"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"
We all have cracks. Imperfection is part of life, but for those of us with high standards and expectations - the concept of not being perfect in certain areas can be a really hard one to swallow. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) offers an interesting approach to perfectionism. It focuses on making us aware of the invisible rules we create in our lives that we often obey automatically. We are not specifically taught theses rules, but learn them in childhood or from influential people during our early experiences. Can you identify any of your unhelpful rules for living? Normally these are rules that are inflexible and unrealistic and very rigid. For example helpful rules will guide your behaviour in a helpful way: It is important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water every day or It is good to exercise regularly. However, rules such as I should never make mistakes or I must always be on time are not so helpful because we end feeling bad about ourselves if we are running late or if we do make a mistake. Rigid rules don't leave room for the cracks in our lives. The best thing we can do forourselves is to have a think about the rules we live our lives by and see ifwe can make a few adjustments - then they can help us to function in the world
Remember healthy rules are realistic and flexible - so here are some questions you can ask yourself to identify and then adjust those rules:
Identify the unhelpful rule you would like to adjust: I have to be perfect at everything otherwise I wont even try
Ask yourself where this rule developed from? My Dad always said - if you do a job then do it perfectly otherwise don't bother. My Mum was only interested in what I did well and hated it when I failed.
Notice in what way the unhelpful rule is unrealistic or unhelpful: I simply can't do everything perfectly all the time. I get exhausted trying to make everything I do reach such high standards. I know you have to make mistakes in order to learn.
What are the negative consequences of keeping this rule: I don't put myself into situations where I might not succeed. I procrastinate because I won't start something unless I know I'll do it perfectly. Sometimes I can take so long to complete something because it has to be just perfect, and I miss out on other things.
Is there a more helpful alternative rule I can have: I will try my best and know that it's okay to do things well rather than perfectly.
How can I put this rule into practise in daily life? I can start taking risks by trying things that I know I wont be good at and learn that not being perfect is okay.
In this case rigid rules are definitely meant to be broken. So let's see if we can allow the cracks to be there and realise that life can be more enriched with them in our lives. To read more about Perfectionism try reading these online CBT workbooks here.