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Strive for Excellence, Not Perfection

Strive for excellence, not perfection.

strive for excellence

People often confuse striving for  perfection with striving for excellence. 

“I’m driven to super-achieve. Lately I hate myself. My work is not ok with me despite what I’ve accomplished so far and what my boss is saying.”

That’s Odessa, a talented client who’s chronically depressed and always feeling little joy and satisfaction in everything.

Most of her life, she struggled with extreme feelings of inferiority and how she’d tried to overcome those feelings by being a super-achiever.

According to an article written by therapist Sharon Martin in PsychCentral, perfectionism is setting an “impossibly high standard – with no room for imperfections and no compassion for mistakes.”

Martin explains that perfectionists constantly feel like a failure no matter how much they accomplish. 

They see mistakes as failures. They have a hard time adjusting their expectations. They inordinately get more focused on the outcome rather than the process.

The result is, perfectionists unnecessarily sabotage and negatively affect their health, work, relationships, and self esteem. Many experience psychological breakdowns.

Striving for excellence, on the other hand, is normal, reasonable satisfaction or fulfillment in a job well done. 

Excellent people learn from mistakes. They don’t allow mistakes to define them or make them feel as failures. 

They enjoy the process of accomplishment, not just the outcome. They’re not stuck in self-criticism. They can be flexible and adjust standards and goals based on the situation.

Striving for excellence is living in balance. It values healthy self-care, fun, and relationships, not just accomplishments.

Here’s a another nuanced psychological  difference between perfectionism and excellence, as Ruben Chavez aptly put it:

“Perfectionism is rooted in the belief that, ‘If I am good enough, I will be accepted and loved.’ Striving for excellence is rooted in the belief that, ‘My accomplishments do not define me. I derive fulfillment from the process of pursuing what is meaningful to me.’ “

I want to see and put it this way: perfectionism is focused on “doing” whereas excellence is focused on “being.”

Strive for excellence, not perfectionism.

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