NE Life Coach Calling all Perfectionists

Are you a perfectionist?  Over the last few months I’ve been trying an experiment of sorts.  I’ve tried it once or twice before with varying degrees of success.  No matter how often I try, it’s still a challenge, although each time being less of a perfectionist does become a little easier. I have channelled my energy into being distinctly average!

You may think that’s a little odd, but I know the perfectionists in the room will understand.

Throughout my life, I’ve developed a belief that I must be and should be better than average; that everything I do should and must be perfect.  I’ve tracked it back over the years to see where it originated and how I embedded it.  However, this isn’t about that; it’s about changing the pattern.

“Striving for excellence motivates you, striving for perfection is demoralising.” – Harriet Braiker

I know that when I put my focus on my perfectionism, I develop a more helpful habit of being average.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m not striving to be the best version of myself, I am and will continue to do so.  That has always been separate to ‘being perfect’.  I see perfectionism as being more about the things we do rather than who we are.

I’ve noticed over the last months in particular that when I’m upset about something, usually something that is completely outside of my control, it seems to trigger my perfectionist tendencies which simply add more stress.

The Perfectionist Inner Critic

The experiment involved me not giving in to that voice in my head that said “you cannot leave it now, it’s not finished, it could be better, you can do better, spend more time on it, make it perfect”.

I know from dealing with my inner-critic that it isn’t any good ignoring the voice – it just gets louder and more persistent.  Neither is there any point in arguing with it – this just seems to give it more even more energy and determination.

So, what did I do?  Well, I would take a few moments to sit with it.  To let it have a voice, to have it’s say.  Then I would thank it for looking out for me (I’m a firm believer that all these inner-critic voices stem from a place of good intention) and reassure it that it had been heard.  I would explain “I’m trying something new and I know it will be a bit scary for you but I’m still here and I hear you.”    Oooh and I had better mention that this conversation was in my head rather than talking out loud.  You could end up getting some strange looks if you did that in public!

The next step would be to get up, move away from the environment of the task, often to step outside for some fresh air, standing and watching the clouds and following my breath.

Reducing Stress

I know that the stress of not having control over something triggers my perfectionist tendencies which, in turn only create more stress. So, the actions I took not only helped me step back from perfectionism but also help me manage my stress level much more effectively.  As a result of this, I also became much more productive.  Perfectionism reduces productivity.

Was the work I did ‘average’? No, it was great, good and good enough.  It was fit for purpose and completely acceptable.  The only thing it wasn’t, was perfect.

How do you know if you’re a perfectionist?

  • You don’t get started – you’re always looking for the ‘right time’ to begin.
  • You get overwhelmed with fear of not achieving your goals.
  • You’re never happy with what you achieve.
  • You become obsessed with tiny mistakes that have little or no impact.
  • You put achievement before managing your own self-care.

If this sounds familiar – welcome to the club my friend!

To recap on my strategy:

  • Sit with the inner voice and listen.
  • Show it compassion and gratitude.
  • Step into a different environment
  • Try a short mindful meditation.

The last piece? Do something just for you to celebrate how fabulously imperfect you are!

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