THE IMPERFECTION GUIDEBOOK
CONSIDER THE ACTUAL WORSTCASE SCENARIO
You screw up a couple of slides in your presentation. Not great – but not likely The End of the World. Do a reality check, advises Dr Elizabeth Lombardo, author of Better Than Perfect. ‘Ask yourself, Is my assessment accurate? Is my boss really going to fire me? What’s more likely? She might be disappointed, or she might not be.’ Keep a written log of your mess-ups and their consequences – proof that imperfection is never as horrible as you imagine.
TAKE UP SOMETHING YOU ARE BAD AT
For anyone with a fear of looking foolish (most of us), psychotherapist Dr Sharon Martin recommends exploring a hobby you’ve been interested in but afraid to try, like knitting (a humbling pastime indeed), improv or Zumba. This will build your tolerance of mistakes in all parts of life. ‘You learn that they are just part of the process of learning,’ says Martin.
SHARE YOUR MISTAKES WITH OTHERS
‘You will start to see that errors are common and people are not judging you as negatively as you fear,’ says Martin. ‘Your friends will probably say, “That happens to me too! Let me tell you how I screwed up!”’ (Check out the Whisper app, where people anonymously share blunders and yearnings. You’re in good company!)
You forgot to go to the supermarket on the way home, and your kids have crackers with peanut butter and ageing bananas for school lunch. Instead of berating yourself with visions of their classmates’ homemade bento boxes, talk to yourself as you would a friend who made the same mistake, advises Martin: It’s no big deal. Everyone does that. You are still a great mom!
FIND MEANING IN THE PROCESS
If you’re racked with anxiety about always getting an A-plus result, you will sweat and swear your way through everything. So ask yourself why else you are working so hard. If you are getting ready for house guests, don’t stress about hospital corners; think about how much you’ll enjoy time together and how even small efforts will make them feel at home.
CHANGE YOUR MATHS
If you believe you must do everything 100%, choose a nonessential task and shoot for 80% instead. (Skip a few chapters of that book-club book, or buy ready-made pastry to make a pie.) See that the results are still good and you’ll realise how much time and energy you waste trying to perfect inconsequential details. That’s energy you could be using for more satisfying things.