I am a recovering perfectionist. I admit it. I’m calling myself out. I also use the term “recovering” because it requires practice and dedication not to go back to my old ways of perfectionism.
What’s wrong with perfectionism?
Perfectionism is not just holding oneself to a high standard. It is the epitome of high standards to the point of great criticism and finding even the most minute fault. Therefore, perfectionism is not about being good or even about being great. It is about having ridiculously high standards that require consistent efforts and extreme difficulty to obtain the desired result.
When I was completing my comprehensive exam for my PhD program in Psychology, I was utterly panicked. They told us that 80% of the students fail the exam the first time and many have to make corrections or rewrite the exam in order to pass the first time. The others have to go for a second round of testing. This statistic alone put me in a panicked state. Also, there is no way to prepare for this exam other than to have superb writing skills in place.
Also, the key to passing the exam was overly simplistic. Answer the questions completely and thoroughly, illustrate that you know what you are talking about, back it up with research, and keep the text to approximately fifty pages. Be sure that you use APA formatting (a standard for the field of Psychology), don’t overuse quotes, and put everything into your own words. That’s it. Seems pretty straightforward right?
There were three questions and each of the questions contained about 3-5 questions. So ultimately there were anywhere from 9-15 questions that needed to be answered. I remembered my professors guidance and her supportive inquiry, “Yes, having information is good and supporting the topic is important, but are you answering the questions?” This was key because so many students would be so concerned with other parts of the exam that they would forget to answer the questions completely and thoroughly, or answer the main focal point of the questions themselves.
I also became wrapped up in all the particulars and eased away from the main focus. At which point, I had to bring myself back to the questions and to really dig deep into what they were asking. Then I developed a mantra which helped me answer the questions and get past all the other red tape which seemed to have us all in a tizzy.
My mantra was “Good Enough But Not Perfect.”
This actually helped to ease my anxious state and realize that the main focus was the content. Then I could go back and edit it later. The first order of business was getting the information and getting my fingers on the keyboard to answer the questions. Everything else would be cake.
So I did. And guess what? I passed. No rewrites. No second glances. No additional edits.
I FREAKING PASSED!
Regardless, of what the issue, or the situation, perfectionism throws you into the lion’s den. You become harried, confused, and overwhelmed. Perfectionism is the antithesis of progress because it keeps you from focusing on what really matters, in my example, it was the questions.
Apply this mantra to your life or create one specific to you and see how much lighter you feel and then focus on what really needs to be done. The details and the kinks can always be worked out.
Let go of perfectionism once and for all.
What steps can you take for yourself to let go of your perfectionistic ways? What mantra can you create for yourself?
Let me know in the comments. Or send me an email, I’d love to hear from you.
In love and light,