I was never considered “athletic” or “good at sports” growing up, so I didn’t get a lot of pressure from adults. But I can remembering hearing parents say to their (athletically gifted) kids that “anything less than first is failure.”
For those kids who were told they had to be first, well I guess they experienced a lot of failure.
Meanwhile, I was having a blast. As someone who was never going to get first place, I actually got to experience a lot of things other than failure. I got to experience doing something even when I felt scared, learning new skills, resilience, and (on more than one occasion) I got to experience that even if you trip over a hurdle and fall on your face… you can still finish the race! I experienced a lot of laughter (including learning to laugh at myself). I experienced the feeling of being part of a team. And, I even got a little better with time.
Clearly this little anecdote was lost on me over time, as a decade later, I was telling my health coach how terrified I was to give up my calorie counting, obsessive workouts, mean self-talk, and the self-imposed demand to be perfect.
“WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO ME IF I DIDN’T BECOME ‘PERFECT’? If I let myself off the hook to be ‘perfect’? If I fell short of ‘perfect’?”
I feared that I’d turn into a big pile of failure. That I’d start eating baked goods and never stop. That I’d lay on the couch until the end of time with no motivation to move. That I’d suck at my job. That That I’d become lazy, dumb, gross, unlovable.
I tried to explain to her that I couldn’t let go of the behaviors because I had really high standards for myself.
What’s wrong with high standards? Isn’t that what makes someone successful? Isn’t that how dreams come true? Isn’t that how I live up to my potential? I wondered.
What I’ve learned in middle school track, in my own struggle with perfectionism, and from my incredible clients is that while “perfect” can seem like a high standard, it’s actually an incredibly limiting belief.
If “perfect” is the standard, then anything less than “perfect” is failure. “Perfect” means you have two options…
- SOMETHING IMPOSSIBLE or
Hmmm… does that sound limiting to you? It does to me!
When you move away from the limiting belief of “everything is perfect or everything goes to hell,” so much opens up. There is SO MUCH LIFE between perfect and failure. In fact, that in between is the place I’ve really found worth living in.
Where in your life has the limiting belief of “perfect” held you back from experiencing joy? From growth? From resilience? From confidence? From going after a dream? From freedom? From connection? From exploration? From faith? From fun?