Unchecked, perfectionism sucks the living daylights from your creativity, productivity and health. Staying safe or staying the same literally means staying stuck.
And as we age shifting becomes harder. The reptilian part of our brain which keeps us safe in lots of situations goes into over drive as change appears on the horizon. What happens is a tendency towards fear. Conversely, as we chose to keep ourselves safe, our choices become more and more narrow. The dilemma is that, true creativity and novel production, require a degree of free thinking and risk taking.
Standard perfectionist strategies.
These have obviously been shared with me on a confidential basis by a close friend. All identities have been carefully concealed etc but I hope they illustrate the point; perfectionism sucks.
1. The simple “….It’s just not how I want it to be!”
Take for example a website that you potter with for 18 months before launching simply because you could not let it “go live” without having perfect original pictures, sliders and videos, each of which you are told are current must haves. They are, in fact, all cool ideas but lo and behold, perfectionism is a moveable feast. As soon as the thing is launched, you want to start changing it, adding and taking things away.
And if this needs any further explanation whatsoever err.. the thing could have been up and running, evolving and more importantly being shared with people who need actually need the information, whatever the format, 18 months ago
2. This is a big one for many women “I will engage when I look, or feel, a million dollars. Until then I’ll just wait.”
Putting off doing something socially because you are waiting for the perfect dress, hair, weight, shape, none of which you judge yourself to have or be at present.
Result: simply missing the moment. You may never have the opportunity to look, feel, experience or engage as you do right now. Ladies seize the day. We are a perfect expression of ourselves every single day!
3. Perfectionism is rarely anything to do with us.
This is the big one. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job. In fact, it’s a world view most of us have, and are, passing onto our children.
But, let’s be brutally honest, when the perfectionist fear arises it’s seldom about wanting to do a good job,. Much more often, it’s about being judged to be doing a bad job.
Perfectionism has at it’s core looking to the external. Looking to the external for validation. We judge ourselves by reference to other people and what they are doing and how we think we might measure up
Perfectionism sucks but there is hope!
My 3 Step Recovery Program
1.Cultivate Practices which allow you time to be still and look inward(not in a narcissistic way)
This is a strange one. Let me explain. When I was frantically running around, trying to keep all the balls in the air and perpetually about to burst a blood vessel, I was still shy and quite introverted. It’s often simply about being physically still i.e. doing nothing.it’s about giving yourself a period of time (which can be very short) to be awake but not active!
First thing in the morning, before you engage with anyone, or anything, spend few minutes (literally it can be a couple of minutes) in silence. You don’t have to sit but gift yourself a time witouth distractions.
I am not talking about meditation but that is a good idea too. I am talking about giving yourself the opportunity to check in with what is going on for you at that moment in time. This can be as simple as feeling cold/warm, agitated/calm. Once you have made your observations make a mental note of your needs. For example if you notice dryness the response might be to add some oil to your skin and or diet.
These practices are simple but I assure you, they will help you make profound shifts. For most of us the usual practice is to mask, paper over or simply ignore what is happening in our body e.g. I am exhausted, I need to do this, so I will have a coffee.
2. Give yourself a break! If you observe something don’t judge it.
I know first hand how ridiculous things get, Take for example knowing you are a driven person (good and bad) and then beating yourself up because you are not a Zen Goddess. The trick is to find some positive and negative aspect in every trait (there will be positive and negative) and then beyond that to find balance.
3.Decide ahead of time how you are going to reward yourself. Let go before you are ready bring on the reward!
This is a big one. It might not be in our make up to let go before we are ready but we can shift things. When something comes up it’s incredibly helpful to have decided in advance how you will reward yourself.