“I’m a perfectionist.”
Certainly you have heard someone in your life proudly proclaim this, right? Or maybe it’s you who regularly boasts to others about your inability to accept anything less than “perfect” when it comes to your efforts. Have you ever really stopped to ponder what being a “perfectionist” means? Think about that for a moment and why it’s actually a hindrance toward life success….
“Have no fear of perfection you’ll never reach it”
When you call yourself a perfectionist what you are actually saying is that anything less than perfect is unacceptable, and a failure in your eyes. In fact, you have raised the bar so unbelievably high that it is impossible to actually be successful as a perfectionist! I say this because we all fail in life, have bad days, come up short, and sometimes lose to competition that was simply better on that day.
3 reasons why perfectionism actually hinders life success:
1. It is absolute, dichotomous thinking. “Perfectionism” means, literally, that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. Talk about setting yourself up for failure right from the start! Show me a perfect person and I’ll eliminate this from my list, but until then I think it’s a lot healthier to quickly get away from this kind of “all or nothing” way of thinking.
2. It actually causes anxiety. Trying to operate as a perfectionist actually elevates anxiety – a lot. Think about the pressure perfectionists go through every day trying to be “perfect.” Rather than working as hard as they can and then accepting of the results from that hard work, a perfectionist could have a day that’s been 99% good but 1% not so good – guess where they are going to put their focus?
3. It doesn’t develop resiliency. People who work hard and accept frustration, failure, and adversity as teaching tools actually strengthen their resiliency tenfold compared to perfectionists who either: A) simply become frustrated when they aren’t perfect, or B) quit doing activities that they have already discovered they can’t be “perfect” doing.
In my world when I work with clients looking to improve mental toughness one of the first things I do is change “perfectionism” into “excellence.” Strive for excellence each day as there is more latitude and forgiveness, yet the gold standard is still very high. Accept that life sometimes gives us bad days, and that failure isn’t a bad thing, but instead a fact of life. When you look at the great ones in whatever area of life you choose (sports, politics, music, etc.) you will soon witness more failure than you could have ever dreamed. Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team, Abraham Lincoln losing countless elections before ever becoming president, and Steve Jobs being fired from Apple, the company he created!
Perfectionism isn’t a disease, and if you claim to be a perfectionist you really can change this way of thinking immediately if you try. Strive for excellence, do your best, and if you come up short “build a better mousetrap” tomorrow. By doing this you will experience less stress, and will actually improve your overall performance as a result.
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