Having high standards might be an admirable quality to have. It is often the steam that propels us to get what we want in life. Performing as well as one can, and expecting the same from others is a trait that can increase our chances of success. We like success.
But what if this commendable quality has a darker side that can actually lead to our unhappiness? Constant quests for these unrealistic expectations for ourselves could end up making us rather stressed, anxious and miserable.
People who expect a lot of themselves are likely to have the personality trait known as perfectionism. It kind of sounds like an awesome trait to have, and people often boast about having it, but it’s not all what it’s cracked up to be.
Perfectionism is characterised as a person’s striving for flawlessness and perfection in certain areas of their lives.
Whilst you might think this isn’t you because you don’t overtly expect ‘perfect’, it is actually quite a common trait that could be causing other behaviours and unhelpful ways of thinking. It might be the reason why you don’t try new activities, can’t cope with change or criticise other people a little too much. Those showing signs of perfectionism are often seen in high-achievers of any area, whether in business, sport or the arts.
Perfectionism has many guises. You might be one of those people striving to be the best in the workplace or pushing others to be at the top of their game. Maybe you expect perfect work from yourself and constantly worry about making mistakes.
Yeah some of these perfectionist qualities sound great on the surface – being the best gets results right? But if you are constantly too hard on yourself or beating yourself up behind the scenes when things aren’t exactly right, then there may be a little problem.
You might believe that getting a low HD in an exam is a failure. Maybe you find it hard being happy for others who are successful. Maybe you don’t give yourself credit for your own success or don’t even enjoy it when it does happen. Perhaps you hold onto regret for things you didn’t quite do perfectly in the past or maybe you believe that anything less than perfect is not worth bothering about – so you tend to procrastinate in certain areas of your life.
Because why bother if it can’t be …perfect?
The one thing that a perfectionist often aspires to have (perfection) usually leads to thoughts or behaviours that may actually decrease the likelihood of them getting what they want. So what’s the point in trying to be perfect, if it is likely that quite the opposite ends up happening?
A little bit of perfectionism is healthy. It can drive us to achieve things we wouldn’t otherwise achieve and it can give us the motivation to persevere in the face of obstacles.
So how can we change our mindset to become less-than-perfect?
If you are a self-confessed perfectionist, then have a think whether it is really working for you. I suspect that once you answer this you will find that it is giving you a bit of grief.
Challenge your thoughts and beliefs in relation to your expectations. Develop a new perspective. You can’t be in control of everything and life does involve uncertainty.
Try and give imperfection a go. Sit in the uncomfortableness of doing something not as perfect as you would normally do it. Sometimes imperfect action can be fun, and in fact is more interesting to talk about around the dinner table – no one likes the perfect stories .
It’s impossible to be perfect at everything. In fact, a lot of good can come out of imperfection.