How to stop being a perfectionist

How many times have you felt anxious about doing something?
Maybe it was the idea of giving a presentation in front of your bosses that has given you nightmares.
Voice trembling, forgetting the words, or even not being able to answer any of the questions, are the many scary thoughts in our minds. Taking a sick day, or planning impossible strategies to elegantly escape the situation is our deepest dream to avoid making the fools of ourselves.
This is what, generally, goes on in the mind of a perfectionist. Me included.
This is why I wanted to write something for you and for me on how to stop being a perfectionist and live better.

Our own worst critic

Yes, you got it. I am talking about you.
There is nothing that your friends, family or partner would not forgive you that you actually do not. Certainly they would forgive you seeing you without make up, with your hair out of place, or with the topping of the cake you just made a bit lopsided, but despite knowing rationally that all of this is true, we feel uncomfortably inadequate or even incompetent when any of that happens. We would be ready to forgive any of our friends and partners for the same issues, but we do not give ourselves any of that luxurious slack.
Apparently we were born with the innate ability to do what it takes to be a genius and also being convinced that mistakes are deadly sins. It does not matter if it took 9000 mistakes for Edison to make the light bulb, or hundreds of hours of rehearsal and trial and error for Steve Jobs to become a master in presentations, it just seems not to be applicable to us.

This incredible pressure to be “perfect” is – more often than not – a curse. For the perfectionist and for who is around us. Being a perfectionist can affect many parts of our life. From our perfect appearance to our perfect competence, everything has to be…perfect. Any detail has to be exactly as we picture it in our mind or we lose it.
We may feel anxious and frustrated and even angry towards those who do not understand our compelling need of doing things properly (or “our way”). That is why we feel bad at the idea of delegating, and somehow we enjoy the painful feeling of being too busy because we are the only ones that can do things as they should be.

Remember that it is not personal

Why do people get so caught up in apparently insignificant details?
The real issue with being a perfectionist is often a question of lacking confidence. When this happens, we fear of being judged. The real issue is that we measure our results with our own set of values, and being the worst possible critics does not help putting things in the right perspective. For fear of not being good enough, we become not good enough because of our super tough judgement on ourselves. And we are convinced that others will see the same.
We feel insecure and, to compensate, we need to take control over little things to make us feel competent and in charge again.

Another point is when people give us constructive feedback, we may feel personally attacked. In reality feedback is nothing personal at all, in fact, it is just a person sharing their own perception of things. It may be an awesome opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Remember that taking advice does not mean taking orders, so it is ok to listen to someone else’s point of view. It can enrich our experience like nothing else.

1.Just do it

My personal biggest issue as a perfectionist is resistance. I find it difficult to start anything because I fear I will be making mistakes or failing, and this frightens me.
This attitude is self destructive. If I do not see results immediately and at the level I expect, I beat myself up. Enough of this pain can paralyse me into inaction.
I find that the best advise is just to start doing what we want to do. It does not matter from where. But just do something. Try, start and enjoy the process, forget the result. Just for fun, just to learn something new.

2. Relax

When they say that confidence is silent, insecurities are loud, it means that quiet, inner confidence should be our ultimate goal.
Have you ever noticed those people that are firm and grounded in an effortless manner? They do not need to pretend to be anything other than themselves and their presence is almost magnetic. That is what means being comfortable in your own skin. The idea is that if you are comfortable with who you are, you have nothing to be anxious about.

The ability to relax is incredibly important to stop being a perfectionist, and it can be learnt. Yoga and meditation are two fabulous ways of learning how to relax. And as with any skills, practice makes you “perfect”, so do not expect to be a master yogi or a meditation guru in two sessions. It takes time and a lot of practice, and it is an enjoyable journey.

3. Set a time frame

This is a wonderful method to stop being a perfectionist. I use a 45 minutes time frame to write my blogposts, and it actually works. It stops me from being a perfectionist because I have to get it done. Fast. I admit that it felt uncomfortable at the very beginning, but after I got adjusted, it felt like a breeze because I had to let go of your perfectionist side.
The priority becomes time instead of details, so you will have to force yourself to make it work.

The last piece of advice is the ability to focus on the bigger picture instead of obsessing with the details and asking yourself “Does it really matter in the big scheme of things“? is always a healthy way to put things into perspective.

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