By Melisa Milonas
Do you see yourself as a perfectionist? Although you may think that is a positive attribute you are about to learn the truth about perfectionism. There are many undesirable perfectionism can have on your self worth value, and confidence.
Perfectionism is ego based belief, where one needs things to be perfect and or tries to be perfect. Although there can be a sense of accomplishment or mastery when you get something done perfectly, perfectionism gets in the way of your happiness and especially self-confidence. Trying to be perfect and do things perfectly is very draining and unrealistic. You start to believe this illusion that you can control life. The fact of the matter is you can not control life and what happens in life. However, you can choose how you experience life. You can try figuring out how to make things “perfect” or you can go with the flow and be flexible.
Perfectionism is a pattern I have dealt with in my own life. What I have learned from my own experience and working with many women on this issue that trying to be perfect or do things perfectly is a way to validate and your self worth and value. You evaluate the external things in your life and see them as reflection of you. So if you get something “right” or “perfect” you feel good about yourself. If you don’t get it perfect you judge and criticize yourself. Hence, you feel less than or inadequate.
It is impossible to be perfect and when you focus your energy on trying to be and do perfect things a lot of pleasure is taking out of life. It is good to be prepared and to do your best. However, being consumed with the idea of doing things perfectly leads you to self imposed judgment and criticism. So many of my clients will not even start projects or put off working on their goals because they are overwhelmed by their thoughts and fears about what it will take to do something and do it perfectly. They feel so much pressure and they do not want to fail that is becomes easier to not even try. I spend time re-training my clients to stop focusing on how it should look and detach from the outcome and instead focus on enjoying the process.
Imagine how different you would feel if you were studying for a test and you viewed studying as a game? “How can I remember the most or I how well can I do?” Versus “I need to get an A, otherwise I am not good enough or I am a failure.” When I was in college I would cry when I got anything less than an A. That is how much of a perfectionist I was; it ruled my life and way of being. When I did not get things done perfectly I felt horrible about myself. Boy, I was so serious; I can remember many times not being much fun to be around. I was like a ticking time bomb. I felt so much pressure to perform and spent so much time criticizing and judging myself. Now I am no longer consumed with this need to be perfect and my life is so much more fulfilling and rewarding. I even laugh when I think back to that time in my life when I was miserable.
Apply this to a work situation; imagine viewing a project or an assignment as an opportunity to learn more. As a challenge but at the same time knowing the end result does not validate who you are. What if you gave up trying to make it perfect so that you will look good in front of your colleagues? When you get your self worth and value from with in and you commit to giving your best, you evaluate the outcomes and results without making it mean something personal about you. You still feel good about yourself and the experience.
Let’s say you go on a job interview but you do not get the job. The perfectionist person may make it mean something about them personally and say “I am not good enough.” A more accurate statement may be “I need to learn more about xyz and then I will be able to get a job like that.” “Right now I do not know enough about xyz but once I learn I will be capable of that position.” In the second statement you do not make it mean something about who you or are not, it only has to do with facts.
Let go of trying to make things perfect and focus on what would bring you the most joy. You will get so much fun and pleasure out of life when you do not have a rigid view of what a perfect life should look like or how you should be. I had to learn how to get my self worth and value from with in and focus on doing things with pleasure. At first I feared doing this because I thought I would not get as much done and less results if I gave up trying to be perfect. I realized I still got the same if not better outcomes and results in my life. And what was even better was that I was not miserable anymore I really started enjoy life. The way I viewed my body, intelligence, relationships, and career, transformed and instead of seeing what I needed to do to make them perfect, I started feel grateful and accepting for what I already had in those areas of my life.
Your assignment: First, give yourself a brake; do not be so hard on yourself. Second, start noticing when your mind gets wrapped up in trying to making something perfect. Thoughts that are focused on what is lacking do not move you forward. Instead let go of making it perfect and refocus on how you can experience pleasure in what you are doing. How can you get the most out of the experience? Commit to giving your best and identify how you would you be if you were giving your best? You would probably be inquisitive, flexible, fully committed, accepting, and satisfied. Breaking the pattern of perfectionism takes time and patience but the rewards are endless. You feel inspired and gain a new sense of confidence about yourself.
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