By Cynthia Hanson for Life & Beauty Weekly


Are you striving to be perfect at work and at home? Do you freak out if the house isn’t spotless or if your memos aren’t masterpieces? Make 2011 the year you stop listening to your inner critic and start learning to love your imperfections.

“Perfectionism can be beneficial to developing a person’s character because it is based on a goal and desire to do their best,” says Tamara Pulles, a Calgary-based professional life and development coach. “On the other hand, perfectionism based in unrealistic expectations where a person measures their entire worth by their accomplishments leads to a feeling of never being good enough.” It also takes a toll on your well-being: “One can easily feel unworthy and end up constantly striving for the unattainable — which just perpetuates the feeling of unworthiness you are trying to beat by being perfect to begin with,” says Pulles.

Follow this six-step plan and you’ll be less perfect — but also a lot less stressed!

1. Get your priorities straight.
Instead of trying to be great at everything, pick the one area that matters to you most—work, family, your hobbies—and aim to do your best there while cutting yourself some slack in other parts of your life. “Perhaps a goal you have is to be more patient with your kids. But how do you make it achievable?” says Pulles. “Break it down. What is a tiny little step you could do easily to help you be more patient when they push you to the limit? Try taking a deep breath and count to ten before you speak.”

2. Learn to be OK with good enough.
Will your dinner party be a flop if you don’t produce a four-course meal from scratch? Of course not! It’s totally fine to serve frozen hors d’oeuvres and deli dishes, or to send store-bought cards instead of creating your own. “Perfect is a figment of your imagination. Humans are imperfect beings with the opportunity to learn a lot through our imperfections — and subsequent mistakes. If we focus too much on perfection, we miss the lessons and the life going on around us by fixating on what we ‘should’ have done better,” says Pulles.

3. Rediscover the word “no.”
Do you take on too much because you want others to think you’re amazing? Time to start saying “no” to things you no longer want to do, whether it’s coaching the local softball team or organizing the annual neighbourhood garage sale. This will free you up to put your best efforts into the things that matter to you.

4. Give yourself a pep talk.
Every morning for a month, look at yourself in the mirror as you brush your teeth. Say out loud: “I thoroughly love and accept myself — imperfections and all.” Tell yourself that you’re great just the way you are, and before long you’ll stop being your own worst critic.

5. Watch your language.
Ban the word “perfect” from your vocabulary! Instead of saying, “My business proposal is perfect,” try, “I gave that proposal 100 percent.” If you’re complimenting a friend’s renovated kitchen, say, “Those cherry cabinets look beautiful with the black granite countertops” instead of “What a perfect match!”

6. Share your errors with others.
It takes courage to admit that you forgot a birthday or fumbled an important presentation. But sharing your shortcomings with family and friends actually helps you accept yourself as someone who’s great at certain things, good at others and OK with being both. “Beating yourself up about a past mistake or imperfection keeps you in that negative moment and prevents you from moving forward,” says Pulles. “It can also alienate the people you love the most: If they see that you are unforgiving of your own mistakes, how could you ever forgive their mistakes? Set a good example and be kind to yourself.”

Cynthia Hanson is a journalist who writes for many national publications, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Parents and American BabyShe is a frequent contributor to Life & Beauty Weekly.

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