Many Perfectionists understand that their perfectionism harms them, but they are reluctant to change because they believe that while perfectionism may not make you happy, it does make you successful. They believe in the philosophy of "No pain, no gain."
To remain employable, let alone competitive, we must constantly learn and grow, and to learn and grow, we must fail. It is no coincidence that the most successful people throughout history are also the ones who have failed the most.
Failure is essential in achieving success – though it is, of course, not sufficient for achieving it. In other words, while failure does not guarantee success, the absence of failure will almost always guarantee the absence of success.
Failure is inextricably linked with achievement. Those who fail are the ones who learn, grow, and ultimately do well.
Perfectionists are usually very disappointed when their efforts fall short of their high expectations.
When you fail (as we all do, from time to time), do not catastrophize your failures. Striving for success and accepting failure is a natural part of life.
The Perfectionist's obsession with the destination and her inability to enjoy the journey eventually saps her desire and motivation, so that she is less likely to put in the hard work necessary for success. No matter how motivated she may be at the beginning, the strain of sustaining an effort for long periods of time eventually becomes intolerable if the entire process – the journey – is unhappy.
Focusing only on the destination harms the Perfectionist. It leads to procrastination and paralysis. The Perfectionist puts off certain work temporarily (procrastination) or permanently (paralysis) both because work for him is painful and because inaction provides an excuse for failure. He thinks to Himself: If I don't try, I won't fail. By trying to preclude the possibility of failure, however, the Perfectionist is, of course, also precluding the possibility of success.
There comes a point when, despite the Perfectionist's motivation to succeed, part of her will begin to want to give up, just in order to avoid further pain. No matter how intensely she may want the promotion from middle to senior management, the Perfectionist may find that because the journey is so long – and it always lasts much, much longer than that brief moment when the destination is reached – she cannot bear to sustain it.
You need to enjoy the journey while remaining focused on your destination. While you may not necessarily experience a smooth, easy ride to success – you struggle, you fall, you have your doubts, and you experience pain at times – your overall journey is far more pleasant if you give up Perfectionist views. You can be motivated by the pull of the destination as well as by the pull of the journey (the day-to-day that you enjoy).
You can feel both a sense of daily joy and lasting fulfillment.
Perfectionism is an attitude, and we can begin to change it through our behavior by taking risks, venturing outside our comfort zone, being open rather than defensive, falling down, and getting up again.
Think of something that you would like to do but have always been reluctant to try for fear of failing. Then go ahead and do it! Audition for a part in a play, try out for a sports team, ask someone out on a date, start writing that book that you've always wanted to write. Look for additional opportunities to venture outside your comfort zone, ask for feedback and help, admit your mistakes,
Writing about your thoughts, worries, fears, triumphs, and experiences can be an incredibly therapeutic experience. Journaling helps lessen the pain of traumatic experiences, aids in putting negative events in perspective, and offers an effective way to think through conflicts and decisions.
In your journal, you can explore your perfectionist feelings in a safe way. Ask yourself why you expect perfection, where that expectation came from, and what messages go through your head when you criticize yourself or dwell on your faults and failures. You can talk to yourself in your journal and ask yourself why you don't treat yourself with the same love and compassion that you offer others. You can also give yourself permission in a journal – permission to make mistakes and to be imperfect.
Journaling can help you understand why a certain situation causes you stress. Even when you can't solve a problem, having a fuller awareness of what it is and why it's troubling you can go a long way toward removing its sting.
While you're journaling, write down the automatic negative thoughts you have about yourself. Seeing them in black and white can be shocking and embarrassing. When you write them, they seem so much less logical than they do when you think about them. Getting these thoughts down on paper is a first step toward reframing them in a more positive, constructive way.
When you write in a journal, you benefit not only from the writing process but from rereading also. Sometimes when you reread your journal entries, you have an ah-ha moment, and something you've been struggling with becomes crystal clear.
Once you begin writing, keep going. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation or correct spelling. If you run out of things to say, repeat what you've already written.
If you write about a traumatic event in your past, really let go and explore your feelings and thoughts about it. Delve into your deepest emotions.
You may feel sad after you write, but usually, the feeling passes within a couple of hours. If you find that you get extremely upset writing about a certain topic, write about something else instead.
Be completely honest: what you're writing is for you alone. You can save your journal entries or throw them away. Saving them and rereading them in the future can help you see how you've changed and grown. Throwing them away can be therapeutic, too. You can burn them, erase them, shred them, flush them, or tear them into little pieces.
When people allow themselves to investigate their mistakes and see what mistakes have to teach them, they think mindfully about themselves and their world, and they increase their ability not only to accept themselves and their mistakes but to be grateful for them as directions for future growth.
Take fifteen minutes of your time and write about an event or a situation in which you failed. Describe what you did, the thoughts that went through your mind, how you felt about it then, and how you feel about it now as you are writing. Has the passage of time changed your perspective on the event? What are the lessons that you have learned from the experience? Can you think of other benefits that came about as a result of the failure that made the experience a valuable one?
This is the end of lesson 8. In the next lesson, you'll learn about how and why people become perfectionists.