Perfection is over-rated … the art of being happy on ‘just good enough’ …
Any parent with children born in the last 20 years or so will recognise the literary phenomenon (!) that is Horrid Henry and his ‘perfect’ brother Peter. For those readers who don’t, basically Perfect Peter, as he is dubbed, is this amazingly good child who never puts a foot wrong. He is clever, well-behaved, polite and well, just perfect in every conceivable way possible.
Is he the most interesting character in the book? – no;
Does he has the most fun? – no;
Is he the happiest character? – no;
Is he the most likely to suffer from anxiety-related issues? – YES.
Maintaining perfection is just REALLY hard work!
Because perfectionism is not good for us 'perfect' is an adjective which doesn’t reflect reality, yet it is thrust upon us frequently, inviting us to fail at every turn.
Sadly, many of us buy into the allure of the ‘perfect’ and wonder why we feel so much anxiety trying to reach it and so disappointed with ourselves when we don’t.
Targets, objectives, assessments, performance management at work, for example, can all conspire to set parameters for us which can add to pressure and actually be counter-productive.
There’s no harm in striving to do well, of course, but often targets are set in an unrealistic way which set people up to fail. Sometimes, it can be a simple as being straight with your boss and saying that you need a bit more time for something. Or just having the strength to say ‘No’ for once.
Funnily enough, I left a profession heavily reliant on targets only to make my own targets for myself in my own business. The difference is that my targets are realistic and, although sometimes challenging, achievable. I also changed my mind-set ‘failure’ became an opportunity to do something in a different way, a step towards a goal rather than reaching it immediately.
The workplace is just one area where we try to live up to sometimes unrealistic expectations. How many of the women reading this, are working mums, trying to be the perfect employee AND the perfect mum?? Yes, it’s true that, as women, we can have a great career and a family these days but do we have to be ‘perfect’ at both? Of course not!
Do we allow ourselves to shrug it off, dust ourselves down and try again when it all goes tits up? Not as often as we should!
So how do we fight against the Perfectionism myth and minimise anxiety?
- Strive to ‘do your best’ rather than achieve perfection … unless you are super-human, the latter really isn’t achievable on an everyday basis.
- Be realistic when setting yourself targets or expectations and sometimes have the courage to question the expectations given to you by other people. Work out what is possible … and what isn’t and be prepared to stick to that if necessary. You might surprise yourself by achieving much more – and that’s a wonderful bonus!
- Try to strike a balance between what you want to achieve and accepting what is – there is still room for ambitious hopes and dreams but everything isn’t black and white and it’s perfectly acceptable to reach a compromise.
- Break down your targets into small steps – that way you’ll feel that you’re achieving lots of things along the way to your final destination. Rome wasn’t built in a day … good things take time!
- Most of all, be kind to yourself. You are amazing just the way you are – perfection is way over-rated!!