I recently had to plan for a one hour training session I was asked to deliver over Zoom for colleagues all of whom are clever medical scientists. No harm there, I thought. But over the coming weeks I had to put my slides together, I’d started to give myself a hard time. My internal voice began to ask difficult questions of me … what would people think about me when they saw my presentation? Would anyone ask me difficult questions I wouldn’t know the answer to? If I couldn’t give a convincing answer to a question, would the audience conclude I was a fake?
It’s not what we do, it’s what we believe about ourselves that makes the difference.
Recognise any of that? But after a while, I did have a moment of irritation at myself, but it soon gave way to a shrug. In Mark Manson’s brilliant book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, he puts across the excellent point that we only have so many fucks to give, so we should use them wisely. (My apologies for his flowery language!)
By the time I realised I’d made a mistake it was too late to remedy it, so it would have been a waste of a fuck to beat myself up over it. In more acceptable language, if you can’t control how others react to the wonderful person you are, why should that be your problem? Yet how often do we tell ourselves a story that we’re ‘not good enough’ and that’s not ok? I believe this is one of the commonest features of life, believing you are a fraud and it’s only a question of time before someone notices.
What was happening to me was a large dose of perfectionism based on a belief that I need to be almost perfect in what I say, how I say it and oh yes, know my stuff as well!
I find that perfectionism is one of the most corrosive issues people bring to therapy. It eats into every aspect of life.
If it’s applied externally, life and the people around you are a constant disappointment.
If it’s applied to yourself, then you never live up to a bar that you didn’t even know you’d set – there’s just always a feeling that, however well you did, it wasn’t good enough. It’s exhausting – for everyone – and because even happiness is rarely perfect, life hardly ever produces a true peak experience.
We need to ease up on our expectations. With that in mind my message to you today is this… cultivate the pursuit of being perfectly imperfect.
Really work hard to be aware of your failings, and recognise that’s how life is supposed to be, just like for the rest of us.
Be unforgivingly forgiving of yourself. Be stingy with the ‘fucks’ you give. When you make a boo-boo, or fail at something, ask yourself, ‘in the great scheme of things, does it matter?’ On your death bed is this likely to be on your mind? If it’s not, why give it space now? Learn what you can to prevent the same mistake – I’m putting several alerts in different places to remind me about OTT for the future – and move on.
Bruce Lee said, “The person who never made a mistake, never made anything.” We usually learn more from what goes wrong than what goes right. We often get further because of a failure than because of a success – if we have the right attitude toward it.
If you think you need help getting the monkey of perfectionism off your back, then click the button below and we’ll grab a virtual coffee and decide the best way forward.
Have a great week wherever you are and stay cool 😊.