Competing Against Yourself

I can't imagine what it would feel like not to be a perfectionist. When I hear other people say they are a perfectionist, I sometimes wonder if they truly are a member of the club, or if they're just using the title to imply their dedication to a job or project. Because, trust me, there is a difference between wanting to do something with excellence and living in the mindset that perfection is actually attainable. 

I know that it's not, so before you comment and encourage me that I'm beautiful and wonderful just the way God made me (insert eye roll, because that statement doesn't soothe my struggle), I know. Every perfectionist knows this; the knowing doesn't remedy the way it feels. 

The older I get, the more I realize that perfectionism feels like you're racing yourself, and there are no limits. There is no finish line, no max speed, no goal that's out of reach. The world is at your fingertips, so you keep pushing forward, all the while aware of the fact that you're on a hamster wheel that never stops turning. 

A spirit of perfectionism mixed with the career path of entrepreneurship is a dangerous combination. You're told that entrepreneurship is a beautiful thing because you can control your own path, reap all the profits of your labor, and not be limited by anyone else's expectations of you. But a life without limits also means a life without boundaries, and it's not sustainable. In order to maintain your pace as an entrepreneur without drowning in perfectionism, you have to learn one very hard lesson:

Improving is winning.

My whole life, I have lived in the mindset that winning is winning. You know, if you're not the first, the best, and the greatest, it's not worth it. Second place is first loser. But in business (and any pursuit that you care about), that mentality will eventually destroy your soul. Instead, I have learned to view my race against myself as just that, a race where improvement from last year or the last benchmark is the real prize. 

If this isn't your struggle, I recognize that it might sound crazy, and you might think that those of us who live in a world of impossible standards should just "let it go" or "take a breather". Rather than judge what might not make sense, I invite you to understand that we're all wired differently, and most of us don't need to be told to let it go. We need to learn how to carry it in a healthier way.