Less Than Flawless: Overcoming Perfectionism Through Journaling
Have you ever started something, a personal project perhaps, only to find yourself stuck? Despite exerting a lot of effort, you’re still a long way from the halfway point. Strangely enough, it’s not because you’re unmotivated. On the contrary, you’re actually overflowing with ideas! You have a clear picture of what you want to achieve and how to get there, but the problem is, you’re not moving at all because things aren’t quite right. That said, no one can possibly expect you to proceed to the next step until everything’s perfect. So you stay in place, nitpicking every little detail and refusing to advance until you’re satisfied…
Only to end up still stuck weeks, months, and years later.
Does this sound familiar? I’m sure it does since many of us have the tendency to be perfectionists. This isn’t surprising at all: we’ve made it so that the term has evolved into something positive even though the opposite is true. And yet, the truth is, perfectionism causes more harm than good because it stops our progress, which in turn keeps us from growing.
But not anymore! In today’s article, we want to look at ways on how to overcome perfectionism with the help of journaling.
1. Focus on progress.
One way to never finish anything in life is to hold one’s self to unrealistic standards, which is exactly what perfectionists do. In a way, it’s a form of self sabotage: wanting perfection in a world where nothing is perfect is proof. What perfectionists are really doing is setting themselves up for failure. That being said, instead of perfection, what we should try to strive for is progress.
When we begin anything at all, we’re bound to miss something or make mistakes. That’s ok. It’s part of the progress we’re making, a lesson to be learned so we know what to do (or not to) next time. As we go through this process of learning, we then give ourselves the opportunity to improve, and isn’t that what life is all about? It’s a journey to constantly become better.
As something unachievable, we will never see perfection in a physical form. But progress can be easily visualized, and for journalers, it’s in the form of a habit tracker.
Perfectionists would be discouraged by missing a few days on their trackers, but for everyone else? What we’ll see is the amazing progress we’re making that contributes to a more realistic outcome: consistent improvement that allows us to become better in what we do.
To get started on your own habit tracker, check out our Dot Grid refills, available for both the desk-sized Field Journal and the more portable Pocket Journal. The dot grid is a great format to use for habit trackers because it has the structure and space to set up an entire week or month of habits. It allows you to create a chart with an X axis and Y axis, with the dates along the top X axis and habits down the left side of the Y axis.
Field Journal Refill
2. Planning is great but taking action is better.
There are many logical reasons why we shouldn’t do certain things without a plan. Unfortunately, there are instances where that’s all we do to the point that we can’t get out of the planning stage. This means we never actually get to do what needs doing. Often, perfectionists try to get ready for anything that may come their way, and while that’s admirable, it’s also unnecessary.
Plans exist to give us structure and that’s all there is to it, especially since it’s downright impossible to anticipate every problem that may crop up in life. Having a plan B is ok, but if we end up using all of the letters of the alphabet just to ensure we’re absolutely ready for certain things that may never even happen, well… there goes our opportunity to get the ball rolling, start learning and improving, and see results, all out the window.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to simply get started. If things go south or any issues come up, all we need to be is flexible enough to re-plan. A bullet journal is great for this: while it allows us to get ready for the future so we don’t forget important tasks and events, it also provides the option to easily migrate these items the next day or the following month. With this kind of setup, perfectionists who are trying to change their ways can take action on what needs to be done at the moment with the assurance that the bujo has made re-planning convenient and easy.
3. Failure is not a dead end.
In reality, a lot of perfectionists are the way they are because they’re afraid to fail. But what we don’t understand is that failure is temporary. There are times that things just don’t work out, but it doesn’t mean we’re incapable or stupid—or that we’ll be a failure for life. Lots of people fail everyday and they’re all the wiser for it. So failing, making mistakes, and not getting things right? It’s a learning experience and a valuable one. After all, we can only succeed by trying our best, even with the risk of things going wrong.
Unfortunately for perfectionists, the fear of failure keeps them from taking risks and their inaction leads to no movement, change, or growth. They then remain stagnant and immobile, stuck once again and with zero progress. That’s just not living at all.
Thankfully, journaling can help us make sense of what we’re afraid of. By writing down our innermost thoughts, we can look inward and assess ourselves—become more mindful of what’s driving the fear that we feel so that we can come up with solutions on how to overcome such a crippling thing.
It is this mindfulness that will provide us an answer so that we can change our mindset, one where we believe that failure is just a hurdle and not a dead end.
At its worst, perfectionism can drive us into inaction. We may think we’re preparing for the future, but what we end up doing is preventing that very future from taking form instead. But by shifting our focus to celebrating progress, finding a balance between planning and doing, and understanding that failure is simply part of the learning process, we can become a little more imperfect—and all while getting more things done.
Are you a perfectionist? If you are, how else do you think you can overcome perfectionism? If you’ve successfully overcome it, what steps did you take? Let us know by leaving a comment, we’d love to hear from you!