How To Let Go Of Perfectionism: 3 Steps To Perform Freely
Performances come in all shapes and sizes. But no matter what form your performance takes, a common factor will always be present: your desire to succeed.
This goal of doing your best, if seen in a healthy way, can motivate you to work harder and strive towards the potential that lies within.
However, there is also another form this desire can take. When it shifts from a simple aim to do your best, to needing and demanding perfection from yourself, trouble can arise.
Known as perfectionism, this need to be perfect will likely end up resulting in the opposite. Continually holding you back from performing freely.
What Perfectionism Looks Like
Perfectionism, as contradictory as it may sound, is not defined by seeking out perfection. Yes, there is a deep need for being perfect, though this is fueled by an ever seeking eye for mistakes and imperfections.
Really, perfectionism is all about attention. It’s where you’re directing your focus before a performance, as well as after a performance.
As you go into a performance, perfectionism will lead to fear and anxiety. You begin to worry about the ample amount of mistakes you could make. This then results in fear, as that’s your mind's natural reaction to protect against the inevitability of not being perfect.
After a performance, it’s all about the way you go about evaluating yourself. With perfectionism, a defining characteristic is the never ending ability to pinpoint mistakes. Even if there were positive aspects to what you did, those will be quickly brushed over.
The mind will rationalize this by saying, “Oh I know what I did well, I need to find what I did wrong so I can get better.” However, that is only solidifying the fact you weren’t perfect, strengthening perfectionism and lowering your confidence.
The constant scrutiny that accompanies perfectionism, while perhaps aimed at getting you to do your best, will only work to hold you back from the potential you’re capable of achieving.
"Perfectionism, as contradictory as it may sound, is not defined by seeking out perfection. Yes, there is a deep need for being perfect, though this is fueled by an ever seeking eye for mistakes and imperfections."
How Perfectionism Is Holding You Back
Perfectionism forms out of an initial ambition to be the best you can be. Though, over time it morphs into a much more severe need to never make a mistake.
As this perfectionism intensifies, so will the negative effects it has on your performance. The two main areas being a drop in your confidence and the slowing of your growth.
Perfectionism Lowers Your Confidence
Imagine if someone followed you around each day, pointing out all the mistakes you made. No matter how small or insignificant they may be, there this person is, forcing you to focus on what you did wrong.
How much confidence do you think you’ll have in yourself after this goes on for a while?
Probably not too much.
Well, this is exactly what’s happening inside your head as a perfectionist. Your inner voice constantly directs your attention onto your mistakes. Highlighting them in bright neon lights.
What’s worse is perfectionism never allows you to stop and be grateful for your success. Focusing on what you did well is a key ingredient to building confidence. An action that is kept from happening due to perfectionist thinking.
Perfectionism Keeps You From Improving
Stemming from a desire to be the best you can be, you’d think perfectionism pushes you towards growth. But rather, it’s quite the opposite.
Perfectionism leads to you focusing on what went wrong. Not in a healthy, “Let me see how I can improve,” kind of way. No, it’s more of a, “I can’t believe you did that you stupid idiot,” kind of way.
When you make use of proper self-evaluation techniques, you can view your mistakes objectively. Instead of having them tear down your confidence and become an emotional hit to who you are, you can simply learn from them.
Such learning is what then allows you to put forth a plan to make progress towards growth.
Though, perfectionism leaves you blinded by your anger and embarrassment that you fell short of perfection.
"Perfectionism leads to you focusing on what went wrong. Not in a healthy, “Let me see how I can improve,” kind of way. No, it’s more of a, “I can’t believe you did that you stupid idiot,” kind of way."
3 Steps To Let Go Of Perfectionism
Knowing the negatives that come along with perfectionism, it’s time to let this frame of thought go. Contrary to what you may tell yourself, it’s not a positive state of mind propelling you towards the ideal version of yourself.
In fact, it could actually be the weight holding you down from the success you’re capable of attaining.
So, it’s time to let go of perfectionism, and adopt a new way of thinking. To do so, there are three steps/mindset shifts that need to happen.
#1: Be Welcoming Of Mistakes
The first step is going to be incredibly uncomfortable to anyone with perfectionism. I get it. This has always been something I’ve struggled heavily with.
But no matter how challenging or scary it may be, one of the best ways to let go of perfectionism is by becoming welcoming of mistakes.
Open those arms and gladly accept mistakes into your life. Give them a hug and say thank you. The reason being, mistakes are the only real way for you, me, or anyone to improve.
How can you get better if you are afraid to make mistakes along the way? It’s impossible. You will continually be holding yourself back, keeping one foot on the brake to be sure you don’t fumble and make a mistake.
But guess what? You may make it clean through without messing up, but you won’t have grown or reached your potential.
Fearing mistakes will continually leave you a level (or many levels) below what you’re capable of.
So, if your true aim is to be the best you can be, mistakes are a necessary part. Stop seeing them as something to fear and begin to view them as opportunities. As that’s what they truly are: opportunities for you to improve.
To make this shift, here’s an exercise you can try. After a game, performance, or training session, first list out five areas of your game you did well (more on this later). Next, list out 3 ways you can improve.
Now, we’re not going to simply stop there. Take those three areas and break them down into steps you can take the following days/week to work on improving them.
"Open those arms and gladly accept mistakes into your life. Give them a hug and say thank you. The reason being, mistakes are the only real way for you, me, or anyone to improve."
#2: Strive For Consistency
Consistency may be on your mind as a perfectionist, though, I’d imagine it’s the lack of consistency you mainly focus on. Continually finding mistakes leaves you feeling as though you are inconsistent in your performances.
One day you do this right, then the next day you find something wrong with it.
However, in this situation, what is it you’re judging consistency off of?
The outcome, of course. And while that may seem like the obvious (and only) option for judging whether or not you're a consistent performer, there is another way to view consistency that works wonders in letting go of perfectionism.
Rather than striving to have consistent outcomes, work to approach your performances consistently.
This involves two areas: physical and mental.
You want to be sure you are consistent in the way you are approaching games and performances physically. Do you have a practice plan in place? Are you being consistent in training and preparing for your performance?
The second area is mental. You want to strive to approach each performance with a consistent mindset. Whatever you’ve determined to be your peak performance mindset, that is what you should aim to replicate.
By shifting the way you view consistency, and working to be consistent in your approach, this turns your attention onto the process and helps to let go of perfectionism and allow you to perform more freely.
#3: Don’t Overlook What You Did Well
The third step involves a complete shift in how you see yourself and judge your performances. As I’ve said, perfectionism leads you to immediately pinpoint mistakes. To counteract this, you must work to control your attention.
Right now, it can feel out of your power to dictate where your focus turns. Automatically, all the mistakes, no matter how big or how small, immediately begin flashing in your mind.
By working to focus on what you did well, this automatic response will wear down.
To find success with this step, I encourage you to make it a writing practice. After a performance, if you simply try to sit and think about what you did well, the natural negative thoughts you typically experience will overpower you.
Writing allows you more control to only write what you want, regardless of the sneaky thoughts creeping in your mind.
Following a performance, write out the top five positive aspects of your game. After each statement, pause for a moment and allow yourself to feel proud of what you did.
This exercise will do a couple things: for one, it is working to increase your confidence. The more you notice what you did well, the more confidence you will have moving forward. And two, it gives you the opportunity to then look at what you did wrong.
Before, when you saw the mistakes you made, it likely hurt you to the core. Making it rather impossible to see the brightside and growth opportunities the mistakes presented.
However, by first focusing on what you did well, you provide yourself the strength to objectively examine what went wrong and actually learn from it and use it to improve your game.
"Following a performance, write out the top five positive aspects of your game. After each statement, pause for a moment and allow yourself to feel proud of what you did."
No matter what sport you play or what your performances look like, I imagine your goal is to be the best you can be.
That’s a strong ambition I recommend everyone adopt. However, you must be careful not to allow that healthy drive to succeed slowly shift into a need to be perfect. When that happens, perfectionism begins to wreak havoc on your performance.
With perfectionism, mistakes are highlighted and success overlooked. There is a deep need within to be perfect, yet, it’s as though your mind doesn’t believe that to be possible. And so, the search continues for what all you did wrong.
To truly reach your potential, you must learn how to let go of perfectionism, allowing yourself to perform freely and confidently.
Be willing to make mistakes, strive for consistency, and don’t forget to focus on what you did well. These three steps will help you finally let go of perfectionism in your life.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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