Well, no more. Once I had my Scarlett O’Hara moment, I decided to enlist Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., psychologist and author of the upcoming book Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, to help perfectionists like myself get it together.
Do any of these perfectionist excuses sound familiar?
OK, so I just said this five minutes ago. (Bashfully, puts down the cookie.) Reacting this way is of course totally irrational — so why do we feel the need to binge out on the entire plate? "Perfectionism causes 'all or nothing' thinking: 'I failed so my healthy diet is a failure,'" says Lombardo. "If you do eat a cookie, eat it mindfully without the guilt. Savor every bite, focus on how good it tastes, eat slowly and with gratitude instead of guilt. You'll eat less and enjoy more." Don't mind if I do!
Five minutes is better than nothing, so stop waiting for perfection and focus on quality over quantity. Choose to try out a different yoga pose each morning and keep trying it a few minutes here and there throughout the day. You'll be a master in no time (... you know, in a non-perfectionist sort of way).
No. You don't. Scoring shut-eye is so much more important. "Getting to sleep at a reasonable time means you'll be more productive and effective tomorrow," says Lombardo. In other words, you'll get more done in less time because your mind won't feel the need to short circuit. Now, go to bed.
What's more impressive — someone who looks good at the gym all the time (boring!), or someone whose body transforms at the gym? Choose to be an inspirational story: Focus on mastering your workouts and feel proud of what you're accomplishing. Besides, you don't need to go to a gym to workout — I personally thrive as a solo artist (or so I choose to believe). All that matters is that you enjoy your workouts, no matter your surroundings.
"There are a lot of healthy food options that can be 'fast,'" says Lombardo. Try a salad bar for lunch where you choose healthy greens and lean proteins. Find a healthy morning smoothie to consume on your way out the door (if necessary). Cook one healthy meal and use the leftovers for lunch the next day." You always have options.
Start thinking like a professional athlete: They know the importance of working hard and resting hard. To function at your peak performance level, you have to take time out for yourself. "Connecting with friends isn’t just about fun: It reduces stress and will help you become even better at your job," says Lombardo. If you find yourself wavering in this department, do what I do and add leisure activities to your to-do list. It's an efficient way to trick your perfectionism into giving you a breather.
"Your clients, just like everyone else in your life, will treat you in exactly the same manner you teach them to," says Lombardo. "If you answer emails at 2 a.m., they'll expect that." Set limits, such as an auto-responder telling your clients you'll respond to emails sent after a certain time on the following business day. Most will respect that. Plus, by not keeping your phone on you'll get a much better sleep, which will make you a more efficient worker bee.
"Research shows being in nature can reduce psychological and physical stress, but you don't need to go for a five-hour hike to get the benefits," says Lombardo. Even just looking at nature — glancing out the window, or using a nature snapshot as your screensaver — can decrease stress in your life.
It's not failure — it's data. Use your past mistakes to learn your triggers and what causes you to veer off course. Then use that information to improve your future. "For example, in the past you may have had trouble working out after work because you always had to stay late," says Lombardo. "Use this information to your advantage by taking steps to workout before work, so even if you have to stay late, you're covered."
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