7 Tips to Overcome Perfectionism
You have been conditioned to believe that striving for perfection is a worthy goal. Since young, you know that getting 100 marks is ideal and that you would be penalized even if you have made a mistake out of every ten correct ones. And so, it has become imperative that you perceive that you are being perceived as perfect; that is, without a flaw, failure or weakness. You enjoy gaining social acceptance and possibly, legions of adoring fans too.
Note that there is nothing wrong with wanting to produce your best work or hoping to present yourself in a good light. However, having a perfectionistic streak can have negative consequences. You are in the energy of “striving”, in seeking to meet a certain standard; failing which, you would shred yourself to pieces. The thought of imperfection makes you feel not-whole, incomplete, discontented and ill. The emotion that you experience is shame. There is a strong sense of disapproval towards the self.
Symptoms of Perfectionism
– You are highly critical of your own mistakes or if you fail to meet certain expectations.
– You cannot seem to roll out a finished product such as a book or complete a project because it is “never good enough”.
– You spend hours obsessing over some minor detail that no one else would notice.
– You have a tendency to focus on the 20% that has gone wrong and cannot give credit to the 80% that is going right.
– You believe that you would never be perfect in the way you look. It is important that you never be caught in a photograph with your mouth open wide, in an embarrassing posture or having “crows’ feet”. Any picture of yourself with an unflattering blemish needs to be edited heavily via photoshop before you can show it to others.
– You spend two hours editing three lines of words that never get published in the end.
– You downgrade your assessment of a product or service because you believe that your whole experience is compromised by a spelling error, a grammar mistake or an extra spacing.
Works of Perfection
The fear of not being able to create great work stops you in your tracks from producing anything at all. You have an increased tendency to procrastinate. You often find it hard to make up your mind. You move from one idea to another, unable to decide which is the best. You need to be, do or have the best. The constant bombardment of magazines is not helping. You are made to believe that the perfect appearance means not having a wrinkle, mole or ounce of fat tissue. You have to look every inch coiffed before you step out of the house.
As a perfectionist, you have honed your craft to a fine art. You have an eye for detail. Each detail is important to you. Masterfully, you weave every detail into a tapestry with a meaning that only the few connoisseurs like yourself can truly appreciate. Invariably, you would also turn your nose up at those who could not spot the difference between fine art and common fare. (Which reminds me on the story of the Princess and the Pea. The Princess could not sleep because under the layers and layers of mattress was a tiny pea. Her ability to know the difference allowed others to know that she was royalty. )
Indeed, as consumers, we value the work of the master craftsman. We pay for painstaking work. We would pay high prices for leather goods that take hours to double-stitch by hand. Or sophisticated equipment that has not only passed all lab tests in quality checks but is also sleek and ultra-cool in design. Not to mention, stunning clothes that drape our bodies fluidly no matter what awkward pose we strike.
Problems arise when we lose our sense of perspective, in our strife for perfection. We leak energy from an inability to feel settled and find it hard to take risks and needed action. When we start to tune in, it is possible to discover that the base emotion we are experiencing is shame. We project our shame onto others and become highly critical of others in the process. All in, we put ourselves in restrictive, limiting and contracted – instead of expanded – states of being.
According David R Hawkins in his book Power vs Force, shame is at the lowest level in the Map of Consciousness. He developed this map through kinesiology, after conducting hundreds (or thousands) of double-blind studies and mass demonstrations. Shame is akin to psychological death. It has the energy level of only 20. The highest is Enlightenment at the 1000 level.
“The level of Shame is perilously proximate to death, which may be chosen out of Shame as conscious suicide or more subtly elected by failure to take steps to prolong life.” – David Hawkins, Power vs Force
In shame, we would hang our heads. We experience a “loss in face”. We ask ourselves, “how can we face anyone from now on?” We shrink away from society. Historically, from the earliest caveman days, banishment is synonymous with shame.
Tips to Overcome Perfectionism
Oh yes, wanting things perfect has held me back one time or another. However, what has helped me is having a sense of adventure. Being bold often propels me to taking risks. Incidentally, through a Kolbe test – which helped me to gain better awareness about my strengths – that I took just two days ago, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I scored very highly on the “Quick Start” instinct-based action mode. This means that I have an increased ability to take on risks and uncertainty, kick myself into gear and to improvise under challenging situations.
Consider the following tips:
Tip #1 to Overcome Perfectionism: Work on your self esteem. At the root of it all is the thought “I am not good enough”. Chances are as a perfectionist, you’d be contending with a little voice that says you, your appearance or work is never good enough.
Realize that you are already whole, despite the imperfections that you see. Embrace who you are – faults, warts and all – totally. Bring awareness to your negative self-talk. Silence your inner critic with the light of awareness. Use energy releasing methods such as Meridian Tapping (to find out more, apply for a 30 minute complimentary session with me) to work on shame, if you have identified it as the root emotion.
Tip #2 to Overcome Perfectionism: Look at the big picture. Take a few steps backwards to gain better perspective. Ask yourself if the detail that you are obsessing over is really that critical. Does it truly affect your overall assessment or experience of the product or service?
Changing your perspective allows you to know that it is up to you to perceive meaning. There can be perfection even within the folds of imperfection.
Tip #3 to Overcome Perfectionism: Set reasonable expectations. While you recognize your efforts in wanting to be the best you can, set more reasonable expectations. Acknowledge your limitations. Setting excessively high standards adds unnecessary stress and reduces your overall well-being.
Ask yourself “good enough for whom?” Realize that you are your own harshest critic. It happens when you don’t allow yourself any room for error. And there is no need for exerting undue pressure. No one is born superhuman. If everyone around you thinks that your work is wonderful as it is, consider taking their opinions seriously.
“When nobody around you seems to measure up, it’s time to check your yardstick.” – Bill Lemley
Tip #4 to Overcome Perfectionism: Learn to laugh. Taking things less seriously can help. Learn to loosen up. Take a light-hearted approach to life. Consider: so what even if you have not produced the perfect product, written the best article or grown a wrinkle or two? What is the worst that can happen? Through self analysis, you might discover that you have been overly dramatic in predicting the worst.
Tip #5 to Overcome Perfectionism: Understand that you are a work in progress. You are on a learning journey, as everyone is. Acknowledge your desire to produce an excellent piece of work. However, never allow allow perfectionism to hold you back from producing, delivering or publishing your work. You can always go back to revise, make corrections or amendments after collecting initial feedback.
“When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.” – George Fisher
Tip #6 to Overcome Perfectionism: Study successful people. If you review case studies, you would realize that successful people did not necessarily produce perfect pieces of work. Think ipad or iphone. Even Apple offers repeated improvements after the first version of their product.
Tip #7 to Overcome Perfectionism: Learn to get past yourself. So you believe that you have got an important self image to protect. And you would label yourself a failure if you are less than perfect. Understand that beliefs about perfectionism spring from your ego. Your ego is not who you are. Your soul is here to learn about getting past your contrived stories, painted dramas and mistaken beliefs.
And when you do, you would experience much freedom. You would have liberated yourself from untruths that have been stopping you from experiencing fullness in life.
“You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.” – Martha Graham
Share Your Tips
What has helped you to overcome perfectionism? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments below.