Striving for excellence is a worthy enterprise. But if you find yourself in distress because of real or perceived failures along the way, or you quit because you're not perfect, then you have a problem.
I struggle with being a perfectionist. I work really hard to do everything well, and I get upset and distracted if I can't. However, I don't quit - I find another route.
For example, some of the jewelry I make is fine silver from precious metal clay. It's not easy to work with and dries practically just by looking at it. I decided to take a three-day private lesson from an incredible metal clay artist, Lisa Barth. While training with Lisa, I made a number of nice things, but I had in my mind that anything I made had to look as good as what she made. After two and a half weeks of frustration, I ended up throwing away most of my work.
Why couldn't I do it like she did? Was it because she had done it longer?
No, time was only partially the answer. The problem was that I am not artistic in the sense that Lisa is. For example, I could take painting lessons from Da Vinci all day, but I could never paint like him in 40 years of practice. There's a certain quality you have to have.
I needed to accept the fact that I could NOT do Da Vinci (or Lisa Barth) - I could ONLY do Dr. Laura.
The minute I told myself that, I made a couple of things immediately! They weren't complex, but they were nice. I freed myself up by recognizing that even though I didn't have that talent, I did have a talent.
I don't perceive it as any form of quitting or being negative about myself. I consider it being honest with myself. Things don't make you feel bad about yourself; your ATTITUDE about those things makes you feel bad about yourself.
Here are some tips for the next time you're struggling with the need to be perfect:
- Realize you are limited - more limited in some areas and less limited in others. It's not a bad thing, it's just reality.
- Accept that there are always going to be people better than you. Every day, say to yourself, "I'm better than some, not as good as others."
- Recognize that mistakes happen and they should happen. You cannot be on your game 24/7. People who are always down on themselves do not live as long.
- Try not to get impatient with yourself when you are stressed out. When you are stressed, try to avoid activities that require an intense amount of concentration or focus. These types of activities can make the stress worse instead of better.
- Have a sense of humor.