The Perfectionism Cure: How To Stop Trying To Do Everything RIGHT
I’m excited to introduce you to Kisha Dingle, founder of Visionary Legacy Project. Kisha was one of my coaching clients and has successfully built her online brand with Visionary Legacy Project, which is a blog designed to helping others create their vision and transform their lives. In this article, Kisha shares how you can cure your perfectionism and learn how to stop trying to do everything right. Enjoy!
Are you always struggling and trying to do everything? And to do it RIGHT?
Are you tortured by the fact that no one seems to understand what you go through on a daily basis to hold it all together?
In fact, does it seem like no one even cares, which drives you even more crazy?
Guess what, as you already might know, you’re a perfectionist.
Read on to discover my 5 Habits To Help You Rid Yourself of Perfectionism.
Many creative people are trapped in their own perfectionism and VERY reluctant to let go. The lie is that this gives you a “creative edge”, that you have a drive and a passion that no one else has and if you let go of perfect, that edge goes with it as well. This simply is not true. At it’s core, perfectionism is a cover for the fear or shame of our work not being good enough.
Instead of acknowledging the worry that others may not like what we produce and cultivating acceptance of our unique selves, we keep ourselves on the treadmill by either overproducing and never being done or procrastinating and never putting our work out so it can’t be judged. Neither one is a balanced and healthy approach to living a full life where you maximize your potential.
As a recovering perfectionist myself, I know intimately the fresh hell that perfectionism brings. It’s the reason I’m so committed to doing the work with creative professionals, especially those in the film industry, where this kind of thing festers and rots away at our personal lives and relationships.
It’s a cycle that usually goes like this: first, we hold ourselves to some impossibly high standard. Second, we break our behinds trying to achieve said standard, all while making it look effortless (because it’s supposed to be easy, right?). Third, we are really freaking pissed at everyone who tells us to calm down or slow down and “take it easy” — “eff you, slacker” we scowl! Four, we inevitably crash and burn. Sometimes it’s just a mild brush fire. Other days it’s a full out four alarm destruction that burns for days and takes out everything in it’s path.
Then we start all over again. Oh, but we make the standards EVEN higher now, because we’re mad at ourselves for screwing up before.
Then, when we get tired of that, we just give up altogether and slink off into the corner to lick our wounds (and blame others for our failures).
Exhausted yet? I was. And I’ll be honest, I could not, would not stop until I had a complete and total physical meltdown. My body finally collapsed one too many times and my health really started to take a dive on me. I had enough of a crack of consciousness about me to know that this was a dangerous and unsustainable path. I was finally able to find the will to learn how to slow down, look around and get help. I wasn’t necessarily happy about it. As dysfunctional as our patterns are, many times we are loath to stop them, just because it’s all we know.
If you are reading this now and you know this is you, let this be your excuse to get off the treadmill. I’ve been on it most my life, and I know it sucks. You do too. Yes of course, like everything else, it will be a process, but whether you’ll do it by just reading this post or others like it, or by getting coaching support one on one — act. The only way to stop it is to decide.
In the meantime, here are some of my best tips for how to overcome perfectionism and the unrelenting drive to “do it all”
5 Habits To Help You Rid Yourself Of Perfectionism
1. Accept the fact that you are NOT the only person on the planet that can do anything right.
It’s just that simple. I know it’s hard to believe sometimes, but it is my duty to give it to you as straight as I can. One of the most effective things you can do if you want to stop doing everything is to SEEK AND GET HELP wherever possible. It doesn’t have to be paid help if you can’t afford it. NO EXCUSES. Trade! Exchange services. Train someone who wants to learn something that you know how to do in exchange for help. Taskrabbit! Whatever it is, just reduce the list of tasks on your plate. If you can’t do it professionally, do it personally, but you must start. And when you let a task go, let it go. Don’t keep one hand in the pot. Use your energy for what’s most needed.
2. Redefine your standards.
Here’s another hard truth (I hated this lesson in particular). Perfectionism is a crappy, poor standard. I know, in the midst of it, it seems as if you have ridiculously high standards that even you can’t maintain, right? But here’s how it really works: when you never get it DONE, you never get it RIGHT. When you never get it DONE or RIGHT, you can never, ever get it BETTER. All that wheel spinning is keeping you from stepping back to evaluate your work and truly see how, where and if it can be better. It’s like painting a picture 2 inches in front of your face. You never give yourself the opportunity to be done so you can first appreciate your work and then really give it the critical, but non judgmental eye you need to get better.
Instead we just collapse to the finish line and have the paintbrush pried out of our hands, frantically looking for a new canvas so we can keep working, never looking up.
3. Focus on WHY you’re doing something, not WHAT you’re doing.
Many times, when we’re deep in the throws of our perfectionist ways, we are concentrated on WHAT we are doing and lose perspective on everything else. The task itself is all consuming and it seems like nothing is more important. One of the best ways I’ve found to pull myself back from the brink is when I find myself in that zone, to ask myself WHY I’m doing it. When you ask yourself why you’re doing something, you can honestly gauge whether what you’re doing is actually important and if it’s where your energy is best spent.
I used to never be able to enjoy any party I threw because I was so worried about getting something wrong or running out of food or not scrubbing the corner of my baseboards that I would spend the entire party in my kitchen prepping and stressing out over whether my guests were having a good time. My guests would inevitably crash the kitchen and try to shoo me out into the actual party, where all I would do was find something else that needed to be done and find my way back into the kitchen re-arranging some fruit platter or the like. The point is, I could never enjoy the party. Now, if I find myself in a moment like that (or even when I feel the “fever” coming on, normally in the grocery store when I’m planning what to do), I ask myself WHY I’m doing something. What’s more important, that I impress my guests with how delicious my freshly whipped cream is, or that I spend time with people I care about in my home, sharing stories and connecting about what’s important? When you catch yourself and ask why, you can breath some space and perspective into your actions.
4. Learn to set realistic goals that you can enjoy achieving.
Perfectionists have an unrelenting belief that we must set goals that are higher than everyone else AND we somehow must not enjoy the process of meeting these goals. It’s no wonder we’re miserable all the damn time (and the people who live with our crazy behinds are too). Unfortunately, too often we set and reach for these unattainable goals and then beat ourselves up for being lazy, wrong and stupid when we don’t achieve them. We also never even contemplate that we’re supposed to enjoy the journey of meeting whatever goal we have set.
Bottom line is, unless your goals are specific, measurable and ATTAINABLE, you will cultivate misery in the process of trying to get it done. You’ll also cultivate the dangerous habit of training your mind that when you try to do something, that you’ll always fail.
Since most of our time is spent in the PURSUIT of our goals, we have to make a decision to enjoy the process of achieving them. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re going to love every minute of every second of every day on your path, but you can have an attitude of appreciation for simply being on your path that changes the meaning and outlook of how you feel instantly.
5. Learn how to celebrate your success.
One of the most miserable things about being a perfectionist is that you never, ever stop to acknowledge and appreciate the things you’ve done right or achieved, because they never feel good enough (and neither do you). However, we tend to be hyper-sensitive, to the point where we can’t accept even constructive criticism, over things we believe we have done wrong. Our constant highlighting and picking apart of our faults, only leads to finding more faults. This destructive pattern only keeps our fears and worries dominant in our thoughts and actions and leads to more perfectionism to cover it all up.
Celebration and gratitude have to be the most effective ways I’ve found to combat this particular cycle. While my tendency used to be to brush off my accomplishments or achievements — giving credit to others and refusing to give myself any — I am now able to openly talk about both my failures and achievements because I’ve done a better job of celebrating my accomplishments. I give myself credit when I break or change a negative pattern, when I see my children laughing, when I push through a fear instead of being stuck by it, when I manage to meditate for a full week, when I choose to speak my truth over playing it safe, when I write another blog post, I seek to find, capture and celebrate the ordinary and extraordinary in my life. It takes time, but slowly, the re-training of the operation of your brain kicks into gear and you start to see the effects of the conditioning on your day to day life.
Perfectionism is nothing to be ashamed of, but recognizing how it effects your life and how it can serve to rob you of self-esteem and everyday joy makes it a worthy task to make some adaptations. You don’t have to give up your drive to achieve, and you can gain the effectiveness of being pulled towards your goals and not pushed out of anxiety and worry. You’ll be able to actually reach your objectives and enjoy the journey along the way, which is the point in the first place. Visionaries must let go of the fear of criticism and dangerous inner dialogue that saps our creative energy and celebrate a process of courage and fulfillment that comes when we allow ourselves to just simply be who we are.
In service of your visionary legacy,
Kisha Dingle is an entrepreneur, master filmmaker trainer and life coach as well as the founder of Visionary Legacy Project, which champions creative professionals to maximize their full potential and create success by claiming their authentic story. Click here to subscribe to our mailing list.