Is your ‘Quest for Perfection’ causing you stress?

Is your Quest for Perfection causing Stress? – Here’s some information that will help – It only has to be ‘good enough’.

Perhaps you have values around getting it right, first time, every time? Your preparedness, the way you check facts and pay attention to detail  has given you a reputation for work which is reliable and accurate.

These values are positive. They may have got you this great career and, if you have enough energy to keep them up, that’s fine.

As a therapist though I know that each of these worthy values comes with some ‘internal messages’ like  ‘Don’t make a mistake’, ‘Get it right’ or ‘Don’t take risks’.

These internal messages are quite demanding and can result in internal pain or internal stress (You may have external stresses too like a new team, a new manager, a new home or a recent loss).

In our early family taking these values very seriously (e.g. achievement, autonomy, success, being right) was likely to have been a way to stay ‘OK’ around a parent-figure. This parent-figure may have even modelled the values themselves.

Do you have an idea of who this parent figure might have been? Who was it who –

  • Needed it done in a certain way or to a certain standard
  • Was always right
  • Was conscientious and worked long hours
  • Expected you to be successful, to achieve, perhaps like themselves

Being ‘OK’ around this parent figure may well have been a useful strategy for receiving ‘positive strokes’, avoiding criticism, or even staying safe. But those days are gone. If ‘getting it right, first time every time’ is causing you internal pain then things need to change.

As human beings our resources are limited and this limitation needs to be accounted for.

It’s really hard on yourself to expect to ‘Be Perfect’ all the time, and total perfection may not bring the most effective outcome.

In most cases effectiveness is maximised by allowing yourself or your work to be ‘good enough’ for the situation at hand.

Some Challenging Ideas

How would it be to issue a draft report and hear people’s feedback before it’s finished? It only needs to be ‘good enough’ and your colleagues may feel more involved.

Do you know that other people may not share your values? Are you able to appreciate these differences? These people want to be in a team with you!

Can you become more aware of any tendency to be self-righteous or to react to people like a cross parent?

Are you able to make apologies to others? (i.e. imply that ‘I was wrong’). You’re still a good enough person, even if you got something ‘wrong’.

If you’re a surgeon, an accountant or pilot, thank you for bringing your values to work. But do you need to bring them to preparing a meal, writing a birthday card or working in the garden? These things only need to be ‘good enough’.

How about laughing at yourself occasionally? (You see, there’s a bit of each of us that’s funny).

Making Changes

For a more complete picture of what your ‘driver behaviours’ might be, take a look at my page entitled ‘Experiencing Stress at Work?‘ and complete the ‘Driver Questionnaire’ which is available there.

If you start experiencing something uncomfortable when you allow yourself to ‘get away with good enough’ then revert back to your values for a while.

Everyone is different and any self-help process can only offer ideas in general terms.  It may be that going against these old ‘internal messages’ means some deeper work.

Why not book an initial assessment session with a counsellor/therapist who is registered with a nationally recognised professional body (such as BACP or UKCP in the UK)?

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