Overcoming Perfectionism

Initially I wondered: Perfectionism: Is it a blessing or a curse? But I quickly answered that question in a matter of seconds – it’s certainly not a blessing for me!

There is a preponderance of negative words associated with perfectionism when mentioned in conversation or in relation to attitudes and behaviours. Recently, there has been a great deal of focus on ‘self-talk’ and keeping it positive; yet when referring to my perfectionist personality my talk descends to despondency.

Perfectionism and anxiety

My perfectionism and anxiety go hand in hand. Perfectionism is an idealized standard that is unachievable because it is inherently flawed and unrealistic. Google defines a ‘perfectionist’ as ‘a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection’. Which led me to follow this thought-process deeper. What is ‘perfection’ anyway? Apparently, it is ‘the condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects’; the ability to be ‘faultless or as faultless as possible’. I personally add emphasis here because of my irritation upon reading such a fickle and quite ironically imperfect definition! The definition of perfection is incomplete, unsatisfying and lacks clarity. Perfection is imperfect.

And yet, it’s a state that you and I strive to achieve on a regular basis, a state that causes anxiety because to be ‘free from all flaws’ or ‘faultless’ as a human being is indisputably impossible. I strive for perfection in my performances, despite knowing that my technique both on the runway, through the air and in the sand pit are far from ‘faultless’. In fact, they are not even ‘as faultless as possible’. I’ve never had that ‘perfect’ jump, because to do so would be my pinnacle of success, and if that is the case, I may as well hang up my spikes!

My far-from-perfect, and not-so-pretty jump technique! At European Outdoor Athletics Championships, Helsinki 2012
My far-from-perfect, and not-so-pretty jump technique! At European Outdoor Athletics Championships, Helsinki 2012

So why put yourself through this perfectionism OCD? In reality, some of us daily live out the perfectionist fallacy: that perfection is achievable. In the morning, or at the start of a training session or competition, I wake up energized and ready to excel. By the afternoon, I may at times leave the track defeated and disheartened, beating myself up about a standard no person on earth can achieve.

So having diagnosed myself with this slightly annoying perfectionism disorder (not a disorder; more like a slight issue), I’m working on self-treatment.

Perfectionism Treatment

  1. Don’t overthink it. I believe one problem with being a perfectionist – and if you are one too, you may agree – is that you become bogged down in the trivialities resulting in perfectionism procrastination. Have you ever experienced this? I sure have! I am always embarrassed when publishing blog posts, so force myself to click the ‘publish’ button before I spot too many imperfect phrases, and get stuck in over-editing whilst the minutes of my life tick away! Don’t be the type of person to have a brilliant idea, but get too caught up in the planning to actually implement it. Perfectionism can cause you to become a non-starter in life!
    It is usually whilst the doer is carrying out the idea without a completely ‘perfect’ plan, that he or she sees the flaws, corrects and improves upon them and ultimately succeeds.
    It is usually whilst the doer is carrying out the idea without a completely ‘perfect’ plan, that he or she sees the flaws, corrects and improves upon them and ultimately succeeds.

    The risk-takers and winners are those who take the leap without having every step in the process figured out. It is usually whilst the doer is carrying out the idea without a completely ‘perfect’ plan, that he or she sees the flaws, corrects and improves upon them and ultimately succeeds. Whilst the thinker/perfectionist is so ardently and meticulously planning ‘to perfection’ that time passes, the winds of change blow and the opportunity is no longer opportune!

  2. Focus on process goals – KPIs are of great importance in the WAC (http://worldathleticscenter.com/) Jumps culture. I am FINALLY relating to and appreciating this method of thinking. Hit a few ‘key performance indicators’ in your training and/or competition, avoid a few ‘key performance inhibitors’, and you will most certainly achieve your outcome without the usual strains and difficulties involved. Because positive KPI’s enhance a more focused state – you mindfully pay attention to what you can control rather than outcomes such as winning or jumping a Personal Best. The latter are less tangible control factors that generally lend themselves to haphazard results.
  3. Appreciate the ‘small victories’. My first competition is the most difficult to get out of the way because I am so eager to be perfect that if I had my way, I wouldn’t start competing until I had everything perfect – which would be the 12th of Never. Being thankful helps me to see that 6.61m is a decent start on my way to jumping a PB. And if you have weight, wealth, health et al. goals, every pound (or kilo) lost (or gained, depending upon your goal), every penny saved, and every calorie burned is a step in the right direction for example! Appreciating each victory helps you to climb the stairs, one at a time, instead of standing at the bottom, realizing how far away from the top you are, and becoming too anxious or overwhelmed to get started. You may be far away from your ‘perfect’ outcome, but with every step, you get closer. And that’s what I have to keep reminding myself. So instead of beating myself up about not having quite reached my A* result (https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/perfectionism), I’m going to say to myself: “You’re not there yet, but you’re closer than you were yesterday!”

If you enjoyed this post please like, share and comment. If you can relate, I’d love to know I’m not alone and how you’ve overcome your perfectionism to strike a good balance of plan and action!

Just an as-close-to-perfect-as-one-can-get morning. It was beautiful, fabulous, energizing and harmonious.
Just an as-close-to-perfect-as-one-can-get morning. It was beautiful, fabulous, energizing and harmonious.

P.S. Shall I reconsider my stance on perfection? In Romans 12:2 (NIV) it states that God’s will is ‘good, pleasing and perfect’. And my last blog post spoke about the beauty of God’s perfect handiwork (https://abigailirozuru.wordpress.com/) As the Creator of heaven and earth, I’m glad that although he has not made me perfect, if I follow His plans for my life (His will), I’ll be as close to the gold standard as any person can be!

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Overcoming Perfectionism

I'd love to hear what you think! Please leave a reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s