“Progress over perfection” is a motto that I continue to come back to when my inner critic acts up. She even criticizes me when I forget this motto.
She’s the voice that says, “If only you were better (this) or more (that), then…(outcome I want).” We listen to this voice and believe it because we think that it will help us improve. That it will motivate us to be the best we can be. And that is a good thing, right?
Not always, no. Not when reaching for it costs us our peace, joy, and freedom in the now. Not when it makes us think that the reason we don’t have what we want is because we’re not better people. Especially not because the underlying message to our subconscious is, “You’re not good enough.”
Can you imagine if we walked around telling other people, “You’re not good enough” as often as we imply it to ourselves?
What if every time you did anything, all day for your entire life, someone responded with “Nope, not good enough.” How motivated would you be? What do you think your level of fulfillment and joy might be?
That is exactly what we’re doing to ourselves when we strive for better or perfect. We tell ourselves that who we are, right now, is undeserving…is less than…is not worthy.
One point of clarification about this motto “Progress over perfection.” This use of “progress” isn’t about future progress. It’s about giving ourselves grace in recognizing that the current version of ourselves is already better…it’s acknowledging the progress we’ve already made. It allows us to be enough with whatever shows up.
Because we are enough. We are always enough in each moment.
This is when my inner critic chimes in to say, “But what about when we make mistakes? Or when we regress on something we worked hard to overcome? Or when we know better but do it anyway?”
Yes. Even then we are still enough. We are still worthy. We are still deserving.
When we take perfection off the table, when it is no longer the expectation or goal, we offer ourselves grace in our missteps. We see it as a natural part of our human nature, which is not a linear journey or a logical, mathematical equation to be solved. In the words of Matt Kahn, “We are not a mystery to be solved but a mystery to be celebrated.”
We don’t need fixing because we’re not broken.
We are a work in progress. Sometimes it’s forward progress, sometimes it’s backward progress, and sometimes it’s sideways progress, because that’s the path we need to take for this adventure called life. Unless we’re a comatose vegetable, even (and especially) in our missteps, we’re always learning, growing, progressing and always enough.
The next time you have the urge to criticize yourself, or are judgmental about something you did or didn’t do, I invite you to give yourself some grace and allow it -- and yourself -- to be enough. You are already progress, and progress is more important than perfection.