I’m a Perfectionist… Get Me Out Of Here!

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Mindfulness by Darragh O Connor, under a Creative Commons license

“Are you a perfectionist? Does this cause you problems?” Clearly there are a lot of students who answer yes to these questions as our event was fully booked with a long waiting list. So if perfectionism causes you difficulties, take heart – you’re not alone!

The workshop was designed to involve a lot of active learning and talking with other students. For the first exercise we shared in pairs the positive aspects of being a perfectionist, as well as the problems we experience, then fed these back to the whole group. Perfectionism isn’t something we have to get rid of from our personalities; it’s possible to keep perfectionism in balance so we can reap benefits. Participants mentioned that perfectionism can lead not only to achieving a high level of performance, but being well-organised and reliable, and feelings of satisfaction and greater involvement in whatever they’re doing.

How to overcome the problems though, which students said include stress, procrastination, dissatisfaction, loneliness, and low self-esteem because of unhealthy expectations?

We talked a lot about focussing on the idea of making progress rather than achieving perfection. In order to avoid procrastination we can break down tasks into small, manageable parts, focussing on working steadily through these, and rewarding ourselves for setting and achieving realistic goals. We also looked at moving on from ‘all-or-nothing thinking’, which sees everything that is not as good as we want it to be as a ‘failure’. We practiced changing a negative thought, such as ‘I did badly on that assignment’ to one which recognises difficult feelings but also any positives and pointers for making progress: ‘I was disappointed in my mark, but I got some positive comments for that assignment as well as some feedback about how to improve in future.’ This is an example of re-thinking ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity. We can turn any experience into a great opportunity by asking ‘what can I learn from this?’

In between the discussion exercises, Ali Newell from the Chaplaincy led us in mindfulness exercises that help relieve stress, including a sitting meditation and tai chi (simple mindful movement). No special equipment or clothes are needed for these exercises and it’s possible to do them as a lovely start to the day, in breaks from working, or to relax before going to bed. The Chaplaincy also offers free lunchtime mindfulness sessions (see below). We ended the workshop with some singing for fun – also an excellent stress-buster, very good for physical and mental health.

One of the things participants found very valuable was the chance to discuss how they would put their learning from the workshop into action. I was delighted by the positive feedback. We may run this event during the Festival of Creative Learning next year, and in the meantime, if you have problems with perfectionism, do look for help (e.g. from your Personal Tutor or Student Support Officer) and try some of the suggestions given above.

Rachel Howell

Web resources:

http://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/is-perfectionism-getting-in-the-way-of-your-life/

https://personalexcellence.co/blog/overcome-perfectionism/

 

Stress-busting mindfulness at the Chaplaincy:

Capacitar Tai Chi 1.10-1.40 pm Tuesdays

Mindfulness 1.10-1.50 pm Thursdays

Yoga 1.10-2.00 pm Fridays

All in room 1 at the Chaplaincy Centre. All free. All welcome.

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