As a recovering perfectionist, I know how debilitating it can be when working towards your goals. In this blog I address the difference between perfectionism and high standards. How one is harmful and the other gives you a sense of achievement and different approaches you can adopt to overcome your perfectionist tendencies and hit your goals.
Firstly, let’s look at what perfectionism and isn’t and the impact it can have on attaining our business goals. Perfectionism is like looking at a blank piece of paper and not wanting to write or draw on it.
This is when perfectionism becomes the enemy of progress. It can rob you of your self-esteem, peace of mind and enjoyment in your life.
When you have perfectionist tendencies you tend to be less forgiving of yourself and instead beat yourself up and see yourself as lacking. This in turn robs you of any satisfaction and pride in the job. One fear that perfectionists have is that if they stop shooting for the stars they’ll be under achieving and will let others down.
Perfectionists can achieve less as they focus so much of their attention on getting things perfect and can result in procrastination and other self-defeating behaviours. The subconscious mind can use perfectionism as a way to protect us and can become a form of self-sabotage that gets in the way of us achieving our goals.
Whereas having high standards is about wanting to do our best and learning from our mistakes. High achievers are much more forgiving of themselves and are more open to taking the lesson from their experience.
Ask yourself, what is your need for perfectionism stopping you from achieving?
One of my favourite quotes on perfectionism is from the book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
“I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more that a deep existential angst the says, again and again, ‘I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.”
Now that you have a better understanding of the price of perfectionism, let’s look at how you can overcome this to raise your self-esteem and increase your chance of hitting your goals.
Awareness – By becoming more aware of your perfectionism behaviours you’re in a better position to create change. One good way of doing this is to journal your perfectionist thoughts as they pop into your head. The more you do this the more you will become aware of your self-sabotaging perfectionist tendencies and you can choose to focus on better feeling thoughts.
Focus on the positive – If you’re struggling to overcome your perfectionist tendencies it may be that you’ve become skilled at spotting mistakes and you maybe naturally looking for them above everything else. At first it may feel difficult to overcome this pattern of behaviour but over time you can start to consciously make an effort to notice all that is good with the work that you do. If you notice something you don’t like, switch your focus to something that you do like, that is positive and makes you feel good in order to create a new positive habit.
Change your self-talk – Notice how you’re talking to yourself and what your critical voice is saying about your ability to complete a task. Your critical voice will want to tell you that you’re not good enough, that you need to work harder, that you’re not trying hard enough, etc. The more you focus on the messages you receive from your negative inner voice the more you can feel appreciation for your work and reach your goals faster
Take baby steps – Be mindful not to set yourself big lofty goals that feel unattainable. Take it one step at a time. Step into the learning curve and forgive yourself for any mistakes. Review your goals and change them so they are more bite size and reward yourself when you hit your goals. Take it one day at a time and celebrate your wins, no matter how big or small they are.
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