Perfectionism has long been put on a pedestal as the best ‘weakness’ to have. Candidates spout it in interviews as a pseudo weakness disguised as a strength and interviewers are thrilled with the response.
What a lot of people might not realise is that perfectionism really can become a weakness. At its worst, perfectionism can become paralysing and anxiety-inducing to the extent that getting things done can become very difficult. As a perfectionist in recovery (I believe you can never be fully ‘cured’) see below for my seven tips for taming your inner perfectionist.
1. Write a break up letter to your perfectionistic self.
While you’ve helped me get to where I am, you’re no longer helping me get to where I’m going. I’m sick of feeling stuck trying to make things live up to your standards. It’s stopping me from getting things done. Even when I do finish things, I’m not always happy with how they turned out no matter how much effort I put in. While sometimes you help me get better quality, most of the time I find you exhausting.
With all the love in my heart, we’re through.
2. Do things imperfectly, on purpose.
Underline words without using a ruler; don’t measure quantities in the kitchen when cooking; mismatch your gym clothes. The more you get used to completing tasks and actions imperfectly and seeing that a terrible outcome didn’t occur, the better.
3. Pretend for just a moment, that things don’t have to be perfect.
Say to yourself, “Imagine if this task didn’t have to be perfect and that the results didn’t matter”, then stop tinkering, stop hyperventilating and just do the work. How much easier was that?
4. Stop ‘tattoo thinking’.
Marketing thought leader Seth Godin explains that people often fall into the trap of thinking that the results of decisions are like tattoos; permanent and forever. But tattoos can be removed and decisions are temporary. Take the pressure off yourself. Breathe.
5. Say affirmations about peace.
Affirmations don’t always feel true at first, but persistence and practice helps them come to be accepted. Some suggestions are below, however mash them up, squash them together and create one that’s right for you.
I choose peace over perfection
I trust the flow of life, I am safe
I am calm, peaceful and present
I am gentle with myself
I release myself from the burden of striving for perfection
I make decisions calmly with ease and grace
I free myself from a set way of things having to be and I allow myself to feel calm
6. Divorce yourself from the outcome.
Do you best in any situation, then take inspiration from Buddhist philosophy and surrender attachment to the outcome. Whatever is going to eventuate is already in motion, regardless of how much you ruminate over it.
7. Allow yourself a set time to complete a task.
To prevent yourself from endless improvements, set a time limit of when you’re going to finish a job, no matter how you feel about it once the time is up. Setting alarms on your phone can help you become stricter