Although striving for perfection can sometimes lead you to excellence, chances are that you’re like most people and striving for perfection leaves you worn out, stressed out, and burned out. As a mindful leader, you probably already know that perfection is an illusion, unless it comes to something like engineering or manufacturing components of a computer. Even then, striving for perfection in leadership – or even pretending that you are perfect ‘for the sake of your team’ – can be dangerous and exhausting. Your team already knows that no one is perfect… why try so hard to convince them of what they know is a lie?
Now think about that for a moment… if they already know that your perfect façade is a lie, how can they trust you? How can you expect them to trust your leadership if they don’t even know who you really are? Moreover, if your team messes up because of something you told them to do, can they trust someone pretending to be flawless to stand by their side and own their portion of a mistake? Highly doubtful.
Five Steps to Losing Your Mask of Perfection
1. Overcome your fear of rejection. Deep down, this is the reason why most people trying to be perfect have gotten stuck in this vicious cycle. Your subconscious mind (or even your conscious mind) is probably telling you that you aren’t good enough for whatever reason, and that can become an obsessive need to do everything right at all times, to be right at all times, and to escape blame whenever possible. Recognizing that fear and letting go of it are liberating!
2. But how do you let go? That’s where it gets a little trickier, but really it comes down to doing the right thing one habit at a time. If you’re faced with a situation where you’re tempted to place blame, insist you’re right, or insist your way is the only way, take a step back and be aware of what you’re feeling in that moment. Chances are that you’re feeling anxiety and mild panic at the prospect of something going wrong or not being “up to par” with your high standards. This isn’t good! In this moment, make the decision to handle things differently and then do so despite your anxiety, panic, and fear. Just do it anyway. Once you realize that you can do something different without the planet exploding (or imploding, your preference), it will get easier and easier to change your habits.
3. Be consistent. Losing your mask of perfection is not going to work unless you continue to do things differently on a regular basis and with big things as well as small things. This all begins with paying attention and being aware of your own behaviors and reactions to things, so make those changes as you come across them, but do it every single time. That will help you succeed in being your genuine self.
4. Be persistent. You may or may not get frustrated with this process, and you may or may not want to throw your hands up in the air and give up. All of that overcoming anxiety stuff on a daily basis is a challenge! Doing things differently from how you’re used to doing them can also seem tedious and slightly exhausting at first. Keep at it! Chances are that you’re at the point just before it gets easier, so don’t give up quite yet.
5. Celebrate your victories. During this process, a good way to keep yourself motivated is by celebrating your victories, even if they’re small (or you just think they’re small). Reward yourself for overcoming your anxieties and doing things differently. More than that, reward yourself for allowing yourself to grow as a person as well as a leader! That’s definitely something worth celebrating.
Wearing a mask is a burden, even if you’ve always thought that it makes you a better person. Unfortunately, the mask of perfection becomes heavier and heavier over time and doesn’t actually help anyone, not even the person wearing it. Lose that mask and you will feel liberated and finally free to be yourself! The best version of you, a mindful leader, is not the version that pretends to be perfect, but the one that strives for growth, excellence, and inspired leadership.