This post is the sequel to my earlier post ‘why being a perfectionist isn’t so perfect’. That post explains what perfectionism is, why it can hold you back from the joys of life and even gives you a test to identify whether you (like me) have some perfectionist characteristics. Before you go any further on this post, read the first post so you can understand whether you may need to change and if so, why you may want to change.
Today, we are going to understand the importance of practicing changing certain behaviours. Next Wednesday, we are going to look at strategies to help us overcome these perfectionist behaviours. These are things that I’ve learnt over the last couple of years but am still practicing their implementation! Just ask those close to me – I still hold a high standard for myself and sometimes, for others. Although I’m a work in progress, I’ve really found this processes has helped free me up to enjoy life more; experience less anxiety and find more satisfaction.
Thoughts are important in changing feelings and behaviours, but behaviours also strongly reinforce our perfectionist attitudes. The focus of this post will be on changing behaviour. I’ve found practical advice on how to actually change is rare. Many in the health profession will use cognitive behavioural therapy, which focus’ on the thought processes that lead to the behaviour. However, ask any perfectionist – if you have a system that works, it is really hard to believe that someone else’s less rigid system will work. No matter how much more rational or positive it is. It can be quite anxiety provoking to try something outside your own ordered, well practice and controlled methods.
For instance, in early years of university, I was given notes from older students. Law students would KILL for notes like this, to save you from drowning in stupid amounts of complex and sometimes unnecessary reading. Despite this, I would still do (or try to do) all the readings, listen to the lectures, make my own notes and then just use the other notes to compare against the notes that I had made (anal much?); to ensure they were perfect. It wasn’t until later years that out of sheer exhaustion (and distraction from a cute boy in the army) I changed my methods. Surprisingly, my marks weren’t that different. But unless I had changed my behaviour, I wouldn’t have really believed that studying other’s summary notes (if I had done my work throughout the semester, of course – this isn’t arts, haha) could work. It is equally important for a perfectionist to change their behaviours as well as their beliefs and unrelenting high standards.
So we’ve seen that we need to change our behaviour to make lasting change on our journey to a less stressful and more satisfactory lifestyle. Next Wednesday, we will look at the practical steps to take to change a behaviour.
Before next week’s Part B post, I want you to consider ONE area of your life that you find perfectionism and if you feel comfortable, share it in the comments below. This will encourage others (and me!) that they are not alone!