How much of your life is controlled by perfectionism? Every time I think I have finally reached a balance, I manage to put myself in a situation where nothing less than perfect will satisfy me.

Last week and this I have been holding myself to impossibly high standards for a client engagement, 2 shows, a TEDx talk, and an audition for a summer musical theater program. I worked my butt off for the client engagement and believe it went well (awaiting evaluations still). But for the others, I have no standard for “good enough,” so I’m holding myself to impossibly high standards. The resulting stress is wasting mental resources that could be going into preparing as best I can for everything.

The problem isn’t the perfectionism. The problem is the stress caused when I don’t reach my standards. The stress doesn’t come from the activities themselves–I’ve done well in shows before, and I’ve given great speeches before—but from the beliefs that are surfacing around them: “I have to do it perfectly.” “Everyone’s counting on me.” “I should be able to do better than this.” and “This is the most important presentation ever.”

These are just thoughts, however. They may or may not be true. When I don’t think them, in lower-stakes situations, I’m fine. I step up, perform to the best of my ability, and learn to do even better next time. When I get wrapped up in the thinking, though, it becomes a stress-fest. Even if the thoughts are true, the stress does nothing but get in the way of doing my best.

My solution is to stop working on my performance for the next half hour and instead work on reducing the intensity of my beliefs. When my mental landscape is calm and clear, I can apply myself fully to doing the best possible job at my current skill level.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

(And any of your ideas on how to deal with perfectionism and perfectionist-thinking would be greatly appreciated!)

Perfectionism. Sucks.

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