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Releasing Fear: Addressing Your Inner Critic – Perfectionism

You may or may not know that you’re a perfectionist, someone who is refusing to accept any standard short of perfection. If you don’t think you are a perfectionist, and yet you can’t…

Accept that you’re good enough…

Or are always comparing yourself…

Or are overburdening you with tasks to please others…

Or are engaging in rigid thinking…

Or you don’t internalise your accomplishments and achievements….

Or you beat yourself up, blame you, can’t hack mistakes and take them very much to heart…

And struggle to forgive you…

…this is all about perfectionism.

Being a perfectionist can catch you off guard. I didn’t even see myself as one until earlier this year, and it is something that you have to get used to facing down because otherwise, you always feel like you’re falling short, running on empty and are basically exhausted with trying to do the impossible.

For anything that you battle over trying to do perfectly or worrying about being good enough, work out your worst case scenario, good enough scenario, and perfect scenario. 

What you will discover is that you’re at extreme ends – the all or nothing perfectionist mentality. It’s time to work out what good enough looks like.

Reevaluate your goals – this gives you a chance to achieve and strive without setting yourself up to fail by giving you an impossible task. I would tone it down to about 70% of what you would normally go for (your average output is what a lot of people would consider giving 110% or more…) and see how you feel just going for these goals. Do you feel less pressured? Less anxious? Do you have more time? Does it reduce your over-giving?

Evaluate why something has to be perfect? I’ve worked with people who when you ask them why they’ve done an OTT level of work for a project, they claim that it was impossible to do less, but it was only ‘impossible’ to do less because when they considered doing it ‘less’ than what they had in mind, they panicked that it wasn’t good enough. The thing is, sometimes in striving to be perfect, you don’t actually achieve what was specifically asked for because you’re overdoing it and adding on so much more. It can raise question marks because realistically, if someone else is going to be able to do something without spending triple the amount of time on it or running their body into the ground, that’s the healthier option. I remember someone saying to me “I’ve already hired you, so you don’t need to keep acting like you have to prove that you deserve the job – just get on with it and show me your stuff.”

What do you think is going to happen if it’s not perfect? Then weigh this against reality. The likelihood is that it’s only you who feels that it has to be to this standard.

Bearing in mind things that you have done to your perfectionist standard, did it actually feel anywhere near as good as you anticipated that it would? Did you feel satisfied? Did you feel like you got the recognition that you deserved? I’ve actually found that I feel more satisfied with things that I cut myself some slack on. I’ve also found that things that I’ve worried about not being perfect are loved by others. You’re not really the best judge of your standards.

Keep a What I Did Today List. Todo lists depress me as I write far too long ones and then feel pissed off about not accomplishing an unrealistic set of tasks. Then I started writing down lists of what I did each day – it was shocking. I’m surprised that I do not recognise how much I achieve in some mornings. It also showed me why my todo lists are unrealistic plus it helps me to gain satisfaction out of my days and celebrate my accomplishments. Tell someone else what’s on your list or show them – they’ll likely be shocked that you don’t realise how much it is.

Ask for help. Your way is not the only way. Better to delegate instead of being a perfectionist martyr. I would rather have help that’s not ‘perfect’ than try to do everything myself.

Choose an area where you’re going to have super-high standards and then relax on the others. You cannot be a perfectionist with interpersonal relationships. It’ll be exhausting at work but at least its better than trying to be The Perfect Girlfriend/Boyfriend.

Set deadlines. I am the type of person who without a deadline, will keep looking for the lack of perfection until the end of time. Set a deadline, be accountable and let it go once the deadline has arrived.

Do less for 7 or 14 days and see if it makes a significant difference. Say NO a bit more, go at half throttle, instead of doing 10 edits, do three, and basically put half of the energy in that you normally would into your areas of perfection. Sit on your hands if need be and see it as an experiment. You will find that across a number of areas, it’s not noticed which may annoy you, but will show that you’re overdoing it. I’ve tested this theory when I take breaks during the summer – it turns out that I’ve been giving myself a hard time over very little. It’s only me who is worrying about my standards, and everyone else adjusts around them.

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