If you are an ambitious person, you have undoubtedly fallen into the trap of overcorrecting, and honestly, you’re probably doing it right now.
Overcorrecting is what happens when we try to compensate for a problem that isn’t actually a problem, and end up further behind than when we initially started.
It’s what’s happening when we decide that we have “nothing to wear,” blow our budget on a whole new wardrobe, only to repeat the cycle in a month. It’s what’s happening when we look at our social media accounts and come to the conclusion that they are inferior by every measure and thus must be completely redesigned.
It’s what’s happening when we get a promotion at work, realize that there’s still someone doing better, and feel every ounce of pride instantly deflated from within us. It’s what’s happening when we try to start a business and focus more on a website font than making sure the product is as good as possible.
It’s what’s happening when we clean the entire house and yet cannot take our eyes off of the one corner of the baseboard that’s chipped and thus looks dirty and therefore robs us of our right to declare our space completely “clean.”
It’s what’s happening when we spend all of our time and money on adjusting our appearance — again and again — thinking we’ve finally found the magic, secret potion in that one new product that we just need to wait to arrive — after which, we’ll be free.
Free, by which we mean, far enough away from ourselves that we might be acceptable to absolutely everyone.
The problem is that ambitious people confuse course-correcting actual problems in their lives with nit-picking small, insignificant details to the point of totally derailing their progress.
When we’re overcorrecting, we’re trying to adjust something that’s really fine as it is, and does not require more of our time or energy or effort.
That’s why it causes us such anxiety, such strain, and ultimately becomes an addictive pattern that we can’t get ourselves out of: it’s a problem we can’t perfectly, completely fix, because it wasn’t a problem in the first place.
When we overcorrect, we lose sight of the big picture.
We focus on the mole on our cheek that we hate — which nobody notices, and some probably find endearing — while completely disregarding the most significant aspects of our appearance, like showering or styling our hair, the things that people actually notice.
We focus on the one spot of the house that we can’t quite make perfect, and then completely disregard the actual messes that are actually tangible, like the piles of laundry we are avoiding folding or the dishes in the sink that have built up for a day too long.
We focus on how our websites look as opposed to what they say; we focus on how our pictures appear as opposed to the story they tell; we focus on a meta perception or the way we think others see us.
In the end, our attempts to perfect our lives are ultimately what stall them.
Sometimes, when we do not feel that we are capable of controlling the bigger picture of our lives, we try to control the smaller things, only to find that to be useless as well.
What we’re coming up on is not our frustration that we cannot edit ourselves into flawlessness, it’s a broader, and deeper, sense of lack of control that we are ultimately grappling with.
The solution is simple in theory and challenging in practice, as all real healing is.
To stop overcorrecting, we have to stop trying to force everything to be sanitized and minimized and smoothed. We have to allow things to have edges and imperfections. We need to make space for it.
When we no longer need things to be perfect, we can allow them to be good.
We can declare what it is “enough” for our lives.
We can style ourselves in a way we love and know that it is enough.
We can do the work we feel called to and know that it is enough.
We can keep our spaces tidy and relaxing and know that it is enough.
We can share pieces of our lives online or not, and either way, know that it is enough.
The solution isn’t that we try to fix everything, but start to question why we confuse imperfection with brokenness.
They are not, and never have been the same thing.