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New Year’s Resolutions and Perfectionism Part III

New Year’s Resolutions are so enticing to perfectionists. Perfectionists always want to do it better. They feel a loss of control when they’re not trying harder, not living in a future where they finally get it right. At the same time, we know that a minimum of 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. And, there are other statistics that say only 8% of resolutions are realized.

What a perfect set up for those of us who tend to perfectionism. In this sense, making New Year’s Resolutions, while not productive for most people is far worse for perfectionists, undermining our best efforts and intentions:

Perfectionists tend to create unrealistic expectations. Think about it. Would it be a New Year’s resolution if you’d been able to accomplish it in the past. That’s probably because what you’re trying to accomplish is beyond your present capabilities and you’re bullying yourself into feeling bad about this inability, this “failure.” Maybe this time you can do it. But if you don’t, you feel worse when the New Year’s resolution was supposed to be inspiring.

Part of the problem, especially for perfectionists is black and white thinking. Either you did it or you didn’t. And if you didn’t you’re self esteem is at serious risk, again.

Afraid to fail, perfectionists tend to procrastinate and thereby push off their resolutions . . . until next year. It sabotages our hopes for improvement with discouragement and sometimes despair.

Other people can do it, why can’t I? The comparison to others furthers the downward spiral to discouragement and abandoning the goal.

Of course, wanting to improve ourselves in various aspects and skills is admirable and can be achieved as long as . . .

We remind ourselves of our strengths and how we have accomplished goals in the past.

We set realistic small steps toward the goal and reward ourselves along the way.

Give ourselves appreciation rather than needing it from others, especially those who tend to judge us – parents, bosses, friends who could be jealous of our other abilities.

Be your personal best, not the best whoever did it. Maybe you will be at some time in the more distant future, but if you set yourself to achieve “master” level while your still learning, you’ll probably procrastinate and not try at all.

If now, a week after New Years you’re among the few who are still committed to achieving your resolutions, consider the following:

- Be like the airlines always correcting your course with the final destination in mind. Airplanes are only on a direct course 5% of the time. The rest of the time they are responding to changes in the environment – winds, weather, other factors. They do get to their end point, mostly on time but not by flying in a straight line.

- Allow your learning curve to be satisfying in its own right. We learn as much from failures, maybe more, as we do from success.

- Keep trying. “I have tried 99 times and have failed, but on the 100th time came success.” — Albert Einstein

- Silence your inner critic when you hear that negative voice. Or if that’s too hard, turn your attention to something lifegiving. Listen to music. Get up and dance. Work out.

- Living in the future is a set up for feelings of inadequacy, disappointment and loss. Spend time in the present moment appreciating what you have now. Remind yourself each morning what you feel grateful for to help focus on what you have instead of what’s missing. Perfectionists tend to believe nothing is good enough. Expressing gratitude to ourselves, shows us that some things really are perfect just the way they are.

Here’s one more thing to consider. What if you could create a safe environment to work with your perfectionism. One of my friends was working on her dissertation for her doctorate. She made knitting scarves the only place where she would act on her need to be perfect. When she detected one tiny error, she would rip out her work to the point of the dropped stitch and start again. The result, she created 20 beautiful scarves for all her friends for Christmas.

By choosing a safe space to allow her perfectionism to be in control, she was able to give up her fear of failing in knitting and more importantly she tackled and finished her dissertation. She was less worried about making a mistake and was able to take recommendations from her advisor without feeling discouraged.

What’s one safe way you might allow your perfectionism to shine? Be creative and have fun with it. I’d love to hear the results.

By the way, feel free to ditch the New Year’s resolutions. Doc Sharon approves.

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