How to strive without becoming a perfectionist

Do you ever get that feeling that you’re hustling to be seen, heard and taken seriously?

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You do that thing you hope makes people like you, or you ingratiate yourself towards someone by feigning sweetness. Or perhaps you hold back on the truth that’s searing through you because you think the other person can’t handle it and you don’t want to upset them.

Hustling goes on everywhere and it’s different to striving. It has an icky kind of tone to it. You know when you’ve done it and a part of you feels like you just screwed yourself over.

Hustling comes from our fear-based limited thinking. It’s linked to a misguided belief that before we can claim our power, we have to be perfect.

It’s all about what will THEY think. It’s a shield that says, “If I look, live and behave perfectly then I’ll avoid feeling embarrassed, shamed or criticised.” It’s a desperate ploy to feel respected and worthy.

But the thing is, the whole time you’re trying to be perfect, you’re actually masking your truth and stopping yourself from being fully seen. You actually block the thing that you want most – to be loved and accepted for who you are.

What does striving mean?

Sport has a lot to teach us about healthy striving.

Take running for instance. Any decent coach will tell you that when you show up to run a race, you’re striving to be your personal best on that day. It’s about you. Your performance and your striving beyond the perceived limits of what you think you can do.

It’s about running your own race, not anyone else’s.

The flipside of this is perfectionism, which would entail not even allowing yourself to show up to a race until you were sure you could achieve the result you wanted. Which is about wanting to make sure that you come across in a particular way, ensuring others see only a carefully cultivated façade.

How do you get out of perfectionism?

When you’re caught up seeking perfection, you need to slow down and check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “What am I avoiding?”

When I asked that question in my own life, I found that I was perfecting myself in order to avoid a familiar, old wound – feeling not good enough and like I didn’t belong.

Once you’re clear on what you’re avoiding, you can simply allow that feeling in. You can turn towards the part of you that’s afraid and soothe it. You can reassure it that you’re doing your best and everything’s totally okay.

Top 4 tips for healthy striving …

1.Let go of your ideals

It’s great to have a vision and goals, but don’t let them stop you from getting in the game. We achieve our goals by showing up and putting one foot in front of the other.

2.Be intentional

Decide that you are going to put in your personal best effort, whatever that may be on the day. If you’re tired one day, your personal best will look different to a day when you’re full of beans.

3.Practice love and acceptance

The temptation is to beat yourself up because you’re not where you want to be. But criticism won’t sustain you; love and acceptance will. Okay, so your body may not look like you want it to right now, but the important thing is that you’ve made the commitment to love the body you’re in and take care of it. The real deal is to love and accept yourself now, as you are and to hold a vision for yourself that you can move towards boldly and bravely.

4.Practice forgiveness

Sometimes it’s easier to hold on to resentment and anger than it is to let go and forgive. When we do this, it’s like grasping on to energy that needs to flow freely through us. Forgiving whomever you need to (including yourself) releases you from plugging your energy into dead circuitry. Instead, it allows you to tap into your higher vision where your energy naturally flows. Forgiving your inner perfectionist is part of this process.

So whether you’re a runner who’s been pounding the pavement, a mama who’s been beating herself up, or one of the many other breeds of practicing perfectionists, try these heart-fuelled strategies for yourself and embrace some healthy striving.

Vanessa Anstee

Life Coach

I'm inspired by who you can be without apology and I want to help you let your real self shine. I've been a life coach for 10 years. I've always been a seeker trying to discover a way of being in life that feels soulful, authentic and aligned to what my heart wants not what my head thinks I should have, be or do. I spent 20+ year career in HR, OD, talent management and executive coaching. My kids were my biggest wake up. I saw the way I was working wasn't working anymore. I couldn't keep pushing myself harder. I had to accept I couldn't attain this perfected version of myself that I had strived most of my life to achieve. I had to find love not from accolades and other people's acceptance but from deep inside me. That's when I learnt to connect to my heart, heal my childhood wounds and fears of never being enough and set light to my passion in a completely new way. I want one thing for my clients. Be real. Be themselves, fall madly in love with that person and honour their soul's calling.