If perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, then here’s how to silence it.

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In our recent posts, we explored how perfectionism can be a major obstacle in personal branding (and life in general!) and offered seven reasons to challenge your inner perfectionist, followed by seven tips to address it.

As mentioned in these posts (and it bears repeating here), perfectionism and a desire to excel are two very different things. A desire to do your best is reasonable and flexible, whereas a need to be perfect is rigid, demanding and self-defeating.

criticThe American novelist Anne Lamott once said, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” I couldn’t agree more!

It can often sound like this:
“I must perform perfectly at important things I do (e.g., at work, parenting).”
“Mistakes are not acceptable.”
“My entire sense of worth depends on how I perform.”
“I must not let anyone see me make a mistake. If they did, it would be horrible.”
“If I make a mistake and am less than perfect, then I’m a failure.”

…and the list goes on.

As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to expand on the first tip (catch thoughts that fuel perfectionism and handle them differently) by offering an alternative, more helpful voice to counter this oppressive voice.

Here’s a list adapted from the late, great psychologist and theorist Dr. Albert Ellis to help with this:

Helpful things you can say to yourself to overcome perfectionism

  1. Perfection is an illusion. No one can be totally perfect.
  2. Just because I make a mistake does not mean I am a failure.
  3. I have the right to make mistakes, like everyone else.
  4. I can strive to do my best without having to be perfect.
  5. Doing well does not necessarily mean being the best.
  6. To be human is to err.
  7. The pressure I put on myself to perform perfectly is an unrealistic pressure that can actually cause me to perform worse because I will be worried or nervous.
  8. Trying to do my best is a reasonable goal, but it will not always be achieved.
  9. The high expectation I put on myself to perform creates unnecessary stress that can adversely affect my physical and emotional health.
  10. I perform in many different roles and it is highly unlikely that I will excel in every role at all times. For example, I am a…(list your roles at work, home, etc.).
  11. Few things in life are exact. Things can be done in a variety of ways and have many different solutions.
  12. People do not always agree on what is correct or right. Judgments are often subjective. I will try to set my own realistic goals, please myself, and have the strength to be creative and different in the face of others’ potential disapproval.
  13. Our whole society is geared to expect that people will make mistakes and errors (e.g., traffic tickets, probation, consumer recalls, refunds, legal suits, customer complaints, etc.).
  14. True friends accept imperfection
  15. Mistakes do not equal incompetence. Mistakes are just mistakes – full stop!

Remember that “not one size fits all”  and some of these beliefs may not sound very natural to you. See which ones resonate best and practice them, or think of your own rational beliefs to silence your inner perfectionist!



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