Who among us hasn’t at some point fallen short of our own expectations of ourselves, either in ambition, performance, or achievement? For many, the response is simply to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try, try again… OR… Try something different! A healthy dose of patience and positive self-regard allows us to recognize and accept our own limitations and to temper our perception of our experiences with defeat. We are able to recognize that we are not perfect.
However, for many people the need to beperfect, or dothings perfectly, is an overwhelming and all-consuming focus. Perfectionism can be defined as the tendency to set rigid—and often impossibly—high standards for personal performance, and is frequently the result of a black-and-white thinking style.
Research informs us that besides genetics, perfectionism is the strongest predictor of clinical depression. Additionally, perfectionists often suffer from anxiety, which can result in an overly structured approach to life, with little room for spontaneity or fun—least their imperfections be revealed. Fear clearly fuels the perfectionist’s world.
The first step to confronting your perfectionism is to begin to hear the messages that you give yourself—about yourself. Recognizing your “inner critic” can allow you to begin to challenge those messages, and actively work toward changing them. The task is to replace those self-critical thoughts with kinder, gentler, and less demanding standards. Setting expectations that simply ask for your personal best allows credit for your effort—in spite of a less than perfect outcome.