Written by : Kim Baker 

The Pitfalls of Perfectionism

As part of Live Happy’s 90 Days to a Happier You challenge, join art director Kim Baker for part two of her blog series as she attempts to worry less and let go of perfectionism.

What’s the use in worrying? What’s the use in hurrying? Turn turn, we almost become dizzy.“Dancing Nancies,” by Dave Matthews Band

This song lyric resonates with me and serves as a reminder that I don’t want worry to take over my life. When I let negative thoughts and worries consume me, I begin to feel dizzy sometimes—my mind races and I don’t think clearly. I can become irritable and I don’t enjoy the moment. I am already jumping ahead to what needs to be done next and wondering whether I’m doing it well enough.

Exposing myself to mistakes

This is where my coach Dr. Karen Cassiday’s advice for me has been so helpful. Along with exposing myself to things that worry me and tracking my anxiety, she also asked me to work on mistake or flexibility exposure, which is a way for me to practice not over-preparing for the future and not trying to do everything perfectly.

In anticipation of an event, I often get worked up over every little detail. So when I have a lot of things on my to-do list, that pesky anxiety has a tendency to show up because I am putting too much pressure on myself to do too much and do it all “the right way”—whatever the right way is, exactly.

Happy times?

The opportunity to work on keeping worry at bay and to expose myself to mistakes could not have come at a better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) time. For the past few months, I was swamped with design work for Live Happy magazine. I was also doing some work on my house, and some close family came to visit for two weeks. And yet I had taken on this, um, wonderful extra assignment for the 90-Day challenge at work. I guess you could say I was worried about my worry. What a great time to put these tools to use!

Although I was pretty stressed and overwhelmed at times, I noticed that just being aware of the anxiety and thinking that I wasn’t going to sweat every little thing also helped a lot. I overindulged a little and didn’t exercise enough while my family was visiting, but I let myself off the hook a little and I tried to take “me” time in between the hustle and bustle. I got more sleep and enjoyed some days off, as well.

Rethinking perfectionism

Of course life is not going to be without to-do lists, plans and obligations. But I realized that I can choose to get worked up over every detail or I can take a deep breath and do the best I can. I can double-check my list instead of triple-checking and not over-think a present I bought or party I’m throwing.

I can bring store-bought cookies to a birthday party instead of baking all day. At the end of the day, we are all human, we all make mistakes and if we are trying too hard all of the time to avoid those mistakes, we cause ourselves much unnecessary stress. We can be good enough without being perfect. At least, that is my takeaway. It certainly feels better for me.

Read Kim's first blog here.

Kim Baker is an art director at Live Happy.

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