Progress Is Not Perfection

Growing up, I had a very hard time with being too hard on myself and struggling with perfectionism. I was the kid who would cry if I missed a note in a piano recital and the kid who was disappointed and angry at myself when I realized that it was physically impossible to drop time every single swim race. When I first started swimming, because I was shocking my tiny child body into training, I improved, improved, improved, and then…plateau. I did not understand or enjoy this at first: “I’m still training the same, why am I not faster every meet?” It was kind of like when I got my new Garmin and every run and ride was a new record. 😉

I remember countless times my parents gently telling me that I had to stop being so hard on myself, that I had to accept imperfection (and failure), telling me that life was not going to be easy if I continued to beat myself up anytime I did anything less than what I had previously deemed would measure success.

Luckily, I did learn to channel this tendency into (mostly) healthy levels of pushing and challenging myself, but I do often toe the line between healthy ambition and borderline unhealthy compulsion. It is probably something I will have to be cognizant of my entire life- I plan on being one, big work in progress for life, with plenty of missteps along the way. 🙂

“Progress is impossible without change,

and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

~George Bernard Shaw

We are all working on progress in some capacity. The context may be different- maybe you’re working on an exercise program for the first time in your life, maybe you’re getting over the loss of a loved one, maybe you’re adjusting to parenthood for the first time, or maybe you’re beginning a new career path-but the journey to progress (adjustment, improvement, healing, etc.) is similar at it’s base level.

In general, it is easy to want to adjust, feel better, get better, be better as quickly as possible. And when the journey takes longer than we would like, it is easy to feel disenchanted, frustrated, and worry if we are regressing or not “cut out” for something.

Progress IS having hard days along with good days.

Progress is having 4 good workouts in a row and a terrible one.

Progress is making it through a full day without crying when grieving the loss of a loved one (emotionally and psychologically, “loss” can also be a breakup), and then having a day (or more) where getting out of bed feels like more energy than you possibly have.

Progress is going for weeks without an anxiety attack and then having a full blown attack at the least opportune time.

Progress is getting the hang of a new job and then making a mistake, or having a day (or days) where you feel uncomfortable and out of your element in your new role.

When you are working toward progress, regardless of what it is you are moving (progressing) toward, you will have days that are harder than others. You may even have days that are downright awful. This is still progress. 

The sooner you can change your sense of reality from perfection to acceptance, the sooner you can accept that the end goal is not to be perfect at something, and the sooner you can accept that you will not feel happy about yourself and your situation 100% of the time, the more you will accept yourself, accept your circumstance, and embrace and enjoy life for what it is-a journey. Don’t miss the journey because you’re too busy waiting for an unrealistic destination of unlimited ease, or perfection. 

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…

Every step toward the goal requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle;

the tireless exertions and passionate concerns of dedicated individuals.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Run on, my friends.


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