There have been so many times through the years where I couldn’t let go of an extreme all or nothing approach to so many aspects of life. School, work, food, exercise, being a good wife/mom/daughter/friend— you name it.
Maybe you’ve felt that same temptation come sneaking in that says, If you can’t do X perfectly, it’s not worth doing at all. Yep. I know that feeling well, mama, but I want to talk about HOW to drop the perfectionism today, and instead live a more vibrant & full life without this sneaky all-or-nothing mindset that only keeps us stuck and frustrated in so many areas of our lives.
Because, truth: SMALL, tiny things matter. Especially when done intentionally. And with love. And done often (without worry of it being perfect all the time). They all add up. They all count. It’s actually about the energy those little decisions create in your daily life, vs the act itself a lot of times. It’s about who you’re being when you say yes to yourself in little ways, vs what you’re doing. It’s taken me years and a lot of inside work to learn this, but it’s true.
Just because you can’t get an hour-long workout in doesn’t mean 15-20 minutes (ok, or 10 minutes even!) won’t make a difference and make you feel good.
Just because you only have two extra minutes in the morning doesn’t mean you can’t meditate or journal or pray and use that small bit of time extra intentionally.
Just because you can’t make it to the store today to get fresh produce for a fully coordinated healthy meal tonight doesn’t mean you need to settle for takeout (bust out those frozen green beans or broccoli bags, with some butter, salt and pepper, and maybe a little brown rice spaghetti from the pantry).
Life is so much more than achieving, checking off boxes on our to-do lists, and making sure we do everything all out & to perfection…….or else not do it at all. You miss so much growth that way.
It’s about finding the beautiful, calming, more consistent “land of gray” in between all the black and white rules we come up with for ourselves, whether it’s with our health, food, workouts, relationships, family, career, self-care, etc. etc. It can last longer, and give you way better results over a course of a year than anything short-term, extreme, or all-or-nothing.
Here’s how I’ve learned to drop the perfectionism:
It’s been a long journey for me to drop the all or nothing perfectionistic mentality, and I STILL find ways that I’m slipping into those old thought patterns. It’s a sneaky thing, this all-or-nothing stuff. But the AWARENESS that it’s happening and knowing what to do next can be everything in finding a more balanced & gracious approach with yourself.
It’s changed everything for me: my relationship to food, my relationship to my body, my relationship to work, my relationship to others (aka boundaries), and my relationship to myself. But it requires some deeper work on your inner game, which a lot of people aren’t willing to do.
It’s given me so much more ease and peace in my life. So much more space. And intentionality. And such better results—- my body, my mind, and my heart have never felt better. Because all-or-nothing is a mindset. A mentality. And when you start THERE—- understanding how the pathways in your brain are wired (vs jumping to the physical/tangible/quick-fix stuff you’re wanting to change), it shortcuts EVERYTHING.
I wish I could rewind the clock sometimes and go back and tell the younger version of myself that it didn’t have to be so hard. It’s why it’s my favorite thing I get to teach every year, in Simply Real Life.
Because when you can understand your brain, you can re-wire it better. So you can be more productive, efficient, intentional and present in your life, without all that internal junk weighing you down (it shows up as self-sabotage, starting and stopping things, never following through on the things you say you want, etc).
So, here are a few tips that have helped me…. and a few ways you can tell if this mentality is something you also can be aware of in your life!
1. Start paying attention to when you feel like you should be doing something, or else it’s not worth it.
Notice when your mind is only giving you two choices… and they’re both on the extreme end. My fav example (because this used to be me)— to workout for 1 hour OR not at all. Because if you don’t have a full hour, anything else feels like a “waste” or not effective or worth the effort/time.
Get curious and try to remain open and nonjudgmental, and ask yourself if there could *possibly* be a third option. If you had to force yourself to come up with a third choice, what would it be? This one is usually more in the middle.
2. Notice what comes up when you pick that third choice.
Guilt? The thought that it doesn’t count?
Now ask yourself if that’s really true… or where that story came from. Why does it feel like a small step or action isn’t as good as the most extreme? Ask yourself: would it feel better to do something small, or nothing?
This isn’t just with exercise and working out. Think about it when it comes to…
Your to-do list.
Catching up with loved ones.
Cleaning or organizing your home.
All those things that feel like you need to dedicate a huge amount of time, or else just push it to another day. But sending someone a quick text to check in CAN be as lovely as a 2-hour phone call. Doing a 5-min kitchen clean-up CAN feel just as refreshing sometimes as a full house deep clean.
The small actions make a difference and remove some mental load off your plate. And over time, they add up to BECOME bigger things.
3. Practice doing little things daily vs. giant steps in that direction.
Pick a thing or trait you’d like to be better at or incorporate more into your life. What can you do in 5 or 10 minutes a day to include it, instead of waiting for a full hour or two that you may never (or very rarely) get? Simple things, like gua sha, walks, cooking, eating veggies, reading more.
The next time an all-or-nothing thought comes in, write down what you think will happen if you don’t do said thing. What is your fear behind it? What is your brain convincing you of?
Now ask yourself, Is that actually, factually, always the truth?
Or is there another way to see it? Another possibility? Another way it could go?
Encourage your brain to keep seeing the other options— because there ARE other options. And those little actions and baby steps end up giving you the same endorphins and motivation over time as the big actions do. And it feels a whole lot better than no action at all.
As you’ll start to see when you do this, this is all about mindset and old stories and patterns your brain is running. It has little to do with actual truth.
But we convince ourselves that’s the case and then limit our options significantly.
The good news? This can all be rewired. You don’t have to be stuck in this perfectionism spiral forever. It just takes a little awareness and little willingness to see where you’re telling yourself weird or wild or untrue stories (which the human brain does ALL THE TIME unless you’re aware of it).
It does it with our food, our workouts, our skincare, self-care, friendships, how we think about time, boundaries, etc. All the things that matter to you in life! But I know you have the power to rework those patterns and truly experience a richer life because of it. It just takes the self-awareness and choice to do something different, and then to keep practicing that something different again & again.
Looking for more support in dropping the all or nothing mentality?