Perfection. Many of us strive to achieve this state in everything we do. But have you ever stopped to think that the relentless pursuit of perfection could actually hurt you?

We are raised to do the best we can in everything we do – school, sports, personal relationships, and jobs. We are rewarded for above-average performance in just about every area of our lives virtually from the time we are born.

This creates a deep need to be perfect for many reasons – to gain affection from loves ones, to gain approval from our peers and those we see as authority figures, and to advance our lives in so many ways.

Yet, if we don’t allow ourselves to feel satisfied with our best efforts, we create a downward spiral of our own making.

Much of this dissatisfaction is embedded when we are small children, due to harsh parenting. As kids, we want to make our parents proud, and unfortunately, some parents simply take this pressure too far. We see this happen in academics as well as within sports and extracurricular activities.

Luckily, as adults, we aren’t governed by our past, but those habits and thinking patterns can be difficult to reform. Performing well should bring a sense of deep satisfaction completely unrelated to any outcome. If you’ve put in your strongest effort, and worked as hard as you could, you should then be able to rest easy knowing you tried your hardest.

This is where deep satisfaction and a feeling of fulfillment should occur but is often not present if the outcome of our effort isn’t perfection. One way to combat this is to become aware of this negative thinking loop, and when a negative thought pattern emerges (example: “I didn’t win, so my effort wasn’t good enough.”), turn it around and make it a positive thought, such as, “I didn’t win, but I gave it my absolute best effort and because of that, I’m satisfied with the outcome.”

The wonderful thing about recognizing perfectionist tendencies is that once you recognize them, you can change them. It takes time and perseverance, and it’s not always an easy process, but allowing yourself the satisfaction of a job well done is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

If you’re a parent, realize that too much pressure and focus on winning and perfection will rob your children of this satisfaction, and of course, you want them to know that their best effort is all you can ask! So whether it is for you or your kids, or both, turn your thinking around to be more positive and everyone will benefit!