A cure for perfectionism

How to switch from being your own worst enemy to being your best friend.

Recently I was showing a friend some pictures of me that were taken at a wedding. ‘You look beautiful’ he said. ‘No I don’t’ I replied, and as I started going through the list of things I didn’t like about the picture (I was laughing so my eyes were squinty, my hair was a bit messy, my posture was bad …) he interrupted with a ‘oh my god, you are SO hard on yourself! You are beautiful, you are having a great time and this picture captured that moment’.

Well that shut me up.

This exchange got me thinking about all the times I was hard on myself. How because I wasn’t being/looking/acting perfect my inner mean girl came out and told me that I wasn’t good enough, that I should just stop trying because I was just going to f*ck it up anyway. And—to coin an old phrase—I realised that I am my own worst enemy. 

I’m sure I’m not alone here. How many of you strive for perfection and beat yourselves up when you don’t feel you have reached it? It could be at work, in your relationships, in your looks, with your hobbies. In this day and age of shiny happy photos on Instagram and upbeat Facebook status updates it feels like everyone has perfect lives and the pressure is on to match it. Which really adds a lot of stress and anxiety to our already busy lives.

Sometimes the things you and I strive for don't turn out the way we'd like them to. Sometimes they are better, other times we feel disappointed with the outcome. I feel that this is because our society hangs so much weight on the notion of things looking perfect and on being successful—winning the prize, getting the medal. I'd like to change this mindset as part of a cure for perfectionism.

During goal-setting workshops and courses, I stress that while reaching the goal itself is great, it's all the work you do in the lead-up to it which is where the gold is. All of the dedication, the work, the knowledge learnt, the inner transformation that occurred—that is what's important.

So next time you find disappointed with something in your life, whatever it is related to, think about the things that surrounded it. What positives can you take from the situation? What did you learn? What was fun? How did it contribute to your own development?

Back to the photo that started this all. When I look at it now, instead of picking out everything that I perceive as ‘wrong’ with how I look, I’m going to remember the great company I was with, the joke that my friend said moments before the photo was taken to make me laugh so much, and what an incredibly fun night it was. It may not be my favourite photo of myself, but the wedding was pretty damn good. And that’s what I choose to focus on. 

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