How can we let go of this idea of being perfect, and instead, begin focusing on becoming a more authentic self?
First of all, it's important to see what lurks behind our ideas of perfectionism. According to research by Brenne Brown, SHAME is what we find at the root. Having an awareness of the shame we feel allows us to work with it and free ourselves from it as opposed to it claiming us. The idea here is that we don't feel good enough. Perfectionism is not the same as trying to reach our greatest potential. It is the belief that if we check off all the boxes on how we think we should be/look/act, we can avoid all pain and suffering. And when we do experience some sort of pain and suffering, we think we have done something wrong, that we are a failure, a loser, not good enough, etc.
It also appears that perfectionism is about wanting approval and acceptance. Therefore our so called checklist will be made up of what we believe will get us that A & A. Do we get it from looking a certain way, behaving a certain way, associating with certain people, owning certain things? There is nothing wrong with wanting a certain amount of acceptance, but we want to get that acceptance for being our genuine imperfect self.
How do we do that? By acknowledging our vulnerabilities and practicing self-compassion. When we can embrace our imperfections, our feelings of shame decrease. In turn, we may experience less anxiety, depression and avoidance strategies (ie. substance abuse, addictions). And so, when I say we "practice" self-compassion that's because it does take some practice and learning how to speak and act more kindly to ourselves. Mindfulness meditation can help us see more clearly what we are doing and to be able to observe our thoughts in a more non-judgmental capacity. We don't need to suppress negative feelings or thoughts, but we needn't over-identify or exaggerate them either.
I will conclude with one of my favorite quotes from the late Leonard Cohen, from his song, Anthem. " Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Beauty. The trick is we need to remember this again and again and again.