During one of my more intense “training” sessions for the upcoming IronMan, I collapsed – literally. I could not move, my body simply quit on me. As I laid on the ground I couldn’t help but wonder if I finally pushed myself to the extreme and was having a heat stroke or something worse. Thankfully, I was eventually able to make it back home and get rehydrated. My body did overheat, but the bigger clue-in was how much I still struggle with perfectionism at times. However, I was reminded once again how “Perfectionism” doesn’t serve me, but actually hinders me.
One of the most destructive things about perfectionism is it prevents us from being kind to ourselves. It’s fear based and falsely believes that if we don’t shoot for perfection, we’re somehow lazy, or not giving our best. Yet, by obsessing to get things exactly right, we actually cripple our ability to succeed.
I read once where some coaches and athletes actually believe that getting sick after a practice or work out proves they gave their best. What? So not driving yourself and your body to the point of breaking is somehow less than? We see this with grades in school too. Some feel if they don’t get straight A’s, somehow they too are less than.
This imbalance is truly a pandemic that’s even touched on in various books. Some highlight the difference of a “healthy” high-achiever – who when they mess up, view it as a learning experience, and move on. A Perfectionist however makes themself feel terrible about not get it right, may quit trying, or worse, may never try at all, because of their fear of failing & not measuring up.
Alternately, this fear of failing causes many to continually push themselves to extremes. We see this in people’s finances too, as many can become overly obsessed with money, or get so frustrated and defeated by it that they simply quit trying to get “Financially Fit”.
Obviously, there’s a healthy balance to this all, and it begins by cutting ourselves some slack. When we do this, we are more likely to slowly improve over time. I’ve started to look at even my “getting out there” to try as a win. Each time I go to the pool, hit the track, read the book, make the effort, is a win.
Also, to begin retraining myself to speak kinder to myself and not belittle. To speak to myself as I would my own kids when encouraging them.
All of this takes practice of course, but in that process too, I’m learning to be more kind when I stumble – and not get so caught up seeking perfection, but rather progression.