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Purge perfectionism and reclaim your inner peace

Last week we spoke about the signs of perfectionism and how to spot when you have moved from healthy high achievement into destructive perfectionism. This week, I’d like us to work on overcoming perfectionism because while every day is a new opportunity to be better than yesterday – and this pursuit can increase your self-esteem and happiness – perfectionism does the very opposite! How can we overcome this destructive tendency?

Here’s the Key Steps you need to purge perfectionism for good, reclaim your inner peace and…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

  1.  Stop wearing perfectionism like a badge of honour. I used to see perfectionism as a good thing. In fact, I was proud to be one and saw being called one a compliment. It took a while before I was prepared to admit that – more often than not – I drove myself crazy and that my perfectionism killed my joy. Previously, if I wasn’t the best at something, I’d push myself to come out on top or give up on things I enjoyed because I wasn’t that great at them. Becoming great also never felt as good as I imagined it would because there was always room to be better. I was regularly dissatisfied and disappointed in myself (and others). This is a killer… A relationship killer, a self-esteem killer and a happiness killer! I had to realise the cost of perfectionism and the amount of loss it caused. Lost time with loved ones, lost time relaxing, loss of connection with myself and others, loss of self-esteem and so on. So much loss. When I could finally see this, I was well on my way to…
  2. Challenge the limiting belief that you need to be perfect. I had invested too much time and energy reinforcing the belief that I had to be perfect to be good enough and worthy of success, happiness and even love. Throughout my childhood I had received messaged that I was so smart and such a quick learner. I unconsciously created an internal pressure that insisted that I had to be quick, smart and – essentially – perfect to be good enough. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, I’d continually assess myself and find myself wanting if I fell even slightly short of these high standards. If you think back to last week’s article, you will realise that I was caught in a cycle of self-sabotage. If you are too, it is possible to break free. You will need to…
  3. Challenge your inner critic. If you are a perfectionist, you will often hear – and be ruled by – the critical voice in your head telling you that your work isn’t quite good enough, that you aren’t trying hard enough and that people are going to see through you. I’ve written about this before – it’s called the spotlight effect. If you’re going to overcome perfectionism, you need to work on changing this voice! To change it you need to challenge it and gather evidence of how successful you are, how well you are doing and the fact that your work is good enough. You’ll need to replace your inner critic with your own inner coach. A coach does not let you off the hook or drop standards until they are excessively low. But a coach does practise empathy and encourage you to realise how far you’ve come while looking for ways you can grow and develop. Your inner coach will also encourage you to…
  4. Set challenging but realistic goals and targets. It’s more satisfying to set and meet an attainable goal, like focusing on writing an extra article tomorrow, than it is to chastise myself because I am not finished my book… yet :). By focusing on practical, realistic, stretch-goals, you’ll naturally move yourself toward your larger dreams. And you’ll maintain your self-esteem in the process. Just remember that your goals must serve you and not be masters over you. It is okay for them to change over time. In South Africa, we are heading into summer so I’m currently working on getting my body more toned, but I am not expecting to look like I did when I was 20. Although it would be nice, at 44, this just isn’t realistic 😊. We also need to learn to…
  5. Enjoy the journey and the learning along the way. Striving for continued improvement and excellence is very different from trying to be perfect. The former allows room to enjoy the journey. The later often has us living in the future, which provokes anxiety and fuels the fear of failure. When you are mindful and live in the present moment, you can be vulnerable and open to growth and are more able to…
  6. Let yourself off the hook. When you make a mistake – and you will – learn from it and move forward. Do not beat yourself up over and over, saying things like, “How could I have been so stupid? What got into me? I must’ve looked like a fool… (the list goes on and on).” One mistake does not define you. Mistakes have the ability to keep us humble, real and open to learning. It might help to write down what you have learnt from the mistake to cement it in your mind and stop your inner critic ruminating. If your mistake affected others, apologising can also help you to move on. Remember to apologise sincerely but not repeatedly. Perfectionists tend to keep apologising over and over and hand over disproportionate amounts of power to others. Stop it! Imagine you are building a bridge, walk over it and leave the mistake in the past and bring the lesson into the future so you can…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’ 



NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and organisational development and transformation. She is a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner. She is also one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – it’s the Oscar of the speaking business.

Sharon’s PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that has been published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of Henley Business School and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. Sharon has become known for her practical approach, useful tools and genuinely caring manner. She is really looking forward to working with you and taking Key Steps to ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’


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