PHotograph by agnieska p.
I wrote last week about how I’ve done battle with perfectionism all my life.
You would think after a lifetime of dealing with this issue, I would have this thing licked. Unfortunately, I’m still a work in progress.
However, I can say with certainty that as I write this, I am a happier, more creative, and more calm person than I have ever been. Because I’ve developed life-changing tips to battle perfectionism.
I look at perfectionism sort of the way one might feel living with addiction. This is just something I have to deal with. It’s a part of me, I don’t like it, but it’s not going away. So I have to take steps to manage it, and move on with my life.
Please don’t think I mean any disrespect when I liken it to addiction. I say this with utmost respect, and with a serious heart. I say it this way because I think it’s so important to realize that perfectionism, unchecked, can lead to serious ramifications: anxiety, depression, the loss of creativity, the inability to complete projects and meet your goals.
So it’s very, very important we don’t glorify it. It’s very important we battle it. I’ve discovered six life-changing tips to help me wage battle with perfectionism. This week, we’ll dive into the first three. Be sure to stop in next week for the three more life-changing tips!
Life-Changing Tip # 1) Embrace a new understanding of what “your best” means.
I wrote last week about how we take the adage “anything worth doing, is worth doing well” too seriously. We kill ourselves to achieve some standard of perfection, and we do it for every. single. thing. Look, I am all for trying your best. Giving it my best shot, even if it’s something I’d rather not be doing, is a point of integrity for me. However, I think we need to collectively realize that “your best” isn’t a static thing. Rather than thinking of “your best” as a fixed standard of perfection, try thinking about “your best” as “the best job you can do, in this season of life, with this time you’ve been given to do it”.
photograph by avi richards
Thinking this way has revolutionized my life as an artist and a person. For example, years ago, before I was a busy mom, I probably would have slaved over this article for days, and maybe not even published it, because I was afraid it wasn’t good enough. Now, I give myself a fixed amount of time to write, and I give it my all within that time frame. I simply don’t have time to fuss and fret over it. If I demanded perfection of myself, I wouldn’t get anything done.
This actually frees me up to love my work more. Both the experience of writing, and the finished product.
Life-Changing Tip #2) Give yourself realistic deadlines- and then stick to them.
I’ve learned something about myself. If I don’t give myself deadlines, I become a miserable person. Why? Because deadlines actually make me easier on myself than if I just flew by the seat of my pants.
Some people feel pent in by deadlines. They like more spontaneity. I actually need deadlines in order to enjoy spontaneity.
You know the delightful book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk. And if you give him a glass of milk, he’s going to want…” and on it goes. If I don’t give myself deadlines, I’ll start the day out intending to clean, and come evening I’m wallowing in a pile of clothes to donate while the vacuum sits out, waiting to be used, the dishes aren’t done, and I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything, even though I’ve been working all day.
Take some time to figure out about how long the tasks in your life should take you, and then stick to that time frame. Do what you can, and then move on. Of course there will be times a project is a lot more difficult and time consuming than you’d imagine. (Home renovation is the perfect example!) But on an everyday basis, try to stick to your time frame, instead of getting sucked in to obsession-mode. The truth is, there really aren’t that many things in life worth obsessing over.
Life-Changing Tip #3) Prioritize self care
photograph by andre hunter
I’m a big believer in rest. I believe you need rest in order to be healthy. I believe you need rest in order to be creative. And when I say rest, I don’t mean just sleep. I mean relaxation, recreation. Taking time for hobbies, caring for your mind as well as your body. Taking time to do the things that make you feel like a person, not just a productivity-bot.
That investment in yourself as a person is exactly the reason self care helps you fight perfectionism. When you are treating yourself kindly in other ways, you are less likely to be a harsh taskmaster with yourself. You remember to talk to yourself the way you would a friend or a child. You don’t rip up your work because it’s not good enough. You enjoy it, embrace it, learn from it, and move on.
I’m so looking forward to next week, when we will discuss three more life-changing tips to battle perfectionism: prioritizing Delightful Nonsense, embracing a Growth Mindset, and identifying areas in which to “slack”. Identifying areas in which to “slack” is my favorite because it has given me so much freedom to pursue the things that really matter to me. I can’t wait to share!
In the meantime, I would love to hear, which of these three tips are you going to try this week? How are you going to battle perfectionism and be kind to yourself?
Until next time!