“Don’t let perfectionism become enemy of progress..”
Do you put pressure on yourself to always get things done right?
Do you feel disappointed if things don't turn out the way you wanted them to?
Do you feel that you're not able to live up to the standard that you've set for yourself?
Do you often delay your submission in order to make it “just right”?
Do you sometimes find yourself trying too hard to be perfect?
If you answered yes to all these questions, there is a high chance that you're a person with perfectionistic tendencies. The thing about perfectionism is that it has been glorified and we often fail to realize that it comes with a dark side.
Paul Hewitt and Gordon Flett describe three types of perfectionism: socially prescribed (in which a person believes that others require them to be perfect); other-oriented (in which a person requires others to be perfect); and self-oriented (requiring oneself to be perfect).
Well, why is it that more and more of us are choosing to compare ourselves to incredibly high standards and feel inadequate when we fail to live up to our own unrealistic expectations?
Moreover, in this day and age, it is further being fueled by social media when youngsters start engaging in social comparison. The idea of a perfect selfie, perfect body, perfect caption, perfect diet-plan, perfect workout photo, and more. Being in this constant chase to become a perfectionist can turn out to detrimental to one's idea of a healthy self-concept. It simply ends up manifesting feelings of self-doubt and fear of failure within you. Perfectionists also tend to present persistent self-criticism as casual self-deprecation.
It is important to note that perfectionism isn't something entirely wrong in itself. In fact, a healthy level of perfectionism is necessary to succeed in any area of life. The problem arises when this seemingly healthy perfectionism turns into unhealthy behavioral patterns and an obsessive need to constantly be the best.
Here are a few ways that can help us change our unhealthy patterns of thinking regarding perfectionism, and prevent us from falling prey to its perils.
1. Start focusing on the process rather than the reward.
Have you ever found yourself working hard on a project and thinking about how your boss would praise you for it once it's finished? Did you ever find yourself working hard in school in order to get an A grade instead of focusing on learning and becoming a better student?
Let's take the example of Tom. Tom is an aspiring writer who has been an A grade student throughout his life. He aspires to become a successful writer and decides that he will become one, only when his book becomes a New York Times bestseller. He publishes many novels, but to his disappointment, none of them gets featured on the New York Times bestselling list. You see, Tom had decided to measure his success by the number of copies his book had sold, something that was completely out of his control. What if, he had instead chosen to completely immerse himself in the writing process, and tried improving as a writer; something which was entirely under his control?
Wouldn't all of us be better off if we stopped seeking external validation in the form of rewards or accolades? One of the most popular verses of The Bhagavad Gita talks about the same: “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.”
It is good to have high aspirations but keep your expectations low. Don't focus on the outcome. Instead, focus on making the most out of the process and putting in your best efforts. The next time you begin a new project, pause and reflect on why you are doing it, and whether it is for the right reasons.
2. Choose your own standards to live up to.
Are the standards that you choose to you live up to, set by society, or by yourself? Our values and beliefs directly correlate to how we perceive our problems. Very often, our belief system is made by conforming to what society says. We measure our success according to what society defines it as.
Choose to break the norm and compare your achievements to your own personal barometer, rather than the expectations of others. Acknowledge and appreciate your efforts, no matter how big or small they are.
3. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
Have you ever been part of a conversation that had turned into a heated argument the moment somebody opposed someone else's opinion? We all have witnessed this and may even have been guilty of this behavior at some point.
We must learn to let go of the need to be right all the time. This all-or-none thinking is detrimental. We need to be okay with making mistakes and owning up to them. We can seek comfort in knowing that we're not enough. Accepting this fact instead of being afraid of it, will only set us free. It can allow us to view everything in life as an experience and be humble learners.
4. Be kind to yourself. Especially when you make a mistake.
How have you reacted in the past after making a mistake? Did you beat yourself up over it, or did you accept it and move on?
We must learn how to be kind to ourselves. Developing self-compassion is important, for the way you talk to yourself, and the thoughts that you have about yourself, do matter.
Actor and screenwriter Wentworth Miller said in an interview: “When I have a friend who is in crisis, I talk to them in a manner that is assuring and hug them. Yet when I find myself in a similar situation, I question myself how could I let this happen? What did I expect?” He further added that if we spoke to our friends in this manner, we wouldn't have any. Therefore, it is really important how you speak to yourself in your head. Make sure that the words are loving and supporting. Start becoming your own best friend.
5. Chase Progress, Not Perfection.
It's natural to sometimes get involved in the nitty gritties of something, but we must re-focus and get some perspective. Turns out, perfectionism is often the reason for procrastination. Many writers never end up releasing their work because they're fixated on re-writing and editing it. We must reflect on what is truly important to us and then prioritize our goals and take action accordingly. We must not lose sight of the bigger picture. Setting achievable goals is the key to well-being. Imperfect, yet consistent efforts always yield the best results.
We must also be okay with adapting and evolving. We shouldn't be too rigid and be okay with the fact that what may have worked for us in the past, may not work for us in the future. We must also be okay with change, for things may not always go according to our plans and schedules.
6. Remind yourself that you are a human.
Humans are flawed. No one is perfect. Accept this fact and allow yourself to make errors. Set human standards for yourself and everyone around you. Everything and everyone has flaws and things don’t always go as planned. Practice being okay with this fact.
7. Lastly, Be Patient.
Cultivate patience and perseverance. Understand that nothing happens overnight and that the road to change doesn’t follow a straight line.
Author James Clear said in his book that “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
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