Many of us are perfectionists in our own right. I know I am at times. We set ourselves high standards and dedicate extraordinary amounts of time and effort to main these high personal standards. This dedication towards perfection undoubtedly helps us achieve results but only as long as we don’t get carried away by it. Eventually our drive to be perfect can begin to negatively impact on our health..
What happens when we get too obsessed with perfectionism?
We get discouraged when we fail to meet the (at times impossibly high) standards we set for ourselves, making us reluctant to take on new challenges or even finish tasks we’ve already started. Worse still, our insistence on making it “perfect” breeds inefficiency, delays, stress overload and often at the end of it, poor results.
Stress in particular takes it’s toll on our health. As I detailed in this post a negative feedback loop develops when the stress hormone cortisol is chronically high. Specifically a hormonal imbalance is created which negatively affects our brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin and dopamine (mood neurotransmitters) as well as melatonin (and others). A vicious cycle then develops; taking melatonin as an example, when its levels drop we lose sleep or don’t sleep well, which then means our already exhausted adrenal glands don’t get well rested, resulting in further fatigue (further feeding into the loop).
My own issues with wanting things to always be perfect
I know with myself, for years before I actually wrote my book, “The Boda Fast” I kept myself from committing to it because I didn’t think I was good enough, rationalising this because I had never taken a professional writing course and I didn’t have a high status qualification such as being a Doctor or Naturopath.
Meanwhile I noticed others in my industry with a lot less knowledge and experience than myself were writing books and more confidently putting themselves out there. In the end, I started to write, it took me over a year to write it (namely because I kept re-writing chapters) and in the end the book was still far from perfect! Committing to getting it done though was a good concrete exercise for me start to overcome the fear of not being perfect.
Sometimes near enough is more than just good enough, because when things “become all or nothing”, too often it turns out to be nothing.
I wrote recently an article “Fasting and Dealing with Imperfection” illustrating the above point as in my work supporting people doing our fasting programs, quite often they worry that if they go off track even a little bit, they’ll undo all the good work. Truth is, most people cheat a little bit and it makes little measurable difference to the final result. Planning to fail doesn’t mean that you expect to fail, but rather, that you know what you will do, and how you will get back on track when things don’t work out.
In the meantime, the imperfectionist in you at least gets you on the pathway to make some inroads, whilst if you’d let the perfectionist run the show, you’d probably still would have been on the sidelines “waiting for when you were ready”.
Remember, the real world doesn’t reward perfectionists. It rewards people who get things done. And the only way to get things done is to learn to live with being imperfect most of the time. Only through years of consistent action, dealing with your imperfection do you get momentary glimpses of perfection. So make a decision. Take action, learn from the outcome, and repeat over and over again.
On that note, I’ll sign off this week’s post with the words from a favourite John Mayer song of mine which I think kind of says it all on this topic;
“The Age of Worry”
Close your eyes and clone yourself
Build your heart an army
To defend your innocence
While you do everything wrong
Don’t be scared to walk alone
Don’t be scared to like it
There’s no time that you must be home
So sleep where darkness falls
Alive in the age of worry
Smile in the age of worry
Go wild in the age of worry
And say, “Worry, why should I care?”
Yours is with your time here
Dream your dreams but don’t pretend
Make friends with what you are
You’re allowed to do it
‘Cause God knows it’s been done to you
And somehow you got through it
Rage in the age of worry
Sing out in the age of worry
And say, “Worry, why should I care?”
Act your age in the age of worry
And say, “Worry, get out of here!”
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Aaron Travers is author of “The Boda Fast – a three step plan to lower inflammation, maximise fat burning and restore vitality”. Aaron writes at www.thebodacleanse.com.au and shares his ideas and experiences on health and wellbeing from his personal life and through working with clients clinically and those doing his “supported fasting” programs. Every Friday he sends out his newsletter, click below to subscribe.
Dewyze, Jeanette & Mallinger, Allan, Too Perfect – When Being in Control gets out of Control, Random House Publishing Group, 1992.