Do you suffer from perfectionism?
If you are a perfectionist, chances are you’re a Virgo (or at least a Virgo moon like me), the perfectionist of the zodiac.
But whether you’re a Virgo or not, I want to celebrate Virgo season by helping perfectionists everywhere (myself included) let their hair down a bit.
In this post, I’ll share ten ways to overcome perfectionism this Virgo season.
As a Virgo moon, I am intimately familiar with the intricacies of perfectionism. After all, Virgos are the almost prissy perfectionists of the zodiac. It’s a flaw most people brag about at job interviews or when guests come over to an immaculate home. But in reality, perfectionism is a form of fear and self-loathing.
There. I said it.
Perfectionists are so afraid to make mistakes and so afraid to be judged negatively by others that they self-impose impossibly exacting standards and, in so doing, can drastically limit their enjoyment of life. So how can you celebrate Virgo season by going easy on yourself a bit and practicing imperfection?
Here are ten ways to let loose, overcome perfectionism, and enjoy life more.
1. Ask a stupid question.
The first way to overcome perfectionism is to ask your questions, even the ones you think are dumb.
As a teacher, I witness the fear of asking questions every day. You don’t understand a word I’m saying and you have, like, four burning questions that you must have answered before you can get started on the assignment. What do you do?
Sit there quietly and pretend you have everything under control, that’s what! Duh!
Now, I won’t say what most speakers and teachers say: “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Because there is. OH BOY, IS THERE. But they are few and far between, and chances are quite high that your question is most definitely not stupid. In fact, almost every question asked during a meeting or lesson or conversation in general is probably one that someone else in the room has also.
So you are not only helping yourself by asking questions, recovering perfectionist; you’re helping others as well.
And so what if your question is stupid? If someone wants to be an asshole about it, that says way more about them than it does about you.
2. Stop reading.
Books you don’t like, that is!
It’s remarkably hard for a lot of people, especially perfectionists, to stop reading a book mid-way because it no longer holds their interest.
My sister is a Virgo and is virtually incapable of starting a new book if she hasn’t finished the one she’s currently reading. But here’s one of the secrets to life: You don’t have to read the whole book if you’re over it!
If a book is good enough, you’ll finish it. If it isn’t, that’s its fault. Not yours.
Life is too short and there are too many fantastic books out there to waste your time reading ones you don’t care for.
3. Ditch the makeup.
I had so masterfully internalized the pressure on women to look presentable at all times that I didn’t even realize until pretty recently that I never left the house without doing hair and makeup.
At some point last year, at the end of the semester, I was so overwhelmed with grading and work deadlines that I was constantly asking my husband to run errands because I “couldn’t leave the house.” After realizing I hadn’t left the house in days and feeling awkward and guilty for treating my husband like a go-fer, I stopped to investigate my feelings. Why did I feel so pressed for time? The answer? Because to leave the house, I’d have to stop what I was doing, wash my hair, dry it, style it, and put some makeup on.
Ridiculous! Why do I need to look perfect all the time!? The answer is I don’t. I’m just an insecure perfectionist.
So now, while I still like to look decent as often as I can, I am working on overcoming my perfectionism by embracing the oh-so-LA combination of bedhead and sunglasses.
Also, down with the patriarchy!
Nothing embraces imperfection like an apology. Admitting we were wrong can be especially hard for perfectionists, so it makes sense that to overcome perfectionism, we should get more comfortable admitting our mistakes.
Apologizing when we have acted poorly is not only necessary for nurturing relationships, but it also endears people to us and tells them they can trust and respect us.
So if pride and perfectionism have prevented you from apologizing to someone who really deserves one, try a belated apology and let me know how it goes!
5. Get on the dance floor.
One of the most important realizations that can help us overcome perfectionism is that nobody really cares what we do.
Seriously. Nobody is paying attention to you! They are too busy worrying about themselves.
Virgos can often be perceived as stuffy or serious, but could it be shyness or insecurity manifesting as perfectionism that makes so many Virgos act that way?
So, whether you’re a Virgo or not, get on the dance floor! Even if you have no rhythm. Take your turn at karaoke even if you can’t sing to save your life. It really doesn’t matter. Even if you do make a fool of yourself, so what? Some people will laugh and you will have made their night. One or two people might say some nasty things but it would be behind your back, which is actually great. And, those are probably people you don’t know or don’t care to have in your life anyway. So nothing’s lost there either.
Sidelines are for suckers. Nobody’s perfect, not even a Virgo. Just live your life.
6. Skip the panic cleaning.
I wondered out loud to my husband recently why our place is such a mess. And we realized that because of the pandemic, nobody has come over for five months. Five months!
So what? Well, we do our best cleaning when people are coming over! And since nobody has come over, our standards have been way more lax.
And lax is the operative word here. Our apartment is still quite lovely actually. It’s just that we take longer putting clothes and music gear and dishes and Jagger’s toys away. And guess what? We are no worse for it. We aren’t living in filth. We haven’t developed toxic mold or a bug problem. And you know what? Both my mom and my mother-in-law have come up once and neither of them had a heart attack. Success!
In fact, I’ll go as far as to say this is a great test for your friends and loved ones. If anybody thinks less of you because of the slightly dead flowers you haven’t removed from that vase yet or the really dusty corners of your massive bookcase, good riddance. You don’t need that energy in your life.
7. Leave the typo in.
Can it be!? An English professor is telling you NOT to proofread?
No, I’m not saying that! And I most definitely am not saying to leave typos in very important documents, like job applications or college admissions essays.
What I am saying, though, is to stop delaying sending that email because you want to read it a seventh time and then run it by your spouse to make sure that you have no dangling participles and misplaced commas.
For me, the scenario goes something like this: I spend hours creating an interactive quiz for an online course and finally hit “publish” to make it live. Only then do I notice a harmless typo in one of the answers for one of the multiple choice questions. Do I log back into the course, navigate to the quiz, unpublish it, find that question and fix the typo?
“But you’re an English teacher!” some of you Judgy McJudgersons might be thinking.
Yeah, but I’m also human. And if it was just a minor typo, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.
8. Ask for help.
Asking for help is a sign of weakness to many perfectionists. In fact, Virgos infamously hate asking for help. But whether you’re a Virgo or not, life is infinitely richer and easier if you can bring yourself to ask for help.
I finally learned to ask for help (in more ways than one) in law school. It’s the first time I went to office hours. I had absolutely no idea what was going on in one of my classes and I was in a panic. School had always been my thing. I had never NOT known what was going on in an academic setting. I had a policy paper due in my employment discrimination seminar and I had gotten a really low grade on my first draft and I had absolutely no idea how to fix it.
So, after days of poring over the textbook and trying to figure it out myself, I went to office hours with my tail between my legs and – wait for it – asked for clarification.
And you know what happened?
I got clarification! And a special guide book to borrow from the professor’s own private library that actually helped me improve my paper.
I could’ve preserved my facade of perfectionism (and who was I even fooling anyway?) and, at best, barely pulled off a C in that class. Or, I could admit that I was having trouble and ask for help and get a pretty comfortable B.
Which would you choose?
9. Try something new.
Virgos and perfectionists are really uncomfortable with being bad at things. So, they tend to participate only in things at which they know they will excel. For example, I know I’m a good singer, so I joined a choir for fun. I could have taken a karate class or tennis lessons instead, but why would I do that? I’m the non-confrontational unathletic sort with flimsy muscles.
But the best way to overcome perfectionism is to be imperfect at things. And to be okay with the imperfection. The only thing that matters is that you’re enjoying yourself.
For me, yoga is my ultimate practice in imperfection. I am so bad at it. Like, so terribly bad. And, while I’m getting better at yoga the more I practice, I constantly remind myself that the goal is not to get better. The goal is just to show up and do it. If I eventually nail a pose I couldn’t before, great! But I’m not pushing or striving for anything.
10. Just order a pizza.
Before this pandemic, my family took turns hosting big Sunday night dinners every other week. And I, being the perfectionist that I am, was a regular Martha Stewart when it was my turn to host. I’d make a homemade three-course meal with on-theme drinks and a whimsical dessert.
The truth is, I took great pride in my Sunday night dinners not only because everybody raved about my cooking and menu planning, but because I have an overwhelming need to prove to my parents that I am a successful adult.
At some point last year, my depression came back with a vengeance for about a month, and I could barely keep up with my teaching load let alone play hostess with the mostess for my family. An unnecessary meltdown later, I texted my mom and sister that there was only so much I could do and we were ordering pizza and they could take it or leave it.
Guess what? They took it, and quite nonchalantly and happily too.
The thing about perfectionism is that nobody, absolutely nobody, holds you to the impossibly high standards to which you hold yourself. Nobody expects you to be perfect except you.
You can overcome your perfectionism! It’s time to give yourself a break.
I challenge you to try just one or two of these exercises to overcome perfectionism this Virgo season. Let me know which ones in the comments below!