Most of us have at least one role model in our lives. Someone who inspires us to be better, follow after their footsteps and who wants us to reach heights greater than they did. Thoughts like “I want to make them proud” become synonymous to “I don’t want to disappoint them”.
But then you come up short or fail. And it breaks your heart. Not theirs, but YOURS. You punish yourself for apparently not trying “enough”. You consider your actions “unacceptable” and you feel like you’ve disappointed not only yourself, but everyone around you as well.
Setting high standards is not completely a bad thing; in fact, it is actually a good motivation technique. Refrain from taking on more tasks than you think you can handle though. Before you know it, you’re drowning in work that could’ve been finished long ago just because you don’t feel like it’s commendable enough. You constantly find yourself taking a step forward only to take two steps back.
All these, plus the refusal to accept any standard short of excellence, categorize us as a perfectionist. Instead of helping you become better, extreme perfectionism eventually ruins you. It brings nothing but unending stress, sleepless nights and a perpetual feeling of unworthiness.
Here are five ways to gradually help you prevail over perfectionism:
1. Find alternative ways to get things done
On days where you just “don’t feel like” doing what you usually do, mix up your routines. There is more than one way to accomplish something, so try to enjoy the spontaneity. Allow yourself to get help, rather than trying to accomplish everything on your own like you usually do. Letting others help you may even result in finishing the job faster, leaving more time for revisions and any fixing that has to be done.
2. Break big goals into smaller ones
First, start off by creating realistic timelines and schedules. Give yourself enough time to finish a task without having to cram. The more you cram, the more you tend to panic, and panic does not go well with perfectionism. Setting a reasonable deadline based on your abilities will not only allow you to work peacefully, but give you reassurance that it is indeed possible to reach your goal.
Not all goals and dreams are a one-shot wonder. Often times, we focus so much on the big picture or the end result that we overlook the steps it takes to get there. We have to care about what happens in between and what it takes to get there, or else we just end up distraught.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” – Bruce Lee
3. Leave a little room for disappointment and mistakes
Mistakes and improvement always go hand in hand. Do not be so hard on yourself and try to forgive yourself for your shortcomings instead of wallowing in self-pity. Use your slip-ups as step-ups.
No matter how much consolation and reassurance you receive from your peers about a job well done, if you choose not to believe them, you will never be satisfied – or be able to move on. Reflect on your failures, but don’t resent yourself for it.
4. Reward yourself
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead of thinking, “I failed”, substitute it with one or two good things that DIDN’T go wrong. Rather than thinking of all the other ways something could’ve gone wrong, focus on the positive things that went well and congratulate yourself for it. That alone is a reward in itself. Buy yourself flowers if you feel like it. Treat yourself to your favorite dessert. Any success, big or small, is worth celebrating.
“Every project has challenges, and every project has its rewards.” – Stephen Schwartz
5. Realize that not everything is a pass or fail situation
Get started even if you don’t see the end result. Although we are expected to do the best we can, our abilities will only take us so far. Sometimes, amongst the black and white, the gray area is all that matters most. Take these “but let me… one last time” or “Wait! This isn’t good enough…” lines out of your vocabulary.
We have to learn how to surrender to the moments, situations, changes and flaws and allow them to happen the way they’re supposed to happen. Focus more on doing a job right than doing it perfectly. And realize that being average is okay, too.