Winston Churchill once said, “The maxim ‘nothing but perfection’ may be spelled ‘paralysis.’” We’ve probably all met perfectionists in our lives, and know how difficult life can be for them and those around them. Perfectionism is the internalized belief that mistakes cannot be made and that the highest standards of performance in all aspects of life must consistently be met. Some common characteristics of a perfectionist include:
•Sets unrealistic goals and standards
•Personalizes mistakes and perceives them as a lack of self-worth
•Depletes energy levels by being preoccupied with the fear of failure
•Interprets comments and suggestions as criticism or as a personal affront
•Exhibits rigid behavior out of fear of making mistakes
•Gets frustrated with outcomes that fall short of perfection
If you recognize these personality traits in yourself or in loved ones, know that perfectionism need not be a permanent condition. It is possible to alleviate the stress, disappointment, and missed opportunities for happiness due to perfectionist behavior, by applying the following strategies:
Strategies for Overcoming Perfectionism
1. Getting to “good enough.”
Learn to give yourself permission to do your best in your role of mother, daughter, partner, colleague and know when your efforts were “good enough.” It is a great gift for anyone who suffers with the idea that things must be perfect. We must come together and institute the idea of “the death of perfection.” Perfectionism is harmful to our psyches because it is unattainable and makes us feel like we are “less than,” even when we are doing our best. The notion of the “good enough mother” or having the “good enough career” does not mean that you compromise your integrity or commitment to your responsibilities, but rather that you embrace the multiple roles of life fully and realistically.
2. Progress not perfection.
Use an affirmation such as “Progress not perfection.” An affirmation is a phrase or statement that either asserts the truth or conveys some positive thought that is within the realm of possibility. Another example could be, “Whole and integrated” or “Healing, health, and harmony.” Whatever simple, positive statement speaks to you is a good one for you to use.
To practice your affirmation, first take a few deep breaths to unwind. Then repeat your phrase. It is as simple as that. You can repeat your phrase while getting ready for your day, in the car, while you exercise, or whenever it comes to mind. Affirmations are particularly effective when you are in a relaxed state because that is when your mind is most receptive to suggestion. This is what the practice of hypnosis is based upon.
Repeating your affirmation “Progress not perfection” will help to create an attitudinal shift that will better equip you to accept your own limitations as well as those of your family members, friends, and coworkers. Over time you might even notice a greater sense of compassion for yourself.
3. Celebrate your accomplishments.
Most of move so swiftly from one accomplishment to another that we don’t get to savor or appreciate what we have done. Instead we focus on what needs to happen next, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed or depressed. Focus your successes and make sure you find a way to acknowledge your achievements, big and small. You need to be your best cheerleader. This builds your sense of joy and it is likely going to be contagious. When others see you appreciating your own accomplishments, they are likely to do the same, which then creates a more positive environment at home and at work.
The death of perfection and acceptance of “good enough” is a radical notion, that when embraced can help to liberate us in today’s wildly demanding world.
How do you embrace the notion of “good enough” in your multiple roles?
Photo credit to Max Gredinger