The Cost of Chasing Perfection

The constant drive to seek perfection is actually a one-way ticket to failure. A debilitating fear of failure is the end result for perfectionists. However, the fear of failure can impact the lives of many different types of individuals and can be traced back to many different types of events of origin. Perhaps you were raised by hypercritical or unsupportive parents; perhaps you were raised by hypocritical (my child is perfect and that is why they receive my love) parents; perhaps you were picked on or mocked by peers early in your childhood. Some individuals internalize these incidents and a fear of failure arises.

Truthfully, at the root of the fear of failure is a deep aversion to shame. Failing becomes mentally and emotionally linked to the feeling of shame; of not living up to the accepted standard; or letting yourself and loved ones down. No one likes feeling shame in one’s actions or lack of actions. However, individuals who develop a fear of failure take the fear or aversion to shame to its extreme. They allow the fear of failure to paralyze their mind and halt the growth of their soul. It may stop them from finding love; advancing in their career; starting a family; or experiencing joy and inner peace. But this fear does not need to hold power over our lives! Our fears have only the amount of control that we have allowed them. Perfection does not need to be the only goal that matters. Lets take a look at how we can take our power back from fear.


A large part of my adult life was spent living for the approval of others. The more perfect I was in the eyes of those I respected, the closer I felt to gaining that unshakable acceptance I craved. Any shortcoming threw me into immediate fear that I had disappointed the largest figures in my life. It was an unsustainable pace while trying to reach an unobtainable goal.

The best and most mind-blowing advice I ever received to address my personal fear of failure was one word, “So?” When asked what was holding me back from taking a career leap and starting my own business, I responded with, “Well, what if I don’t make it and I fail!” My therapist responded with, “So? So what if you do? At least you will have tried.” That hit me hard. In that moment, I understood what had limited my life and my potential…my own fear. That was when I promised myself that I would never allow fear to rule me again. If I was ever going to soar with eagles, I would need to jump from the cliff. I now carry the word “So?” in the back of my mind into my daily decision making process.

So much of self-awareness is individualized. What works for one person may not have any effect at all for someone else. “So” was what I had needed to hear at that moment. But it may not be the perfect moment for everyone. So I have compiled a list of 6 ways to reduce the fear of failure that are rather universal and can be adopted into any self-awareness routine. That way, when your moment is right and your mind is ready to overcome that fear, you will have the confidence to jump.

6 Ways To Reduce The Fear Of Failure

  1. Address the problem. There is never a reason to hide your feelings or fears from yourself. You cannot hope to overcome a fear or limiting factor until you acknowledge that it exists.
  2. Learn from your mistakes. Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Each attempt is an experience to learn from.
  3. Get it out. Talk to someone you trust and has a supportive ear. Like many fears, the closer you examine your fear of failing the less power it has over your life.
  4. Question the rationality. Take the time to examine whether the fear is irrational and highly unlikely to come to fruition. Your fear may just be a habit of doubt you have developed and not an actual fear at all.
  5. Focus on what you can control. Many of the worries, doubts and fears we hold are linked to circumstances we have no actual control over. Once you have done all you could and the situation is out of your hands, what is the point of worrying or fearing?
  6. Consider a redirection. Each attempt at bettering our lives or doing anything of importance offers lessons. Sometimes those lessons point out a slightly different path which may be more correct for us. Do not ignore the push toward adjusting and redirecting your intention. It is not accepting failure if you use information gleaned to succeed on a slightly different path.

Giving your all to any endeavor you attempt is, of course, the proper way to approach things. However, if you are constantly chasing perfection, you are cheating yourself out of enjoying the victories along the way. And you are actually lowering your self-worth by making every task an “all or nothing” proposition in that the only confidence boost you allow yourself is by completing a task to perfection.

The Key Is Self-Confidence

How is this for a brainteaser: Those who are only content with perfection actually tend to lack self-confidence. You see, they have gone for long stretches of their lives never feeling accomplished for anything except perfection. These are the athletes who feel like failures for finishing a race in 2nd place. “If you are not first, your last.”

Instead, a self-aware individual will gain confidence from the journey and not just from the destination. Never underestimate the importance of self-confidence. It is what will differentiate between the individual who sees opportunity in coming up short of a goal, and the individual who sees only failure. We are all humans. Falling from time to time is inevitable. The difference is having the self-confidence to catch yourself or just wallowing in the failure and continuing to fall.

A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not in the branch, but in her own wings. Always believe in yourself.

-Charlie Wardle-

In Conclusion

So in the end, the only thing we have to fear is not failure, but a lack of action. Perfection should not be the only goal, but just one of many victories along any path. Allow yourself to build confidence through the journey and not only at the destination. Self-awareness, happiness, joy and inner-peace do not require perfection. They only require a soul unwilling to abandon the journey.

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