The Perfection Project (And why you should not try it!)


I have noticed a popular concept for authors these days is to have a project that they experiment with and write a book about. For instance, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I like this concept. I was thinking, if I were to take this approach, what project would I pick?

And then I realized there was a project that had already picked me.

So this is where I admit I unfortunately embarked on The Perfection Project. The course of this project spanned over two decades. I mapped out what would lead to a perfect life. I read books and I did my research.

And I was even successful. Okay, yes, nothing is perfect, but I am pretty sure I got about as close as you can get. So if you are currently on your own perfection project I am here to tell you, stop now. The end result really isn’t that great.



At 26 years old I had accomplished all my perfect goals:

I had a perfect college experience where I had lots of personal growth, made the loveliest of friends, and had made close connections with my professors. I had read many books about what the perfect and most fulfilling job would be and it was a career of contribution and helping others. I also learned what job a perfect Christian would have, and it was a job helping the poor. So at age 23 I landed my perfect fulfilling job helping the poor which also made me (in my mind) a perfect Christian.

Now it was time to find my perfect husband. I had also read many books on this topic and knew what I was looking for. Kind, slow to anger, selfless, compassionate…etc. And I found him. And we got married. I had read so many books on conflict management and relationships (and I had luckily married someone who was very, very patient with me!) So, in result, we had minimal conflict and had a lovely and perfect first years.

And to top it off, we lived in the perfect town – not too big, not too small. We had perfect relationships with our parents and in laws as there was no conflict and both sides were supportive to us. Also, I was never overly drawn to material things – so our modest house was also perfect.

I know what you are waiting on now – to hear about how it crumbled. But that’s the thing, It didn’t. It stayed intact. I had arrived. I had made it. I had done what most people only dream of doing, and I was only in my 20’s.

But I was confused about my arrival. I felt sad. And things weren’t even fake perfect or the worldly version of perfect. My perfect wasn’t about consumerism, or power, or any of those things. I truly had a wonderful relationship with my husband and I worked at a job that was helping others and I truly believed in the cause.

How could I possibly be sad?



I felt like I couldn’t move. My husband and I had talked about having kids – but I had seen the charts on relationship decline once a couple has children – not a smart move if you are trying to have a perfect marriage. I thought about taking on a different position at work or furthering my education – but my position was already perfect – I wouldn’t want to compromise that. So I didn’t want to make any changes to anything, at all, EVER.

But then there would be these moments – when I would picture the rest of my life. And it was just always the same forever. And although my life was “perfect,” there was a deep sadness in this.

I remember my husband telling me that I had reached my “local maximum.” (He’s a nerd scientist so he says things like this sometimes). He described the idea in terms of robots that are supposed to find the highest elevation. However, instead of finding the highest elevation the robot in this scenario would be stuck on the first peak, though it was not the highest peak. Any movement down in elevation would be regression. In result, the hypothetical robot is stuck on this first peak forever and never finds the highest point.

Or I think of my husband’s story from summer camp as a kid. His parents delivered a package of all kinds of goodies and treats, but he feared if he left package in the cabin someone would take it. So he spent the whole day protecting his goodies and treats, and could not leave the cabin to go out and have fun with his friends.

Perfection means you can’t move. You are stuck.



Looking back, I believe I was sad because I was not on a mission or a journey. If you have ever gone hiking on a mountain, it is the climb that is most fulfilling. It is the anticipation to the top – but the top can only be enjoyed for a short time. To reach the top and try to enjoy the view forever would be incredibly, incredibly boring even if the view was amazing. We must always be climbing and anticipating new views.

If you have read a Donald Miller book or heard him speak in recent years, you have probably heard him talk about the idea that we are all characters in our own story and a character has to want something. This is completely contrary to how I had been trying to live. I had worked really really hard to NOT want anything. I was basically trying to be Buddhist or Stoic (or at least what I thought it meant to be Buddhist or Stoic). But honestly, I think I got my philosophy of “not wanting” from the Christian church. I thought that was the goal.

Looking back, I think I understood the concept of “wanting” as negative because most of the sermons I listened to lead to some version of “thou shall not want.” I admit, the sermons were probably mostly focused on desiring material possessions or power, but I somehow instead applied it to anything and everything.

Donald Miller also references the ideas of psychiatrists and psychologists in our history. Sigmund Freud believed that the ultimate human pursuit was the pursuit of pleasure. Alfred Adler believed that it was the pursuit of power. However, a man named Victor Frankl thought something a little bit different. Frankl was a psychiatrist that went through a Nazi concentration camp. He adamantly believed that it was not pleasure or power that people desired – it was meaning. People just use pleasure and power to distract themselves. But it is meaning that gives people the breath of life.

What was strange for me is that I thought I had already found meaning through my relationships and my work helping others. But for me, I had left two important components of living meaningful behind. I left behind growth. Which in turn, caused me to leave behind spirituality.

I am open for debate on this topic, but I want to argue that, without growth, there is no such thing as spirituality. I acknowledge I am speaking from my own experience and others will have a different take. But all I can say is, when I was busy maintaining my fortress of perfection, I felt the most spiritually dead I had ever felt.



So I said that things didn’t crumble. Well, they stayed “perfect” for a few years but there was eventually a little bit of crumbling. Or at least some corroding. My job changed a bit, and my perfect position became a lot less perfect. It became stressful. I had trouble staying on top of everything. I felt there were expectations that I could not meet. I no longer felt I could use my talents or creativity in my job. And I couldn’t invest in the clients in the same way I had before.

I don’t think things have to go wrong for us to grow – I do not think it is a prerequisite. However, having things go wrong will 100% make you grow. For me, it was the first time I felt growth in quite a few years.

A lot of the growth had to do with letting go of, you guessed it, perfectionism. There were two forms of perfectionism I had to let go of.

Letting go of the Perfect Life

First, I had to admit that my life was not perfect anymore. Not just to myself, but to others too. People used to ask about my job and I would say “Yes, I love it! It’s such a great fit and so rewarding!” After the “crumble” I had to say “Yeah, it’s’s pretty stressful at times…yeah not quite as good of a fit as it was before..yeah a lot of’s hard every day to stay on top of everything…”

I also used to be really good at fixing things and developing solutions, and as much as tried, I could not find a way to “fix” my job and make it like it was before. So a year later someone would ask “Is your job going any better?” And I would have to reply “No…about the same…still kind of stressed…still having trouble keeping up with everything.”

Having to deal with the fact that I didn’t know how to fix it and constantly having to admit that to others. That was hard.

Letting go of the Perfect Self

Second, I had to learn about how to be an imperfectionist in my day to day life. My job required it of me. I would have too many tasks to complete at work and not enough time to get them done. I was never someone before to ever be late for a deadline, and I was now having this new experience for the first (and second, third, fourth…) time. I also wasn’t able to take care of every need for each of my clients, and that was really difficult for me.

I had to develop a mantra for myself to repeat daily. It was the mantra that my mom used to tell me when I would be stressed about getting good grades in elementary school. It was simple, but it helped.

I can only do my best.



No matter if you had a little bit of crumbling or a lot of crumbling..

A post-perfection life is not a pile of ashes.

It is a city re-built.

With wiser builders.
Who have wiser plans.
Building wiser structures.

With rooms for flaws.
With rooms for intuition.
With rooms for change.
With rooms for uncertainty.

My goal for this post is not to convince you that there is no such thing as a perfect life. My desire is to tell you that if you arrive at your perfect life and try to stay there, you will remain unfulfilled.

What I am working on now is living a meaningful life. A meaningful life that is not perfect but full of growth. Every living thing on this earth is either growing or dying. Choose which category you would like to be in.



I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise. So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

  1. Have you found yourself striving for your own “Perfection Project?” If so, why do you think you are striving after this?
  2. Have you ever been in a situation where, even though you wanted to move forward, you resisted in fear of messing something up or letting go of some kind of perfect thing in your life?
  3. Think of a time when things in your life were crumbling – either a little bit or a lot. Are you able to look back now and see the growth that came out of that time?
  4. Do you believe that to be spiritually alive, there must be growth? Why or why not? Can you think of examples in your own life?
  5. What does your city re-built look like? What rooms will the wiser builders make sure to include?



Let me know if this entry helped you in any way, if you have any further questions, or if there is anything else you would be interested in learning related to this topic!

Also, I would love to hear about your own “Perfection Project” and steps you have taken to move forward.

Thanks for reading!




Don’t Believe Your Thoughts!


This post is for those of us that struggle with low self esteem, negative thinking patterns, or thoughts we don’t think we should be having.

My inspiration for this post comes from a day at work when I found myself seeing every situation and every interaction through the lens of low self esteem.

My mind began to chatter: They think I’m doing a bad job. They don’t like me. They are thinking I’m weird.

And the list goes on.



There is something that I learned a few months back that really helped me and changed my outlook on how I engage with my thoughts. I work in the mental health field and was working with a young lady diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was very functional – she was in college, employed, and pretty independent.

I remember sitting in our clinical team meeting and someone brought up some paranoid thoughts this young lady had been having. She had recently lost her job. She did not accept that it was due to working at a slower pace in a fast pace environment, as had been communicated to her. She believed she was fired for a different reason. She expressed that she felt someone had been out to get her and there was some scheme all long for her to get her fired.

All of the staff seemed boggled as to why this would be her perspective when there was no evidence of this.

But our clinical director clarified.

Remember team, this girl has paranoid schizophrenia and because of this her brain is going to try to turn every situation into one to be paranoid about and one where people are out to get her. It is not her fault. What we need to help her do is help her understand that her brain is wired this way so that she can realize when she starts having these thoughts, that they are not necessarily true. If she can understand and believe that, she has the ability to be very successful in her life despite the fact she has paranoid schizophrenia.

First of all, this was SO hopeful to me for this young lady and anyone with mental illness. The fact that no, she could not control that she had schizophrenia, but the fact that she can make a choice if she believes the thoughts. I do want to acknowledge that with more extreme cases of schizophrenia this may be a very different story and I do not feel educated to speak to those cases. But for this girl, she had hope!



I felt like I had a very big paradigm shift in this moment. That we don’t have to succumb to our natural tendencies and brain wiring – we just have to acknowledge them. If there was hope for a young lady with schizophrenia, there was hope for me! And since that moment, I think differently when I find myself having moments of low self esteem.

When I start thinking: Maybe someone’s talking bad about me? Or [fill in the blank] means maybe they don’t like me… I am now free to instead think: For whatever reason, your brain has been wired/trained/has a natural tendency to have these thoughts. You are looking for evidence that is not really there. And once I know I can’t trust these thoughts, I actually start feeling a whole lot better.

I know it’s difficult not to trust your thoughts. Isn’t it you in there after all? And why wouldn’t you trust yourself? But the truth is, we are biological too. We are not just souls. We are souls inhabiting a body. And bodies are imperfect. And your brain is a biological part of your body. It can mess up, it can be imperfect. And luckily, your soul or “higher brain” or whatever you want to call it, can acknowledge this.

I know it’s tricky with our brains – we don’t want to think of them as biological. But like anything else – it can function improperly at times. You accept that your digestion system can function improperly at times so accept that your brain can too.



My husband (who happens to be a brain scientist) is adamant that he does not struggle with impure thoughts about other women. I ask him how he does not struggle, as you hear most men do struggle with this. But he tells me that he does not struggle because he accepts that he has a divine spirit/soul/higher brain within a biological/primal/instinct brain.

So if he sees a curvy woman walk by that is not me, his primal brain may notice her as this is a human’s built in instinct. But he does not beat himself up about it because he recognizes this as the primal part of his brain. And then he accesses his higher mind which tells him I have a wife I love and this thought means nothing to me. And that’s it, the whole encounter is over.

I know that sounds too easy. But I think for whatever reason, our culture doesn’t usually get this right. We have two extremes. There are people who follow any bodily desire that they have and see no issue with this. And there are people who notice the opposite gender that is not their spouse, spend a lot of time beating themselves up about the fact they noticed that person, which often times, makes them think about it even more because they are so desperately running away from it.



Think of your body and brain as a tool in your life – an imperfect tool – but a tool. Or think of your body and brain as an organization of a bunch of imperfect people working together. You need to work with the team – but ultimately YOU (your higher self) is the boss and you get to choose how you react. The team might have some insight, but they don’t always know the truth. Also, remember your brain is your physical body – if you get sick – you don’t beat yourself up about it – you make decisions about how to solve the problem.

So next time you have low self-esteem, negative thoughts, or thoughts you don’t think you should be having:

  1. Don’t believe them. Your brain is wired to think this way – but there may be no evidence for these thoughts.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up about the initial thought – you cannot control what thoughts come to your mind, you can only control if you choose to dwell on them.
  3. Ultimately, you (your higher self) runs this show so don’t have weird chemicals in your brain trying to tell you otherwise! You get to decide!



I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise. So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

  1. What negative thinking lens do you find re-occurring in your daily life?
  2. How much truth, weight, or power are you currently giving negative thoughts? Are you open to thinking about thoughts differently – and recognizing they may be influenced by your biology and brain wiring?
  3. Who have you allowed to be in charge in your own life – your higher brain or your lower/primal brain? Or a little bit of both? What are some examples? How in the upcoming week will you hand the power over to your higher brain/self?



Let me know if this entry helped you in any way, if you have any further questions, or if there is anything else you would be interested in learning related to this topic!

Also, I would love to hear what negative thoughts you have battled and how you have worked to overcome them.

Thanks for reading! Happy thinking!



Unlearning Perfectionism


The journey of unlearning perfectionism is a strange and counterintuitive journey to take. Our modern world teaches us to try our hardest, on time is late, and wasting time is basically one of the seven deadly sins. We must be intentional with every single decision we make, or our life will ultimately end in bitter regret.

The great difficulty is, there are truths within these messages. Who can really argue with trying one’s hardest and living intentionally? And to be honest, these messages are for some people.

But they are not for me. They may not be for you either.



Unlearning perfectionism is counterintuitive because who in their right mind is going to on purpose attempt to not try their hardest?

What if I told my boss that? What if they asked what my current professional goals were and I responded with:

Oh, I have been working on implementing my strategic plan of not giving my very best to everything I do!

Since it does feel so counterintuitive, I do not believe I would have learned to let go of trying so hard if I was not forced into doing so. A couple years ago my position at work became completely chaotic. I had tasks that would pile up and had limited time to complete everything. I spoke with my superiors and was told that there were no changes in sight to accommodate my situation.

What did that mean? It meant I submitted paperwork that was not perfect and that was past suggested deadlines. It was official in my mind – I was a terrible employee.

But guess what my employee evaluation said?

Well Organized. Meets deadlines. Pays attention to detail.




Here’s the thing. Our employers do desire for us to give our best effort. However, they also recognize that human beings are not literally perfect. The problem is, what perfectionists think of as “my best” is very different from what non-perfectionists think of as “my best.”

As perfectionists, we are trying to do our paperwork, schoolwork, life work etc. to literal perfect standards. But since we are not perfect human beings that is not actually possible, so we end up just having a whole lot of stress and negative emotions in our lives. It’s not that non-perfectionists aren’t trying hard, they just recognize they are flawed human beings that will not be able to produce something absolutely perfect. They also end up getting a whole lot more done. If you get everything to a 80-90% standard, you’ll give yourself a whole lot more time and mental energy to get other important things done.

For instance, when I spend hours and hours on a project trying to get it to 100% I end up neglecting other areas of my life. For me, I ended up neglecting the very people that my organization serves. I was too concerned about the paperwork being absolutely perfect. Maybe for you it’s something else? Maybe it’s neglecting friends, family, spouses, or your own self care?

I mean, if we are such perfectionists – even if we do meet deadlines perfectly, or write a perfect book, or reach some other perfect goal, but have neglected people close to us or even ourselves in the process – are we really going to look at our life and feel like it is “perfect?”

The difficult truth for those hard wired for perfectionism is that there is no perfect life. It simply isn’t to be found. So the best thing we can do in this life is strive for a balanced life. Will it be perfectly balanced? Of course not. But balance is a much better goal to strive for.



So how can you start moving in this direction and begin to let go of your perfectionism?

Start small.

Notice little moments where you are being a perfectionist. You don’t have to conquer the big things yet. Just notice the tiny moments in which it happens. Moments you wouldn’t even realize it was perfectionism if you weren’t consciously thinking about it.

My example is that a few nights ago I went out with a couple friends. Sometimes I can be a perfectionist about social situations.

Is this going well? Is everyone having good time? Did we go to the right place for dinner? Am I talking enough tonight? Are people having fun with me? Did people not like their food? Are they glad they are hanging out with me? Is there something I could have done to make it better?

Okay, so I am a little obsessive. But you probably are too. It’s packaged deal usually – if you are a perfectionist you are also a little obsessive at times.

Anyway, I noticed myself being this way at dinner. And although my obsessive perfectionism thoughts didn’t go away when I started noticing them, I did feel like I could combat them somewhat with more positive and realistic thoughts.

Is this going well? Is everyone having a good time? Yes it is. People are smiling.

Did we go to the right place for dinner? There is no “right place” but this place has a good environment and good food.

Am I talking enough tonight? Are people having fun with me? Again, yes, they are smiling and laughing!

Do people like their food? Yes! They are eating it! You have no evidence of them not liking their food!

Is there something I could have done better? No!!!!!!!!



If you are not a perfectionist you are probably asking yourself what in the world is wrong with me that I am having these conversations with myself in my head at dinner with friends. If you ARE a perfectionist, you totally get it.

As you can see from the above example, there was no evidence that merited any of those questions or concerns. But that is how the perfectionist brains are wired. Our brains naturally want to ask Are things going well? Could they be going better? Are there any problems? And because we get so focused on those questions, we start creating evidence where there isn’t any. You start to think Well she didn’t eat her entire piece of chicken, it must have tasted bad. Or they looked at their phone a couple times, that must mean they were bored.

This is where it is incredibly important to recognize that you are a perfectionist. Once you accept this, it then gives you the permission to dismiss the thoughts when they start happening. I just simply remind myself: You are a perfectionist so your mind is gong to naturally start thinking this way, but you have no evidence to support this idea. And doing just this, actually really helps quite a bit! You don’t get quite as sucked into the lies that the perfectionist brain wants to tell you.



Before I end this blog entry, there is one other point I want to make very clear. There are many many MANY benefits and advantages to having the kind of brain that you do! My goal in this article is NOT to convey how unlucky you are in being a perfectionist or how you have all these issues to overcome because you are one. My goal of the article is to provide a few tools and ways to change thinking patterns so that you can be your best self. However, I do not want to neglect to mention that being a perfectionist has likely brought you very far in life.

You have likely thought very carefully about the decisions you have made, been intentional about the life you are choosing to live, and eliminated a lot of negative things in your life through you critical thinking skills.

Like all traits, there are always positives/negatives and advantages/disadvantages. So let’s hone in on the super strength that your brain wiring brings you, and learn some tricks to deal with a few little kinks in the system.

With all this being said, there might be someone thinking “Wait! But how do I know when I should trust my perfectionism and use it as a strength and how will I realize if it’s causing me more damage than good?”

The good news is, perfectionists are wise souls full of self reflection. YOU WILL KNOW. Don’t over analyze, trust that you will know.




I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise.

So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

  1. What is the biggest barrier that you see your perfectionism causing you? Has it caused you stress? Has it caused you to neglect other important things in your life? If so, what are these things?
  1. When most recently do you remember having perfectionist thoughts? What were those thoughts? Was there evidence for the thoughts you were having? What could you have said to yourself to combat the thoughts you were having?
  1. What will you commit to do in the upcoming week to challenge negative perfectionist thoughts? If you enjoy journaling, keep track in a daily log of the thoughts you are having and how you address them. This will help to keep you conscious of the thoughts and make it easier to continually address them throughout your weeks.



Let me know if this entry helped you in any way, if you have any further questions, or if there is anything else you would be interested in learning related to this topic!

Also, I would love to hear what“Unlearning Perfectionism” has looked like for you!

Thanks for reading!