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The Curse Of Perfectionism!

Perfectionism… Since i became The London Life Coach I’ve heard that word so many times over the last 12 years & it makes me heart sink.

There are actually 2 types of perfectionism: adaptive and maladaptive

Adaptive (or healthy) perfectionism is where you set high standards for yourself, persist in the face of adversity, are very conscientiousness but importantly you get things done!

Maladaptive (or unhealthy) perfectionism is characterised by an excessive preoccupation with mistakes (past as well as present), a constant doubt about whether you are doing something correctly and being over invested in other’s assumed expectations of you, such as parents or employers. A maladaptive perfectionist will often also be preoccupied with control.

My life coaching clients are invariably talking about maladaptive perfectionism. This type is often self defeating and a source of constant stress. The sufferer (yes that is the right word) is never happy with what they have produced, always seeing room for improvement. And the consequences? They never finish a piece of work, are missing deadlines and when they do finally submit something continue to panic that it wasn’t good enough and the boss/client will spot an error they missed and will be judged as a failure.

What can sufferers do about it? First it’s important to remember rarely in the workplace are you working to your standards. Frankly nobody cares about your standards unless you are the big boss.

You are working to fulfil – and ideally exceed – the expectation of your boss or customer or client. Ask yourself what would exceeding their expectation by 10% or 20% look like? If you aren’t sure, ask them! How happy would you be if someone asked you how they could exceed your expectations?

Second, separate you from the task (this takes practise so ingrained are we to think YOU are a success YOU are a failure). Believe it or not completing a project to less than a (unrealistic) 100% is not a comment on your character.

Now list all your perfectionist actions (eg, checking everything 5 times). Ask yourself why am I doing that? What is the belief I have that supports me acting this way? Next ask yourself what 1 small change can I make that is a bit outside my comfort zone? Maybe if you are in the habit of checking something 5 times, be brave and commit to only checking it 4 times. And then take note of the outcome of acting differently. Has anyone noticed? Is everyone still more than satisfied with the quality of your work?

It will take time, patience, persistence to overcome unhealthy perfectionism, but little incremental steps can build up surprisingly quickly.

The bottom line is don’t fear mistakes.

Mistakes = progress.

If you aren’t getting things wrong you aren’t learning. To make a mistake and learn how to recover from it is an essential building block of resilience. And resilience is an essential part of success. Far more than perfectionism!

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