Raise your hand if you can relate to any of the following:
* You make plans to meet someone at 1:00 and are ready to leave if he hasn’t arrived by 1:02.
* You clean before the housekeeper comes.
* You could browse for hours in office supply, calendar, and/or container stores.
* Anyone who leaves crumbs after you’ve scrubbed the kitchen gets a glare that would impress Darth Vader.
* You consider January 1, with all its brand-new-ness, one of the greatest days ever.
I understand. I often describe myself as a recovering perfectionist, former overthinker, softening control freak, slowly-letting-go-of-my-Type-A personality. I’m only half-joking.
Striving for perfection is nothing less than exhausting. It causes a lot of sleepless nights, days spent doing things you don’t really want to do, and never feeling quite “enough.”
I remember, as a new business owner, filtering every activity through a lens of, “But will I look professional?”
I can’t tell you the hours I spent planning events, classes, and parties that never saw the light of day. Or the parties that did become reality, only to find me in the kitchen the entire time focusing on perfection instead of relationships.
And I can recall not inviting friends in, often at times I needed them most, because my house was a mess or my eyes were puffy from crying or everyone, including me, was in the midst of a tantrum.
I spent a fair amount of time and sanity striving for perfection. Then I did the most un-perfect thing: I decided to let go. To quit trying so hard.
Those earlier times taught me valuable lessons, so I do not regret them. (Well, most of them.) I just choose to focus my energy elsewhere now.
If you are exhausted, overwhelmed, feeling alone, or simply ready to forge a new and lighter path, here are some tips I’ve found helpful as a recovering Type-A-Overthinker-Control-Freak-Perfectionist:
1. Adopt “Perfect Enough.” I never felt satisfied with (ok, I downright cringed at) the “good enough” label. But perfect enough? Since we know true perfection is elusive, perfect enough seems like the next best thing. I’ll take it!
2. Take An Eagle’s View. Perfectionism feels heightened when we’re deep in the weeds. Look at your scenario from 10,000 feet up: What truly matters? What’s worth your time, emotion, and energy? Writing my personal purpose statement made the biggest difference here. I keep it present constantly.
3. Plan, Prepare…Then Relax. I’m all for preparation. But once you’ve done the necessary pre-work, just savor the moment and enjoy the experience – imperfect though it may be. I’m realizing more and more how no one remembers – or even knows about – the behind-the-scenes craziness to get everything right. They do, however, remember the meaningful conversations, the welcome environment, and the shared laughter.
4. Do Something Completely Light (and, Perhaps, Un-You) Last Halloween, I let my hair air-dry, put on an ‘80s t-shirt, grabbed my son’s guitar, and voila – I transformed into Slash from Guns N’ Roses. I debated whether I should post the photo on Facebook, wondering what a potential coaching client might think if she Googled Dr. Christi Hegstad and saw this picture in response. The mantra, “Life is short, make people smile,” won out.
5. Ask Yourself a Question. The question that makes the difference will vary for each of us, but try a few of these when considering your light-hearted actions: What joy might stem from this? What’s the worst that could happen – and am I o.k. with that? What’s my purpose – and how can I best live that out in this moment? What legacy do I want to leave?
That last question gets me every time.
Do you want to be remembered as the person with a spotless house – or a zest for life?
The parent with everything supremely organized – or available when her kids needed her?
The business owner who always looked sharp – or who deeply connected with her audience?
Whenever I’m preparing for a keynote or workshop, I place Maya Angelou’s words in front of me: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I finally realized this applies to life, too.
So join me, my fellow Type A’s, control freaks, perfectionists, and overthinkers. Grab hold of my (severely dry) hand, listen to my (off-key) voice, and realize with me that perfectionism is exhausting, control is elusive, but presence is peace. Let’s be mindful, joyful, and purposeful in the moment together.
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