Dangers of Perfectionism

Tempus fugit! Perfectionist[1]Or as most of us say now, time flies! And it really is flying by… March already. Christmas seems a lifetime away and we will soon be in Spring.

This has to be the fastest flying year EVER! And I know it’s got nothing to do with me being 1. busier 2. older – time really is speeding up. Or at least my perception of time is changing. And I’m not the only one – children I know have also told me their school holidays seem to be coming round faster, while friends of more advanced ages are also bemoaning the fact that we’re on a speed-up.

Talking of speed, I read last night that the earth is actually hurtling around the Sun at the mind-boggling speed of 18.5 miles per second. Now that’s what I call fast!  

But I digress.. We can all bend our perception of time, depending on whether we’re having fun, or whether we’re bored out of our minds. Or waiting for that call from a lover… Or that interview result…

But the whole question of time in a relative sense is an interesting one. The fact is, we are already in March. How close are you to creating the dreams you had at the beginning of this year? Or even the beginning of last year?
One reason I know why I put things off – apart from the usual procrastination (yawn) is another very annoying ‘P’ word – Perfectionism. And if you are similarly afflicted, you’ll know just how debilitating this condition can be.

Wiki describes the malady thus: Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality disposition characterized by an individual striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. Ouch!

Perfectionism can really screw up personal and professional relationships, but most of all it can often sabotage our relationship with ourselves. I can be so very, very hard on myself. Often not recognising what I have achieved in life, choosing (yes, choosing) to focus instaed on all the things I haven’t yet done.

Accommodating a perfectionist outlook means you can easily lose sight of all the fun to be had in life – instead our stay on this beautiful planet becomes all work and no play. All about achievement – the next course, more learning. I’m not good enough! Not enough time! Phew! It’s exhausting just writing this.

In itself, striving to be better, to be the best you can be, is no bad thing. But when we begin to identify ourselves by our results, or the praise we garner, then it’s time to start reflecting – and maybe hang up your whip. (Unless you’re a 50 Shades fan).

By being tough on myself, it’s a follow-through that I can be tough with others, too. Thank  God I’ve got patient friends who know me well enough to humour me out of this control-freak freakiness. But it could also go some way to explain why I’m currently single! So what’s the way out of this focus on results, maintaining unrealistic standards, procrastination, defensiveness, and self-criticism?

Overcoming perfectionism – one day at a time
1. Acknowledge you ARE a perfectionist. Just admitting this is one powerful step!

2. Write down as many ways you can how your behaviour is negatively impacting you – and your loved ones.

3. Write down your negative self-speak. What is your internal editor saying to you today? You could give this monkey on your back a name. Or draw a picture of it.

4.  Change your negative self-speak with more positive affirmations. Such as: I have plenty of time to finish this work. I have enough time. Just doing this is enough, it doesn’t have to be perfect first attempt. Or, in extreme cases, I find telling it to just shut the f**k up often helps!

5. Change your thoughts. Yes, you DO have control over your thoughts and feelings. Become the boss of you! A subtle shift in perception really works. Begin to see good in everything – it’s a cliché but every cloud does have a silver lining. And this quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet always helps me: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Wise man, Will.

5. Write down all the things you HAVE achieved in your life, in the last decade, in the last year, in the last six months, in the last month, in the last week. All the things in your life you are grateful for.

6. Ask your close friends to tell you all the things you’ve achieved since they’ve known you. Get them to give you positive and real feedback.

7. Don’t put things off because you’re not ‘ready’. Hand in that homework, file that report, tackle a new hobby – even if you don’t think it’s perfect. It will never be perfect. We are human – we’re not mean to be perfect. We are, as a dear frine of mine says, imperfectly perfect. And that is always good enough.

Good luck! Let us know how taking control of your thoughts and feelings has helped you out of the perfectionism trap.

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