Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the persuit of perfection can be harmful to your health

i'm not super obsessive about being perfect.  i'm meticulous, yes, but perfect... definitely not.  i used to try a lot.  i used to be very specific about how i wanted things and how i wanted to look and i needed to always have the right answers and solutions to problems.  however, i would be hot in the persuit of perfection for about 10 minutes and then my attention span (which rivals that of a fruit fly) would switch to something new.  so i guess i never became to perfectionistic due to my apparent lack of attention.

i know lots of people that suffer with the "P" word.  and i do mean suffer.  i see how they beat themselves up over a spelling mistake or wrong answer or "messing up a yoga pose."  i see the sadness and frustration when they overwhelm themselves with decisions trying to find the absolute perfect one.  and then once the decision is made, agonizing over whether it was the right choice.  its something i see a lot because it's something that causes a lot of anxiety.  and i see lots of anxiety.

if you're dealing with the dreaded P word and always trying to chase it down, take a minute to remember that it doesn't exist. 

and since its always easier said than done because you can't change your thinking patterns at the snap of your fingers, try some other things too:

* ask yourself why you're seeking perfection. is it to impress a boss, your mother or significant other?  are you afraid of others judging you?  are you feeling insecure about something and trying to overcompensate by trying to be the best at it?

finding the sources of our thoughts or feelings helps us to not only understand them, but begin to change them.

* work out what the absolute worst case scenario would be if you didn't do 'it' perfectly. chances are its not as bad as you think.

employers don't expect you to know everything and you most likely won't get fired for making a mistake. or if you accidently burn the turkey, your whole thanksgiving won't be ruined and people won't starve and if you forget a birthday your friend probably won't disown or berate you - they're a friend!

* realize that the more you obsess over being perfect, the more anxious you'll become. mistakes are human nature and they are important for us to learn from. and most times, perfection goes above and beyond. if we don't reach "perfection" it doesn't mean we got it wrong or messed up. 

when i used to write pitches for a PR company i wracked my brain trying to come up with the PERFECT combination of witty, clever, smart and interesting.  more often than not, my boss had lots of tweaks on it that i revised.  did it mean he hated my pitch or it was completely wrong? no. he usually used most of my writing, maybe just switched a paragraph around or added one more interesting factoid.  just because it wasn't "perfect" didn't mean that my good wasn't good enough.

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