Escaping perfectionism’s grasp
"Perfectionism is not a way to push you to do better. Perfectionism... will limit you in everything you do."
Perfectionism is a mindset I have used my whole life to determine my success and value. Grades, athletic achievement, friends’ approval, all dictated my emotions. If I deemed myself as “failing,” then I was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. It was hard for me to see that being perfect was an unattainable goal.
My need for perfection did not stem from wanting to be great, but from a fear of failure and the need of others’ approval. My identity was no longer rooted in the truth of what God says about me, but measured by the greatness of my performance. The problem with this is I will never live up to the standards I set for myself. You will always be disappointed. I continually blamed myself for things that I was not even able to control. I thought my need for perfection would help me escape the feelings of failure, but instead, it set me up for them.
“Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world,” said American poet Robert Hillyer. When I wanted perfection, I was guaranteed to never meet that expectation. The world is sinful, and perfection is impossible to obtain.
Perfectionism ruined some of my favorite activities for me. I quit softball for two years because I no longer enjoyed the game. Every tiny mistake and setback felt like I was not only disappointing myself but also my coaches, teammates, parents and friends.
This year, I decided to go back to playing softball full-time, not just for the school. At the first practice, my coach said, “Never be afraid to mess up. Softball is a game of failures, and if you fear them, you will never play to your full potential.”
This became a reminder for me each game that if I continued to play in fear of failure, I would never truly enjoy the sport like I used to. Now, this season, I have played better than I ever have. I have an .833 batting average, leading the team in stolen bases and am a part of the starting defense each game. When I quit striving for unattainable perfection, my performance actually improved.
Perfectionism is not a way to push you to do better. Perfectionism is a way of thinking that will limit you in everything you do. Instead of focusing on results, I remember that the only things I can control are my attitude and my effort. If I am giving 100 percent in both of those areas, then there is absolutely nothing more I can do. I have to be proud of the accomplishments I make. When the mistakes come, because they will, I remind myself that I am not defined by them. Those mistakes are there to remind me that I can always improve. No one is ever perfect, and you can always continue to grow and improve yourself.
Growth is not just limited to sports. Escaping perfectionism allows you to gain freedom in everything you do. You are not held back by fear of disappointment but emboldened by the chance to do something great.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”