You keep your standards high. You reach for the stars. You set lofty goals.
You want to be the best. All the time.
And you don’t want to make any mistakes getting there.
So, you beat yourself up every day for not being able to make your plan for perfection happen.
Deep down you cringe when people let you off the hook with a nonchalant “Nobody’s perfect, you know.”
Of course, you know. But you just can’t seem to stop trying.
Perfectionism is a tough task master. The whole concept assumes there is a way you “should” be. It demands and whispers a million “musts” on a long to do list. You never get to be your own person.
The pursuit of perfection, somewhere, out there, runs your life in anxious circles, all the while playing the same harsh monologue in your head:
“Keep trying you’re almost there,” it says.
Or worse, “Wow, you’ll never be good enough.”
And you believe it, don’t you? So, you keep trying, though somewhere inside you know there’s a better way.
But you can change. After all, you’re exhausted and dissatisfied. Don’t you think it’s time?
You can stop clinging to the black and white thinking of perfection so tightly. Embrace your mistakes as life lessons. Allow them to become the color that makes your life yours and vibrantly interesting.
Step One: Let Go of Perfection
You can love yourself better and like yourself more when you challenge yourself to release impossibly high standards.
• Pay attention to your inner negative self-talk.
• Recognize and challenge harsh, critical thought patterns. They only entrench perfectionism, anxious procrastination and self-doubt more deeply.
• Practice self-compassion and loving kindness for yourself. Treat yourself to the same respect you would give a friend.
• Allow space for failure. Give yourself grace. Extend to yourself mercy for being human and making mistakes.
• Put goals and aspirations on the table. Examine whether they are actually attainable.
• If goals are too high or too pressure-filled, take charge of your future. Give yourself permission to change course.
• Break down your black and white big picture. Shrink goals down into smaller, more manageable steps.
• Examine and explore the nature of your irrational fears of failure with a therapist.
• Allow your therapist to help you put your fears and anxious thoughts into perspective so that you may still reach your full potential without perfectionistic
Step Two: Embrace Your Mistakes
You now have the chance to see misunderstanding, mishaps, and failure as opportunities. Enjoy!
1) Open your mind to the value of mistakes
Relax in the fact that you’re human. Embrace the fact that you belong to a family of beings that can simultaneously achieve great things and mess things up royally. That’s just fine.
Acceptance is key to embracing life as it is, not as you would force it or yourself to be.
Be open to making mistakes and embracing valuable life lessons. If you see mistakes as worthwhile, you will be able to move forward. Less time will be spent stuck in regret or disappointment. Experience is a great teacher if you don’t dismiss the lessons for something more perfect.
2) Become more aware
Basically, look for areas of improvement, not perfection. Which “mistakes” make you a better person or improve your character? Observe your behavior, pay attention to your motivations, explore and honor your emotion, notice how your life intersects with other people.
This way, you are using your mistakes in a proactive manner. Being more self-aware and aware of your relationships increases emotional intelligence. You learn to be engaged despite your mistakes (and maybe even because of them) without shame.
3) Accept responsibility for yourself and your choices
Perfection keeps you locked into standards that are not your own. No such problem exists when you shed the fear of making mistakes. You are liberated to try things, succeed or fail. Making the attempt counts just as much as the result. Maybe more.
Accepting responsibility is an act of self-respect. You learn to make sound choices rather than exhaust yourself trying to tow a perfect line.
Now, isn’t it time to empower yourself?
Take charge. Stop beating yourself into perfectionistic submission. Stop beating yourself up over your mistakes. Treat yourself kindly.
Live your life well.
Take the first step…
If you’re ready to take a step toward changing your life for the better, I would like to help. Please contact me by phone or email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT