Avoiding the Stagnation of Perfection Fear

Overcoming Perfection Fear - Strategies to Avoid Stagnation and Embrace Progress

“I know that fear is going to come up, and that’s okay, but I can’t let it stop me in my tracks.”

Isabel Allende

I used to be a perfectionist, but I’m trying to become better.

This has been my sole experience with life thus far. Fear immobilized me as the exciting burn of perfection seeped into every facet of my existence. I didn’t want to do it at all if I couldn’t give it my best.

I used to let my pursuit of perfection dictate every decision I made when I was younger. I never wanted to learn an instrument if I wasn’t going to be playing first chair. If I couldn’t compete at the highest level, like first singles tennis, I didn’t want to pick up a racquet again.

Every decision I made was a great reflection of my abilities.

There were a number of events.

To start, I was never happy with anything. Even when I was the greatest, I knew there was always someone coming up behind me to take my place. And I kept telling myself, “Anyone could’ve done this,” when I questioned my own success.

Second, my once-admirable ambition has become something vile. Fear had me frozen in its tracks. If I wasn’t able to play my scales flawlessly, I wouldn’t practice for fear of making a mistake.

Anxiety set in after the first terror. I was nervous before auditioning because I knew that if I didn’t know my scales, I wouldn’t have a chance of making the first chair. My desires conflicted with my responsibilities.

I wanted to excel, but I didn’t want to put in the time and effort required to become the greatest. The risk of failing was too great.

My pursuit of perfection only brought me unhappiness as I grew older. As a youngster, it was easier to set and accomplish reasonable objectives; as an adult, it is far more difficult to do so. I desired nothing less than a beautiful existence for myself.

Still anxious and eager to find the promise of perfection, I yearned for more. Despite my best efforts, it seemed as if the world was closing in on me. After a while, I just stopped doing anything.

I decided I wasn’t going to write anything at all if I couldn’t make it as a best-selling novelist. I wouldn’t stay on the treadmill if I couldn’t keep up with the person running next to me. I wouldn’t hang anything on the walls if I couldn’t get my home to look like the spreads in design magazines.

And the situation deteriorated worse. I would rather live in a jumbled mess than not have a home at all. If I wasn’t already the ideal size, I’d eat until I was. I wouldn’t bother with any of it if I couldn’t be the quickest, most competent, most flawless, brightest, shiningest, and most attractive participant.

As you can see, I decided to go the opposite path from the happy medium between success and failure. For me, everything was either a complete success or a total disaster; there was no middle ground. I’m not a person who does well with ambiguity. The mere excitement of giving something fresh a try made me delighted with my work.

After a while, I realized that I was only interested in doing one thing, and that was because I felt confident in my ability to execute it really well.

See also  Motivational Mindset: Cultivating Positivity Every Day

How come there was no risk of failing when I did this mysterious thing?

Take the dog for a stroll.

For a whole fifteen minutes, I could walk that dog properly. Putting on the leash, I’d take her for a stroll around the neighborhood, pause to let her do her business, and then bring the waste back home in a plastic bag. For dog walking, I got an A+.

But I was very disappointed.

I had objectives, interests, and a zest for life. However, I refrained from doing any of those things out of dread of disappointment. The pain of failure was too much for me to handle.

I took the dog for long walks every day. My happy, tail-wagging, tongue-lolling dog undoubtedly enjoyed every minute of it, but I was ignoring my other hobbies, which would flash into my consciousness and be immediately driven away.

Then I realized two things that altered my outlook forever.

My dog was the first teacher in my life. I felt better simply from seeing her unadulterated delight in life. She didn’t waste her time trying to outdo the other dogs in the neighborhood, but instead took in the scenery and soaked up the sun.

I’ve learned more from that happy puppy than I ever could have imagined.

The second thing I learned was during a street festival in our town. I found a spot near the rock-climbing wall set up by the event planners and munched on some chips and salsa. I watched as the youngsters raced up the tower and zoomed back down with glee.

A young lady, about ten years old, elbowed her way to the head of the queue. She harnessed up and moved toward the wall.

It hurt to see what happened next. She repeatedly fell while attempting to scale the wall. Inch upwards, then downwards.

She was unable to get traction, and the other children waiting their turn became nervous. I was surprised to find that she paid no attention to her critics. Inch upwards, then downwards.

She continued in this vein for a solid 10 minutes without accomplishing anything. The children sitting behind her started becoming rowdy and disruptive. She was wasting everyone’s time, and they wanted her to give up.

But she persisted. Inch upwards, then downwards. The sight of her tenacity, which I lacked at her age and definitely at her age of eight, brought tears to my eyes.

This tiny kid, this total stranger who embodied all I aspired to be, made me so very happy. I hope I at least attempted to be the best I could be.

Exhausted and perspiring, she reluctantly moved away from the wall. She wasn’t bearing any signs of defeat, but rather a broad grin. She circled back and bolted for her mother.

She screamed, Mom,” for the umpteenth time. A close call! When can I give it another shot?

In that instant, I was transformed from a perfectionist into a recovering one.

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