I am not ashamed to admit that I am a perfectionist in recovery. Throughout the years, I have come to the realization that in addition to fear, perfectionism is something that has held me back from living my life fully. As an individual with many passions in my life, I have experienced numerous moments of hesitation and second guessing if the path I was taking was indeed the right one. This has created alot of stress for me in the past, on both a personal and professional level. But after a lot of contemplation of what I wanted out of life, encouragement from others, and a little bit of faith, I realized that the only one holding me back from following my passion was me. I never want to look back on my life and wonder "what if" or say "I should have" or "I wish I had". By trying day after day, I don't allow perfectionism to be the boss of me. The most successful winners must first experience losing, usually multiple times, to teach perseverance and persistence towards a big win. And the task of being a good loser is much more challenging if you allow your perfectionism to take over.
Perfectionism is one of those things we don't really see as a problem initially. We pride ourselves for being put together, organized, and detail oriented, which are great qualities to have as part of our personality. But our meticulous nature of having things to be "just so" can prevent us from following our passion. We are afraid of making a mistake or being judged if things don't flow or go right. Perfectionism combined with fear is a dangerous combination that doesn't serve us. This combo stops us in our tracks, keeping us from taking chances to improve or enhance our lives.
Perfectionism is bound to show into your life because we are all human and are our own worst critics. How do you stop being a perfectionist? To manage your perfectionism, live your life fully, and love yourself for who you are, here are 3 steps you can take to start a new practice of becoming more gentle, kind, and compassionate with yourself.
1. Set your positive intention: Before your project or venture where you think your perfectionism will show up, set a positive and gentle intention for yourself. A great one to start with is "I am living my life fully and the best I can to my ability". This intention is a reminder that you are human and you are doing the very best that you can, and you don't have to be perfect. It helps you to release your control over the situation and allow you to surrender mindfully. Surrender isn't giving up; it simply is releasing what no longer serves you. Through setting this positive intention, you will feel a small sense of relief, allowing you to begin shifting your mindset to more compassionate thoughts, not filled with a foundation of perfectionism.
2. Stop perfectionism in its tracks: This is challenging for most of us because we don't even realize we are in this state, because it feels normal to be critical of ourselves! Self-observation is important for this step. Notice how your body feels when you are working on a project, are you feeling tension, stiffness or even aches in your body? Stress that arises from being so hard on ourselves manifests itself in many physical ailments which we experience everyday...headaches, stomach aches, body aches, etc. Want to feel better? Stop being so hard on yourself.What thoughts are going through your head when you are in this state? When my perfectionism is affecting me, I feel nervous and very judgmental and I doubt my work by double, triple and quadruple checking it. I experience frustration and anxiety physically with tightness in my chest and shallow breathing, and mentally I am non-productive. When you notice you are experiencing symptoms stemming from perfectionism, stop it in its tracks! Be honest, accountable for what you are experiencing and go back to your intention to remind you to be gentle on yourself. You may have to repeat this often at first, with the ultimate goal of you accepting yourself for being you.
3. Mind your time: It is easy to fall into a trap when we are working on something to dissect it down and pick at it multiple times. While it is important to do streamlined and efficient work, you also don't want to drive yourself crazy by being so judgmental. A judgmental perfectionistic attitude won't serve you or the individuals you are trying to help. Set a limit of 15-20 minutes on any project where you foresee this might happen. Work diligently and when time is up walk away for 5-10 minutes to clear your head before you start again. You will find you will be able to focus better, approach the task with a clear head, and be able to put more of your authenticity into it.
Remember to be gentle and truly appreciate yourself for all of your unlimited potential. Celebrate your imperfections, because they are also a part of who you are and what you have to share with others!
Melissa Escaro is a life coach and author who focuses on stress reduction and modern mindfulness. She believes in the power of intentional thought, that our thoughts create our reality, and that we have the power to create a life of abundance, joy, and fulfillment. Melissa is the author of In10tions: A Mindset Reset Guide to Happiness. Get a free daily dose of inspiration with In10tions 365, based on her book! www.melissaescaro.com