that other things were pulling my attention.

I didn’t live in a vacuum, but I had expectations for myself as if I was a well-maintained robot that never malfunctioned. 

I eventually adopted “you can’t be awesome at everything all the time” as one of my official life mottos (listen to episode 69: Honoring Your Limitations to hear more about the epiphany I had in therapy that brought me to that phrase). Muttering to myself whenever I feel the siren song of perfectionism has been a lifesaver. I couldn’t have lived much longer under the weight of never being allowed to fail. 

Reframing failure as a perfectly normal, human experience. Failure is not immoral. Failure is neutral. Failure is – wait for it – healthy. 

You can’t be awesome at everything all the time. You can try but I can promise you can’t maintain those expectations for a lifetime without your mind and body collapsing under the pressure.

Here are a few books about perfectionism: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett, How to Be an Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise, Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, and When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough by Martin M. Antony & Richard P. Swinson.

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