Why Perfectionism is a Useless Mindset & How-to Break the Cycle


On September 16, I was nominated to complete the 22 Push ups for 22 days challenge. For those of you who might not be familiar with this challenge, the 22 Push-ups for 22 Days Challenge involves nominating a friend, family member, or colleague and challenging them to do 22 push ups for 22 days. Participants post their videos on social media and nominate or encourage others to join the fight. The Push Up Challenge is an activity to promote awareness for veteran suicide prevention along with honouring military service members and veterans.

As a Personal Trainer, one might have thought that I would have jumped at the opportunity to show off my "push up skills” [insert douche bag voice] but that definitely wasn’t the case for me. I was worried — worried that I wouldn’t be able to achieve 22 perfect-form push-ups for 22 days. I thought about not doing the challenge or, even more ridiculous, I thought about starting the challenge a few weeks later and during that time I would work on perfecting my “form”. Why did I feel this way? Because I wanted my push-ups to be perfect and I was worried about what people would think of me if they weren’t.

Just thinking back to that moment in my living-room when I was deciding if I was going to either ignore the nomination or choose to be vulnerable. What was the point of committing to this challenge if I couldn't do 22 perfect push-ups? Would it be worth it? Why was I so afraid to be vulnerable? Would people really care if I couldn’t complete 22 push-ups perfectly? Wouldn’t this be an amazing opportunity to practice what I preach everyday to my clients about how fitness is about progression not perfection? 

Which is more inspiring? 22 videos of me doing 22 perfect push ups OR 22 videos of me just showing up and doing my damn best? Both can be inspiring but only one was an option for me. 

I ultimately decided that I would practice what I preach and I would just show up and do the best I could. I decided that I had no control over what people thought of me and my imperfection. I remember posting that first video on September 16 and being SO scared that no one would even like it or would think, “geez, that’s her best?”. But I knew this challenge had to become about something bigger than just showing off my perfect push-up technique. 

So, I chose to show up and do my best. By day 15, I was already stronger and my technique had definitely improved. Wow, what a concept! You start doing something you’re not good at and if you don’t give up and you practice, you WILL GET BETTER. The process works but, for so many of us, we can't fully commit to it. If we know we won’t be good at something right from the start, we don’t even bother. It’s crazy but that’s why we all need to drop this “perfectionist” mentality. And, this mentality is not mutually exclusive to fitness — it can apply to many different endeavours we take on. For example, me writing this blog post. When I first started to write it, I kept stopping because it wasn’t “perfect”! Yes, the irony wasn’t lost on me. Finally, I decided to take another spoonful of my own medicine and decided to *just show up*. 

Guess what? 

It worked! It worked for this post, it worked for my Challenge, and it can work for you! 

Is this blog post the most incredible, awe-inspiring post you’ve ever read?  Not even close.

Were my push-ups the most incredible, awe-inspiring physical act of pure strength and technique?  Heellllzzz no! By day 16, I got the flu and my push-up form really started to stink, but I still *showed up* and did the best I could. 

Also, not only did people not call me weak or look down at me, lots of my friends, family, and strangers actually appreciated the determination and cheered me on. So, not only did my worst fears not materialize, but I actually received great support. Plus, my triceps never looked better ;) So, screw you perfectionism! 

Think about something you want to be better at, either in fitness or any area of your life. Something that you want to be good at but currently — you stink. I want you to *just show up* for 1 hour for 3 days next week. In terms of fitness, drop useless thoughts like this: “first, I am going to lose weight and THEN I will go to that fitness class”. Uhh... no! GO TO THAT FITNESS CLASS NOW!!%$&#*

One of my favourite quotes to repeat to myself when I’m afraid to struggle, especially in front of others is, "You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging" by Brené Brown. 

We are all imperfect but if we do our best then that’s good enough. Trying to be perfect just paralyzes us and we end up giving up before trying.  Just think about all the amazing things you could accomplish if you just showed up!

Please see below for all my 22 imperfect push-ups for 22 days. 

For more information about the 22 Push ups for 22 days challenge, please visit woundedwarriors.ca