3 phrases to manage Perfectionism

Sometimes, philosophy and psychology blow my mind and when that happens, it can often lead to a useful time of reflection and processing.

I attended a workshop in London yesterday at The Mindfulness Project, with Psychologist, Pavel Somov. The subject of the day was “Overcoming Perfectionism and Procrastination with Mindfulness”. As I tend to fall into both of these buckets at certain times, I was intrigued, as a Mindfulness teacher and practitioner, to understand how mindfulness might be used as a specific model for managing these two personality traits. Through mindfulness practice, I already experience a sense of letting go and surrendering to what is and this has been useful in the sense of not always needing to strive and compete and to be and do better, but to accept and to be OK with what is, right now. This is not to be confused with passivity. I’m certainly not passive by any means but acceptance offers me a sense of being at peace and accepting reality as it is and things that I can’t change or are out of my control.

My learning from the day was quite different from what I expected and, as always with these kinds of workshops, my mind has been expanded. For much of the day, it felt like I already knew and had experienced what Pavel was explaining, particularly with reference to mindfulness and flow and acceptance. However, he articulated his philosophy and mindful approach in such a way that my existing knowledge and core beliefs are reaffirmed and continue to deepen.

I came away with three phrases that Pavel shared with us (see below). These phrases counter our attempts to secure uncertainty due to fear of the unknown, which is a classic reason why perfectionists strive for perfection; for certainty, through fear of never being enough, doing enough or achieving enough. Do you find yourself never happy with the outcome and continuously striving to be better, do better and to succeed better? What if, instead, you acknowledge that you are doing your:

1.   Best in the moment

2.   Moment-specific best

3.   Shitty best?

It comes as a shock, right? Particularly no.3 but hey, what if you’re having a tough time and all you feel that you can do, given the set of circumstances, is your shitty best? Well, isn’t that good enough? You’ve done it, you’ve done the best that you can do, and you know what, that’s OK! Let’s learn to accept that we’ve done our best under the given set of circumstances, rather than continuously beating ourselves up by telling ourselves that we could have done better!

So, if you are the type who tends to think only of the outcomes, results and future goals and are never happy with what is occurring in the now, saying to yourself that it’s not good enough and probably never good enough, then this might be tough to get your head around. If you judge yourself harshly, you probably judge other people’s efforts harshly too and view other’s efforts as never being good enough. If you are a manager, this is worth reflecting on.   

A reminder at this point of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of Mindfulness, which teaches us to be in the moment, to live in the now and to notice our constant sense of striving, aversion, clinging and attraction;

“Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in a particular way, in the present moment and non-judgementally.”  

So, here’s the question I left the workshop with, which on reflection was my learning from the day:

What if, you remove specific outcomes, results and goals as the measure of your personal success? And, understand that “you are always doing the best you know. And, doing the best you know is the only outcome you will ever know, for certain.”

See where this lands with you and remember that often, if we feel resistance or confusion, it is useful and worth reflecting on and sitting with, even more so. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to sit with and reflect on your current situation, circumstances or challenges, please visit my website: www.innerspaceworks.com