“Progress over perfection,” the saying goes. And yet, for so many of us it still feels all but impossible to resist the sweet, dulcet tones of Perfection’s siren song. In the dead of night it calls to us— reminding us just how much of our worth lies in our ability to overperform. Outproduce. Exceed expectations.

Perfectionism often feels like a success strategy. But it is actually the worst kind of enemy: A formidable opponent that bribes its way into our inner circle by feeding our deepest fears about our worth. 

It’s no coincidence, then, that the areas of our lives that make us feel the most vulnerable and inadequate are also the ones in which we are best primed to seek Perfection. In these dark places we strive, not for true excellence, but in defense of our wounds. We seek refuge in our ability to impress others, so we’re never called to confront our own self-doubt. We enshrine our shame by doing everything we can to avoid criticism and ridicule. In other words, Perfectionism is really nothing more than fear management disguised as healthy striving.

And the inconvenient truth is this: We can’t be brave and perfect at the same time. We can’t take chances if we’re focused on trying to control what other people see when they look at us. And it’s not until the moment we finally decide we’re worthy, that we’re ever able to see what’s truly possible.