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Oops...I made a mistake!

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Has it ever happened that you were incredibly kind and ridiculously rude on the same day? Read on for a confession from a perfectionist and a remedy or two on how to improve...

Have you ever been kind and rude, or performed a good deed and a bad one, on the same day? It has happened to me on numerous occasions! ๐Ÿ˜ฒ I know I'm not alone.

It's like sweet cream and ammonia spewing from the same spout. ๐Ÿ˜

Just the other day, I was running out of the dentist's office and slammed the locked door behind me, purposely blocking an older gentlemen from getting in. (In my defense, the receptionist told me to do it, since he wasn't following COVID rules.) As I whizzed by, completely ignoring him on the way to my car, I felt like a jerk! Did I stop, turn around and apologize? No! I high-tailed it out of there and cursed myself the whole way home.

I replayed the scenario over and over again in my mind. What could I have done to better live up to my core values and principles of love and kindness?

What I should have done, whether he was following 'the rules' or not, was close the door behind me and kindly explain what he had to do to get into the office (call first). That would have been the kind and considerate thing to do.

Later that day, I did a kind deed. I spent my afternoon helping a family with a newborn so that the mother could sleep. (OK...confession...that baby was my absolutely adorable nephew ๐Ÿ˜). Still, in no way did my good deed cover over or excuse my rudeness earlier that morning!

But it did help me reflect on the type of person I want to be and the importance of forgiving oneself.

I never considered myself a perfectionist because I never did anything perfect.

I used to think perfectionists were insane people who worked super hard and got things right. Perfectionism to me equaled success, not failures. Little did I know how far I was from the truth.

A perfectionist is never satisfied, no matter the outcome. They never do enough and never feel they are enough because their standards are too high and their goals are unattainable. They can't do anything right!

I confess to being a perfectionist and having only recently come to know it. I was a bit startled by this realization but once I saw the truth in it, I knew I needed to work on it. I determined that if I wanted a healthier outlook on life, and more peace and contentment, I needed to work on controlling this tendency.

Are you a perfectionist too?

How do you know if you have perfectionist tendencies? See if you can identify with these traits. Be honest...and if you're not sure ask a trusted friend.

  • Are you impatient?

  • Are you always in a rush or never feel you have enough time?

  • Do you over-analyze or replay your actions or words, to perfect them for next time?

  • Would people describe you as high strung, type-A personality?

  • Are you hard to please?

  • Do you tend to micromanage or feel others won't do as good of a job as you? ๐Ÿ™„

  • Are you often unhappy because your expectations weren't met?

  • Are you often disappointed in people because they didn't meet your expectations?

  • Are you prone to stress, worry and anxiety?

  • Are you afraid of letting others down or of others not liking you?

  • Do you find it difficult to find time to rest or feel guilty about resting?

  • Do you feel the need to always be productive?

  • Do you hate wasting time?

  • Do you need to excel or feel successful at everything?

  • How do you tolerate the mistakes of others?

  • Do you berate yourself over and over for past mistakes?

  • Do you find children annoying because they are noisy and messy?

  • Do you compare yourself and your abilities to others, perhaps envying them?

  • Do you fear failure or success?

  • Do you fear being ridiculed for your mistakes? Looking dumb?

  • Do you often feel inadequate?

  • Do you lean towards efficiency or rules over kindness?

  • Do you tend to work on projects for hours, to get them just right?

  • Is it OK when others makes mistakes but not when you do?

  • Does your environment need to be perfect in order for you to feel good?

  • Are you quick to identify mistakes and sometimes quick to point them out as well?

  • Do you struggle to enjoy the process because you're too focused on the results?

  • Do you struggle to feel grateful for what others do?

  • Do you feel that God doesn't approve of you or that you could never live up to his standards?

You may know a few people with these traits. However, the real challenge is identifying these traits within yourself! It may not be easy, at times we lack self-awareness or we may not understand why we do certain things.

They say admitting a problem is the first step towards healing it. ๐Ÿ™‚

There's a distinction between high achievers and perfectionists.

High achievers set goals, are happy when they reach them and then challenge themselves to go beyond. Perfectionists are never satisfied and rarely (if ever) congratulate themselves on a job well done. This can lead to exhaustion and depression.

Perfectionism is a form of self-cruelty.

Can you imagine working for a perfectionist boss? Nothing you do, no matter how good it is, is good enough. Yikes! Perhaps you've had that unpleasant experience and yet many of us are bossing ourselves around just like that!

Why Let Go of Perfectionism?

I'll use my experience at the dentist's office to demonstrate how perfectionism impedes us in small ways and how to help ourselves overcome it. When I analyzed my rudeness towards the man, I discovered a few things about myself.

1. My knee-jerk reaction is often the wrong one! Whenever I'm in a situation that requires spontaneous thought or action, I usually fail to do the right thing and this leads me to extreme guilt. Instead of rushing out of the office, I could have taken a few minutes to collect my thoughts and determine the best course of action.

2. I fed into the emotions of the receptionist, who was frustrated by the man's lack of adherence to the rules. Whether or not I realized my true intention at the time, I was trying to please her by sympathizing with her. Instead, I could have helped her feel compassion for the older man, everyone is stressed over COVID and it's easy to forget the rules.

3. In fact, I could have admitted to her that I myself broke that COVID rule at my eye doctor's office (I showed up without an appointment and was turned away)! Instead I was too embarrassed to admit that I made the same mistake as that older man had done, which made my treatment of him that much worse!

How to Overcome Perfectionism

Thought and speech got us into perfectionism, learning to control our thoughts and speech can get us out of it too!

It takes humility to understand that we truly are imperfect. I cannot expect to always say the right thing or do the right thing, at the right time. It's impossible. It's a highly unrealistic and unattainable goal. No one can reach that goal!

Since it's literally impossible to stop making mistakes, we must learn to own up and apologize for them instead. The next critical step is to wholeheartedly forgive ourselves and acknowledge that it might happen again.

A wonderful therapist once told me; "Never hit yourself with anything harder than a feather."

How Can I Stop Trying to Be Perfect?

  • Acknowledge you need rest and take time to recharge your batteries.

  • Acknowledge you won't have time to accomplish everything.

  • Have a sense of humor about your mistakes, be the first to laugh at yourself.

  • Don't over-schedule yourself and run from task to task.

  • Don't approach life like a job, cultivate the joy of living ๐ŸŒž๐ŸŒป.

  • Remember that God isn't harsh or demanding. He knows we are made of dust.

  • Don't compare yourself to others.

  • Set realistic, achievable goals. It's OK to have a plan A, B and C.

  • Do your best within your own capabilities. You are an individual with unique talents.

  • Practice forgiving yourself.

Action items:

Listen to how you talk to yourself, you may be surprised at what you hear. To change your thoughts, change your self-talk. Repeat the following statements to yourself as often as necessary:

"I forgive myself for making mistakes."

"Everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect.

"It's OK not to be perfect."

"Mistakes help me grow and learn for the next time."

Don't forget to check out some other articles you might have missed...

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