One of the quickest ways to erode resilience is to try to be perfect. Some people strive for perfection to hide their shortcomings. Others think they need to project an ideal image to avoid criticism.
Unfortunately, perfection is impossible to achieve. As the pressure to be perfect builds up, we risk an explosion or collapse. Striving to be perfect requires an enormous amount of energy, leaving little in reserve for a crisis. And, if you project a perfect image, this pressures others to try to do the same.
A perfectionist boss often instills fear in subordinates who will seek to please them rather than do their best. Fear, paradoxically, generates more mistakes. Instead of using their instinct or common sense, employees try to read their boss’ minds. As a result, they drop the ball over and over. Constant criticism has a similar impact.
If you find yourself struggling with the desire to be perfect, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I trying to please others?
Stop focusing on what you think other people expect of you. Accept that it is okay to disappoint people. Don’t let guilt drive your behavior. Live the life that you choose, consistent with your values and goals. Remind yourself that it is better to be respected than to be liked.
2. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
If things don’t go according to your perfect expectations, how much harm, if any, will it cause? Can you live with the disappointment or anger that less than perfect may cause? Is there a real loss, or are you just imagining an adverse outcome?
3. What can I learn when things don’t go as expected?
Accept reality rather than getting stuck to how you think things are supposed to be. Ask yourself why things didn’t things go your way. What can you improve? Is there something you could have done better? Or was it out of your control?