By: J. Peperone
Do you strive for perfection in your work, personal or social life? Most of us do. In fact, most of us, if not all, are encouraged to achieve perfection in nursing school. We were even told becoming a perfectionist was good for us. It’s easy to assume the perfectionist is a high achiever, however there is a marked dissimilarity that exists between the two. In her book, Practical Perfection, Kelly Exeter explains how to switch from a perfectionist paradigm to a reasonable achiever and how to create a healthy life balance in our private and professional life. Here is the worst advice we’ve ever heard about perfection in nursing and solutions to conquer it.
Perfection is a sign of high achievement
High achievement is performing to your best potential. Perfection is performing beyond your potential. When you try to perform beyond your natural ability all the time, you do not develop resilience. Resilience gives us emotional strength and determination to overcome our fears. If you make a B instead of an Aon a test, a perfectionist will become extremely disappointed and negative self-talk will start in the mind. Once the spiral of negative self-talk begins, it will not matter what others tell you and it will not matter that you gave 100%. Self-depreciation will soon emerge. The perfectionist will never be satisfied. The antidote to this is to acknowledge that you did your best with integrity, even if it was not a flawless performance, and take lessons from the situation to improve. Overtime, changing your perception of failure will build optimism, a positive attitude, emotional control, and creativity to develop better strategies.
You work better under perfection
Truth is, you work worse under perfection. High achievers get satisfaction applying their efforts and enjoying the process of learning; perfectionists are unable to accept compliments because they never feel their work is good enough. Performance under perfection creates a downward spiral that leads to a low self-esteem, and fear of failure. It is fear of failure that becomes the major motivation source of the perfectionist. The high achievers motivation source is a drive to become a better person, regardless of failures, and enjoy the process more than the outcome. The difference between the perfectionist and high achiever is mindset. The perfectionist is always focused only on end results and unable to enjoy learning. Don’t focus on end results, change your mindset and focus on enjoying the process.
People respect perfection
People hate perfectionists. Perfectionists are never satisfied with life because every element falls unmistakably short of flawless. The result is an inability to handle setbacks and constructive criticism with grace and maturity. Perfectionists are always seeking external validation with polished artworks of their life. The perfectionist often needs spoon-feeding validation from others when they begin to question their abilities to preform a task. It’s these patterns of perfection that hinder us from handling trials and trivialities that are a regular part of life. The bottom line is, people respect others that are willing to expose their flaws even if they appear to be perfect on the surface.
Perfection means you know a lot
Perfection means unrealistic goals were set. Perfectionism is an illusion of existential and supernatural expectations. The ability to calculate oneself with clarity becomes overlooked because of unrealistic goals and presumptions. These unrealistic goals prevent the perfectionist from seeing potential ideas and opportunities. In contrast, high achievers can set realistic creative goals suited to their talents and abilities. The ability to set realistic goals stems from a foundation built on gratitude- not fear. High achievers can enjoy the journey because of their gratitude. Gratitude is a critical attribute that produces success and prevents the victim mentality (high achievers know this). Current research provides compelling evidence of individuals that cultivate gratitude not only achieve their goals but are also successful and happy. One way to have gratitude is through journaling five minutes a day of big and small things that you have gratitude for.
Perfection equals happiness
The pursuit of perfection is the major obstacle to happiness. When we start to chase perfection, which can never be truly captured, we reject failure by not accepting emotions of anger, sadness, and helplessness. The ability to handle failure comes from acknowledging and managing our emotions in a productive way. When failure arrives as an unexpected guest, perfectionists will often do pity parties of wound licking, complaining, and self-victimization. Some forms of perfection can even lead to procrastination because of fear of failure. Avoiding failure by procrastinating is easier than taking a risk. The high achiever will accept failure as a normal component of life, and through developed resilience, learn from failure to become a stronger person.
Switching from a perfectionist mindset to one of a high achiever takes diligence and persistence. At first, this may seem like an uneasy complicated solution, but believing perfectionism is normal and healthy is a notion full of an abundant amount of naivete’. To achieve any level of success takes a proactive approach to acknowledging and accepting our failures to build resilience. Changing your perception of failure, combined with a willingness to adapt and learn, will produce a fundamental tool for success. Take pride in what you are accomplishing, regardless of where it takes you. Our pursuit in this world is not perfection but to improve ourselves.
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