The pressure of perfection is something that so many of us carry the weight of. Whether it’s being the perfect employee, partner, parent, child, or friend, so many of us feel the pressure to be flawless, even though we know there is no such thing as perfection. As someone who used to be obsessed with being perfect, let me tell you, it is an extremely exhausting and relentless pursuit with no end.
In fact, in measuring ourselves to an impossible standard, we actually harm our minds, bodies, and souls. When we focus on the pursuit of an unattainable goal, we deplete our energy and harm our self-esteem by subjecting ourselves to self-flogging, frustration, and doubt. Striving for perfection traps us in an endless cycle of disappointment and self-doubt, leaving us with little energy for pursuing happiness instead.
Fortunately, after years of fixating on perfection and realizing that there is no such thing as perfect(!!), I learned an important lesson and gained a helpful belief. Instead of perfection, I now focus on doing my best — no more and no less.
I learned the concept of simply doing your best in one of my favorite books: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In this fabulous book, Ruiz offers a practical guide on how to avoid limiting ourselves and how to alleviate suffering. The fourth agreement, “Always Do Your Best,” emphasizes that by giving our all to everything we do in life, not only will we be productive, but it will also help us to live a more committed, whole, and rewarding life. This agreement stuck with me right away and is now a mindset that I live by.
Many great leaders and influencers also sing the virtues of doing your best. Prolific spiritualist Marianne Williamson emphasizes the importance of this in her highly popular book, A Return to Love (which I also highly recommend!). In her book she writes, “Serving three people is as important as serving 300.” In other words, the point is to put all our efforts into the quality of what we are producing!
As a public speaker and anti-racism educator who is focused on empowering people to be their best, I put the same effort into delivering my message, whether it’s to three or 300 people. It doesn’t matter the number of people I reach, if I can influence those three people as a result, I am on the way to accomplishing my goals, which brings me so much joy (and which, I’ll add, brings me so much more satisfaction than striving for perfection ever did).
When we do our best, we are more aware of ourselves, which allows us to learn from our mistakes and grow as individuals. We’re also more open to feedback and better able to practice self-compassion by no longer passing judgment or subjecting ourselves to frustration for not reaching something that was never attainable in the first place. Not to mention, we also feel good and proud of ourselves because we showed up and gave it our all.
By reframing your mindset from trying to be perfect to trying to always do your best, you’ll feel empowered to try new things and to put yourself out in the world more. The key is to remember that your best doesn’t have to be perfect — as long as you know that you tried your hardest you can feel good about yourself and your efforts.
You might be surprised at how the simple act of giving it your all will make you feel liberated, as I know I was. The next time you tackle anything, I urge you to relieve yourself of the burden of perfection. Your life will become so much better.
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