Working with women in the Bringing Sparkle Back clinic, the one thing I come up against on a pretty regular basis is what I term, 'The Pursuit of Perfection'. So many women, who are struggling in their lives, have this need, this drive for perfection. The thing is, perfection is a bit of a mask. Perfection is the thing that masks fear. That fear is the fear of not being loveable, not being good enough or not being enough. If you believe you aren't good enough, you will strive to be the best at everything. However, we all know that perfection doesn't exist, so what happens when you strive to be the best and you fail? It validates that feeling of not being good enough, or loveable or simply enough. It's perfection or bust.
The pursuit of perfection brings with it a whole load of heartbreak, stress, anxiety, sadness and depression. It's like a faulty circuit. It's only ever going to bring you back to one place and that place won't be a good one. Brene Brown describes perfection as a "20 tonne shield we lug around that we think is going to protect us, when in actual fact it's the thing that is preventing us from taking flight and being seen".
Reshma Saujani, the founder of 'Girls who Code' delivered an interesting insight into perfection in her TED talk on 'teaching girls bravery, not perfection' back in February 2016. She argues that
"Women have been socialised to seek perfection and as a result it makes them overly cautious." https://youtu.be/fC9da6eqaqg
Furthermore, a recent survey carried out by The National Citizen Service with girls aged 12-18 found that out of 1,000 people surveyed, almost 49 per cent of girls said they were afraid of taking risks, compared to 27 per cent of their make counterparts.
The frustrating part about this, is that the pursuit of perfection comes down to perception and social conditioning, girls aren't born any less brave than boys. Encouraging girls from a young age to seek bravery, not perfection and to take risks, can help to counter these messages and enable them to challenge these unhelpful norms and beliefs.
Perfection doesn't just make us cautious, it makes us miss out on the here and now. I've heard stories from the women I work with in the clinic where the pursuit of perfection has prevented them from applying for their dream job, because they didn't perfectly fit the person specification. It's stopping them from pursuing their dream of running their own business, because they are afraid they will fail. It's making them sacrifice their own happiness because they have a vision of a 'perfect family'. It's stopping them from going out with their friends because they don't 'look perfect'. It's making holidays unenjoyable, because they have this expectation it's going to be perfect and when it isn't, it makes them feel like a complete failure. It's keeping them single because they have this idea of the 'perfect' man, which no man is ever going to be able to live up to.
Strive to do your best, to give your best, to be your best, but don't strive for perfection. Imperfections show you are real. They show you are brave, courageous and fearlessly authentic. Imperfections show you have taken risks and grabbed opportunities in your life.
Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. If you go through life expecting that your life will & should be perfect, you will ALWAYS be disappointed because perfection doesn't exist. Screw perfection. It's the imperfections of our lives that makes life so unbelievably wonderful.
Catherine Asta Labbett is the founder and owner of Yorkshire based 'Bringing Sparkle Back' Psychotherapy, Relationship and Life Coaching for women who want to sparkle again.