In my last post I discussed the myths surrounding perfectionism. To follow on from that I would like to discuss how you can start to shift your mindset and reduce your perfectionist tendancies.
Here are my 5 tips to beat perfectionism:
1. What is driving the perfectionism?
Working out the answer to this question might be a little tricky on your own but finding it will really help. Think of a time when your perfectionism gets in the way. What fear is driving you at that time? Was it a fear of displeasing others? A fear of losing control? Are you modelling someone else’s behaviour – a parent, a grandparent, a teacher or friend? Are you trying to prove something to yourself or others? Do you have low self-esteem? Are you suffering from imposter syndrome and thinking that any slip up you make will expose you for being an imposter? It could be one or a combination of these, or it could be something else completely.
Basically recognise what is making you perfectionist, put it into words and write it down. Know that you no longer need to be led by this driving force.
2. What are the effects of perfectionism on you?
You’re putting huge pressure on yourself to get things right. What is this doing to you? How do you feel when you get something wrong? What are you giving up on, or not doing due to your perfectionism? How has perfectionism got in your way?
Write down your answers to these questions but don’t use them as a stick to beat yourself with (you already do that more than often enough already). Read through your list and then, on another piece of paper, turn that list around. By this I mean write out the opposite of everything on that list – the new non-perfectionist you: How does it feel? What are you not giving up on? What opportunities are you not missing? That first list? You can file it away for now.
3. Face the fear
You could call this part “have a chat with your inner critic” if you like. Or “let’s play a game of what ifs.”
Pick something that you have put off doing, not done at all, or got seriously stressed about due to your perfectionism. Something recent or, even better, something current.
What if you make a mistake? And what if <whatever your first answer is> happens? And what if… etc etc etc. As far along the conversation as you can go. Now, have a think over those answers as if they were given by someone else.
Easy to say, I know. But you need to detach yourself a little and think about how you would respond if your colleague, friend or partner voiced these fears.
It is difficult to gain perspective when it is our own issue. But I am trying to get down to answering “what is the worst thing that could happen if you fail?” Will you have to do it again? Will you have to re-do part of it? Will the people you are expecting to be super disappointed really be all that disappointed? Have they never made a mistake? Is it more about your ego? About saving face?
Take your time with this part. It isn’t easy to be objective, but you want to be, so you will manage it in the end.
4. Choose imperfection
I don’t mean choose to deliberately mess things up. Keep your high standards by all means, but get rid of the impossibly high standards. You are unable to go through life without making mistakes, so stop trying. And this is a choice you can make.
You can choose to define, label yourself as a perfectionist. Or you can choose not to.
There is a big step between making this choice and getting there, of course. It doesn’t happen overnight. But making that choice takes you part way there. Once you realise that you have chosen to not make everything about perfection, you will not make everything about perfection. Can you imagine what a relief that will be?
5. Learn to enjoy the process
Perfectionists focus on the outcome, not the process. They miss out on so much of the fun and learning potential of doing.
The old you would focus only on the outcome: getting whatever it is done and done perfectly. The journey is as important as the outcome, so break it down into steps and learn to enjoy it. You might even enjoy making the odd mistake and learning from it on the way. You might even achieve a better outcome than the one you would have got while striving for the impossible. In fact you probably will.
Whatever you learn, and whatever the outcome, focussing on the process is a lot less stressful than making everything about the outcome.
So, those were my 5 tips to beat perfectionism. Are you ready to be imperfect? To relax and let go of the pressure you are putting on yourself?
Come and be perfectly imperfect over in The Mindset Hub, where we are talking about perfectionism, procrastination and lots of other mindset related issues.
If you are a perfectionist and would like to work me me to get past it, don’t hesitate to get in touch so we can discuss it further.