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Perfection Torture? 5 Ways to Tame Your Perfectionist Tyrant

Neil got results, he was a high achiever.  He knew it and everyone around him knew it.  He was the one who arrived 5 minutes early to the meeting and the one who always had the answers. He prided himself on having the right answers at the right time, every time.  However there were times he didn’t know the answer and then he really gave himself hell.

Perfection was the standard he strived for and perfection was the only standard that mattered.  It seemed like he’d almost get there, 99 things out of 100 would be bang on but always there was something that he couldn’t quite nail.  And it was those 1 or 2 things that he would focus on, replaying them over and over in his mind.  As these ‘failures’ got bigger in his mind the heavy, negative feeling of anxiety seemed to grow in his chest.

Neil felt this relentless need to ratchet up his efforts by 20% every day.  He drove himself harder and harder but he could never reached his ideal level of perfection.  And then after all that effort only to ‘fail’ (in his mind) he collapsed, exhausted.

If only he paused, he would see that underneath his relentless urge to be better there were some very real fears lurking (although acknowledging them might be another challenge for Neil).  The biggest fear that had been driving him for years was Fear of Failure (FoF) – a dark fear that came from Neil’s huge self-expectation to prove himself worthy.  To do that he always had to be better than everyone else, not better than one specific person but better than everyone!

People saw the great results, they saw Neil achieve success but they didn’t see the effects that followed.  His relentless drive for perfection came at a cost.   For each high that Neil drove himself towards, there was a bigger low that he sank into afterwards.  Driving for constant perfection was an emotional rollercoaster.  The lows meant he was tired, moody and irritable – which was a tough and unenjoyable place for his loved ones to be around.  It was actually damaging and tearing his family apart.  The other big cost was to his health.  Constantly pushing himself to reach his ever higher expectations was hugely stressful.  With all that stress he had less energy and less time for his family and the other key areas that really needed it.

Neil loved the highs of his successes but the lows were too much of a price to continue to pay, both for himself and his family.  He wanted a way to see his success AND to enjoy a calmer more harmonious, healthier life.  Neil wanted to feel his relationships with family and friends grow rather than alienating them with his extreme moods.

5 Ways to Tame the Relentless Fear of Failure

  1. Reset your internal expectations.  Where do they come from? Who’s driving the bar so high?  How can any one person live up to be compared to everyone?
  2. What is success for you? Is perfection ever really obtainable or is 90% still awesome?  Or is just taking the first step into something new for the first time a success in itself?
  3. Observe your inner dialogue.  What is it saying?  What tone is it using? Is it negative or helpful?  Challenge your negative self-talk to turn it positive and supportive.
  4. Practise self-care techniques, such as giving yourself acknowledgement for what you achieve (big or small).  Notice the small things you do/achieve, give yourself rest and time to recharge your batteries.  Write daily gratitude and successes lists and watch yourself flourish.
  5. Perfectionism is often inbuilt from a young age and can make up a core inner belief but it doesn’t have to be this way.  Pausing to open up and say we’re not actually perfect is a courageous act that takes real strength and gives you vital breathing space to be human.

Perfection is an unobtainable goal that comes at a heavy price both to yourself and those around you.  By pausing to look internally to identify what specifically is driving this need for perfection and then weighing up the costs against the benefits you can release that un-serving pressure and really enjoy the journey.

We all have our own old lurking beliefs that aren’t serving us.  If you will benefit and grow from shining the light into the dark corners and putting those limiting beliefs truly in your past you will accelerate into your bright future.  Contact us to find out how easy this can be.


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