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In Pursuit of Perfection

Is the pursuit of perfection ailing and sabotaging you and your relationships?

Not sure if you are a perfectionist? See if this describes you…

Perfectionism is characterized by:

- striving for flawlessness

- setting high performance standards

- self-critical

- concerns about how others view us

- fear of failure

- love/hate relationship with procrastination

- believing things could always be better

Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught in the trap of pursuing perfection. Our culture constantly advertises and promotes the perfect image – perfect body, J Lo and A-Rod relationships, rock star houses and careers, and the list goes on. We spend time and money doing our best to live up to others expectations, or being who we think we have to be to keep the important people (or bosses) in our lives happy.

Some people are born in a perfectionist personality style. These folks fall in the Enneagram Type 1, strict perfectionist or reformer. These people are gifted at seeing the things that can be improved upon, and to them there is always something to improve. They are constantly in the pursuit of doing what is right, and improving the world. The inner critic for these people is far worse than any critic on the outside. One's struggle the reality that there are certain things they must accept, for example, your way is not the only right way, some things are good enough, and you are good just as you are.

Here are a few tips on how to redirect those perfectionist behaviors:

  1. Lighten up! Take a realistic look at what you are striving for and ask yourself why. Instead of striving to be perfect to achieve acceptance and love from others, use the love you know you already have as motivation to do the things you love to do the way you love to do them.

  2. Accept that not everything is going to be excellent. You can strive for excellence in your life but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be excellent (or perfect) at everything. We only have so much time and energy in our days so let’s figure out the things in life we want and can be excellent at and then be okay with not being excellent at the rest. If you practice this, you may be surprised to experience increased energy, clarity of thought and fulfillment.

  3. Be you! Let others be them! Perfectionists tend to find fault in themselves and others. Just be you – the way you were designed. Look for the greatness in you and in others instead of the faults. Fall in love with you! Look for what’s right in others and the world. Live from gratitude instead of what’s missing. Stop looking at others and judging their outfits or their job title. Start loving unconditionally. Give yourself grace – extend grace to others. After all – we are all doing the best we can.

  4. Let go of expectations and the high standards you are putting on yourself and others. They are not agreements! Expectations are a comparison to the past and past behaviors. Be open to new possibility. Have open, vulnerable conversations with the people who are important to you about what you want. Ask them what they want. You may be surprised to find you are both looking for the same thing!

  5. Treat your life like as an experiment not a test! If you want something you’ve never had, you have to be willing to experiment. Give something (or someone) new a shot! Allow the unfolding of life, opportunities and relationships instead of trying to control everything. See what happens – explore new possibilities from a place of curiosity instead of expectation. Take a risk. If it works – great! A new path! If it doesn’t, make a different choice. Either way – you get an A!

  6. Surround yourself with people who care about being real. Life is a team sport. Surround yourself with people who care more about being real than about being perfect. Ask for support. Ask for what you want. We teach others how to treat us… how are you treating you? Did I already mention… lighten up already! Life is meant to be enjoyed!

  7. Be kind to yourself simply because that is the right thing to do.

Knowing that things are perfect just the way they are can be hard for a perfectionist. Look at nature, the sunset for example, no one looks at a beautifully radiant sunset and says I wish there were more orange in that sunset. They look at it and see the beauty for what it is. A perfect sunset. Look for the beauty in life, see the perfection in the imperfection. Know that you are perfect. You are good enough. You are loved.

-Michelle Fournier

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