Like most of us I’m sure, I’ve had a year faced with challenges, nothing too wild - certainly not climbing Everest. But challenges in my training and professional development, care of my own self, achieving a work/life balance and all those little unexpected, unplanned and usually unwanted surprises life throws at us now and again to remind us simply that, this is life.
Over the last year one thing in particular has really helped me to put things into perspective is recognising that actually I am doing okay and that I am “good enough”.
Those who strive towards perfection are much more likely to judge and be critical of themselves far more than anyone else around them. But for me, this new awareness has taken away a lot of expectation and pressure that only I have been responsible for.
Psychotherapist Dr. David Burns (1980) describes perfectionism as ‘those whose standards are high beyond reach or reason, people whose strain compulsively and unremittingly toward impossible goals and who measure their own worth entirely in terms of productivity and accomplishment’.
Being perfect is not good enough; it’s mostly unachievable and can cause problems and conflicts with other areas of our lives. Setting impossible standards and goals that cannot realistically be reached can have a detrimental impact on our self worth. Perfectionism has also been linked to anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, eating disorders and body image issues among many other mental health difficulties.
We are all just trying to do our best, we can all get it wrong from time to time but what is more helpful; to beat ourselves up and blames ourselves for not being perfect, or to acknowledge we were just trying to do our best and perhaps next time we might do things differently?
So, is there anything we can do to give up our perfectionism? Absolutely, given the correct attention and support any behaviour can be changed, in the same way it is learned, it can be unlearned. I am not suggesting that this is a simple or quick process, it isn’t, but it is achievable.
When we are looking at perfectionist behaviour most of this stems from the thoughts and dysfunctional thinking patterns we hold. We need to start examining our beliefs; by recognising the unhelpful thoughts and challenging them. For example, how accurate are they or are there any alternative ways of looking at this? In therapy it is also possible to introduce gradual exposure to some of the fears of failure in a safe and controlled way.
Another quote from David Burns, which I feel, sums everything up is;
“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life”.
I hope some of you reading this have found it helpful, if you would like to contact me re the blog or any questions you may have please do so here and for more reading on David Burns please visit his website.
Oh, and for the record, no, this blog isn’t perfect. But it’s good enough!