Do you sometimes struggle to appreciate yourself for a job well done — tending to focus on the bits you didn’t do well?
Do you ever find yourself exhausted by trying to live up to your own high expectations?
I come across this potentially damaging striving for perfection in many of my clients. This, by the way, is different from perfection paralysis (when we don’t even start something for fear of not doing it perfectly). What we’re focusing on here is a relentless drive to do things to an impossible standard.
“It’s exhausting, but I don’t know how to be any other way,” was a quote from a recent session.
I asked my client how this always-on-the-go, never-measuring-up, constant striving was serving her. Her immediate response was an emphatic, “It isn’t!”
However, when we dug deeper, she became aware of a couple of things under the surface:
- Constantly being frantically busy and ‘perfect’ at work was her attempt to compensate for a deep, nagging feeling that she wasn’t up to the job. (She was up to it; she’d just had a great appraisal and a promotion.)
- Staying busy at home and clinging to the belief that she couldn’t fully relax or take any ‘me time’ until the kids were in bed and the house was perfectly tidy, was her way of avoiding difficult conversations with herself and her partner.
We talked through what might happen if she ‘let go’ just a little:
- Maybe if she didn’t respond to work emails immediately, she might be able to deliver a better standard in her project work.
- Maybe if she chose to ignore any perceived ‘chaos’ in her home, she could attend properly to all the things that could make a big impact on her life.
It’s said that perfection stifles creativity. I believe many people search for perfection because creativity and possibility feel unsafe. Creativity and possibility are messy. They’re uncertain. That’s their whole point. Out of that mess, that chaos, can come genius. Genius never originated in perfection.
- Where in your life or work can you focus more on what you’re doing ‘right’?
(Maybe choose one area to start with, just to keep things simple.)
- How might lightening up a bit and noticing what’s ‘enough’ actually make you more productive?
- What do you need to be healthy, happy and satisfied that you’re doing a good job (note: ‘good’ not ‘perfect’)?
- If you could accept that 80% of perfect is enough, how might that change things?
- How might an intention to embrace life’s ‘messy bits’ open you up to new experiences and new types of success?
(By the way, I’m not suggesting we don’t address our ‘areas for further development’. Absolutely we should work on these and tackle them proactively as a challenge. I’m just saying we can keep them in perspective when we look at our overall performance.)