If you were a straight-A student in school, you might now concern yourself with being a straight-A student in life. You want to be the World’s Best Partner, the World’s Best Friend, and the World’s Most Successful Professional. And yet, often is the case that your permanent case of stress relating to being perfect gets in your way of actually accomplishing your super-worthy life goals. Well, take a second to breathe: A mind-set shift toward striving for excellence is a key strategy for learning how to deal with perfectionism. After all, being perfect and being excellent aren’t the same.
“Because we think something has to be ‘perfect’ we’re scared of approaching it at all,” says Susie Moore, life coach and author of the forthcoming book, Stop Checking Your Likes. “And so we’ll leave it to the last minute, often when a deadline is looming—and it makes us flustered and frustrated.”
According to Moore, having a perfectionist mind-set holds you to such a sky-high standard that you’re often terrified to ask for help, which is a key element of success. Likewise, the rigidity of perfectionism lets you take fewer risks because you fear something may go wrong. “This means that as a perfectionist, what you think of as a success could actually just be an average outcome because you’re limiting and not stretching your actual potential,” she says.
The good news is that there are certainly ways to still score an A-average in life without the desire for it stifling your potential.
How to deal with perfectionism by instead focusing on excellence
This is key because perfection is an impossible standard to uphold forever. I mean, even Cher did infomercials in the ’90s.
“So lose the word ‘perfect’ from your vocabulary altogether,” Moore says. “Aiming for excellence instead reduces the pressure, but still allows you to rock high standards. It’s important to understand perfectionism is not about high standards—it’s about failure anxiety.”
“Lose the word ‘perfect’ from your vocabulary altogether. Aiming for excellence instead reduces the pressure, but still allows you to rock high standards.” —Susie Moore, life coach
Still unclear about the “how” of how to deal with perfectionism in this excellence-seeking way? Moore outlines four strategies below.
1. Lose excuses, and get busy
“Know that you can always control your level of effort,” Moore says. “Your best will vary day to day based on many things, but if you are doing the best you can in any moment, all things considered, it’s enough.”
So when you catch yourself making excuses for not starting something for whatever reason, just, you know. Stop.
2. Plan your day
Kicking off with a solid to-do list can keep you from getting worked up and procrastinating into oblivion. Take off the pressure of doing every single thing, and lay out your tasks to tackle them in a more manageable way than if you didn’t. “Planning your work and scheduling timing is soothing, and sets you up for success,” Moore says.
3. Always be learning
If you’ve been in the same role for years and are delivering flawless but monotonous work, a great way to shake things up is to hone some fresh skills. Think about what interests you and can fortify your career, and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to be an amateur at something. What matters is that you’re learning, not that you adopt something with magnificent ease.
“This is what real confidence is—being willing to feel some uncomfortable emotions but forging ahead anyway,” Moore says. “If you’re willing to be bad at something in order to ultimately become good, the world belongs to you. And your capacity for greatness might shock you. Be brave enough to be bad. Slow progress is everything.”
4. Ask for help if you need it
This might be the most important perfectionist trait to overcome: Do not underestimate how flattered someone will be if you regard them as an expert and want some direction.
“If someone asked you for your input or advice, would you think they were weak or silly or unqualified?” says Moore. “No. You’d probably be happy to help or even touched you’ve been asked for you opinion. So, give yourself the same grace. We’re stronger together, so let others help you.”
If you want to further wrangle your perfectionist tendencies, we have a few questions you can ask yourself. And here’s how being a perfectionist might even put a damper on your sex life.
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