Perfectionism isn't a cute Martha Stewart craft. "You're such a perfectionist," we say to the party host who places a lime wedge on the rim of everyone's expertly chilled glass. But the truth is, the perfectionists wouldn't make it to the party at all. They'd be too afraid no one would show up, that their music playlist wasn't hip enough or that their souffle was too flat.
Contrary to popular belief, perfectionists aren't always winning marathons, heading the PTA and pitching new businesses. More often, they're procrastinating--avoiding going after their goals in fear of failure, says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.
Squashing that fear of failure opens up a life where you can enjoy striving for goals, no matter what they are, how long they take, or even whether you achieve them. Here's how.
USE THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD. In her book, Lombardo recalls her days in high school chemistry. When their experiment findings weren't consistent with their predictions, she and her lab mates didn't consider the whole thing a failure. They were taught to ask how they got the result by asking questions: Did we follow the steps correctly? What ingredients resulted in this outcome? This scientific approach serves perfectionists--who blame themselves or others when things go wrong--well. Lombardo says.
Instead of beating yourself up when something doesn't go as you planned, treat the incidents as sources of information. Skip the guilt, self-blame and shame, and ask yourself the questions you might ask your high school science project. Collect the data and see what adjustments need to be made.
SAY NO TO EXTREMES. Perfectionism feeds on absolute, all-or-nothing thinking. Rather than cutting back on desserts, for example, perfectionists will say, "I'm giving up all sugar!" Then when they inevitably eat a cookie, they feel like total failures. They berate...