How to overcome perfectionism

(AKA Confessions of a Pomodoro cheat)

how to overcome perfectionism
This morning I needed a loving push. I was cheating at Pomodoro by setting my timer in five-minute increments. I was getting zilch done. My dog Lily called me out on it by barking every time the alarm went off. That little exchange inspired this post.
 
Hands up, I am a recovering perfectionist. I haven’t got this all down pat. BUT, I am getting much better at identifying when my inner meanie is whispering in my ear. She’s the one who tells me to drink another coffee, to stay up late, to keep tweaking what I’m doing. She insinuates that I don’t need a nap/a walk/time to play/to take a lunch break. I used to have her on speed-dial. Wondering why I don’t press mute?
 
Let me tell you about the other voice. My inner cheerleader. She encourages me to stop and think about my choices. She questions whether what I’m doing is moving me closer to, or further away from, what I want. Sometimes though, she wants to kick back and relax when it’s important to take action to nail my goals. That’s when my inner meanie steps in to deliver the pep talk I need. (Lily is her kinder sidekick).
 
 
The time my inner meanie went too far
 
My to-do list was taking priority – over sleep, fun, self-care. I procrastinated because I knew exactly how hard I’d push myself to perfect each task. Failure wasn’t an option. I’d pile the pressure on and work past the point of exhaustion. Not exactly a fool-proof strategy.
 
I was a textbook case of waiting-for-validation-from-someone-else-itis. Longing for approval, but doubting any that came because secretly I felt unworthy.
 
My inner cheerleader shakes her pom poms
So what changed? I hit total burnout and somewhere along the way I developed the temerity to accept myself even if I wasn’t perfect. I discovered that I had lots of friends who (gasp!) had figured out that I had flaws. I discovered they somehow loved me anyway. (Some overdue decluttering may also have taken place, I couldn’t possibly comment!).
 
I began to notice that I had a flicker of self-belief that this was transitory. An inner knowing that I could emerge from the experience better than before. I felt like I had been KO’d but that I would come back swinging (quite a statement from a pacifist, I’m sure you’ll agree).
 
The voices join forces and I go on a journey
 
In short, I had an epiphany. Done is better than perfect. Not a shock to most, but it was the equivalent of the rolling news banner on telly to me.
 
Strange things started happening. Naps, snuggling with Lily, hanging out in nature and having fun. I became more confident. I found my voice. I authored and facilitated online courses. They got amazing feedback. What’s different is that I took time off when I needed to. I believed in myself.
 
Recently, I spotted a competition to win a free place in Business Fame Academy. Spoiler alert, I won! (I admit that part of me couldn’t quite believe it). There was no agonising or pushing. I was makeup free with my dog on my lap. The sound and picture were completely out of sync.  I submitted it anyway because spreading my message was the important piece.
Moral of the story: Stop waiting for everyone else to tell you that you’re good enough.  You don’t need Aladdin’s lamp, a Fairy Godmother or three wishes from your friendly neighbourhood leprechaun.  You just need a modicum of self-belief and a pinch of passion.  Go out into the world and be your imperfect, vulnerable and loveable self. (And always listen to your dog).

Update: Here are some links to a couple of articles I’ve had published recently:

https://www.thriveglobal.com/authors/13702-marie-o-sullivan