Friday, May 20, 2011

Practicing being Imperfect

How many of you SA professionals really remember the months of April and May? I know that for me these two months fly by so fast. With the hustle and bustle of closing, end of the year evaluations, annual reports, and recruitment, I barely have time to breath during April and May. This year somewhere in the midst of all of this craziness I was faced with the task of creating a professional presentation that challenged me to reflect on my experiences as a Community Director.

As I tried to prepare myself for my presentation, I begin to reflect on my 1st year as a Community Director. I can remember coming into this position in July 2009 ready to be the best that I could be at every aspect of the job. The notion of making mistakes was not in my vocabulary as I am a perfectionist by nature. I was determined to master my supervisory style, be efficient in my administrative tasks, and plan some of the best programs SIUE University Housing had ever seen.

Now as I end out my second year in this position, I am proud to say that I never achieved perfection. I’ve heard one of my colleagues say “If you’re looking for perfect, you’re never gonna find it, cause it ain’t out there”. For some of you this quote may be discouraging but for others it might just be the lifeline that you need as you embark on a new challenge in your life; your first full-time position.

A perfectionist way of thinking can cause a lot of undue stress and anxiety which can affect you personally but also professionally. Who wants to be around the person that is always on edge and stressed out? A perfectionist way of thinking can also cause you to have fear. When you strive to be perfect, you fear being judged. Many perfectionists tend to never complete a project, initiative, or assignment because they fear being judged or receiving criticism for it. Do you want to be that person? Do you want to be fearful of fulfilling your passions?

I knew that I did not want to be that person so I begin to change my mindset and my approach to my work. I began to accept that imperfection was a way of life. I no longer saw imperfection as a personal flaw but an essential tool for my growth as a professional. When I did this I found that I became a better colleague, supervisor, supervisee, and mentor. When you allow yourself to make mistakes and grow from them you become a stronger and better professional and person. When you strive to be perfect not only do you limit yourself but you also limit your ability to connect and engage with others.

I challenge all of you that are on the brink of starting your first full-time position to get rid of any perfectionist thinking that you have and be prepared to make mistakes, receive constructive feedback, make your supervisees angry, and have a student’s parent yell at you.

Throughout the next week I will share with you tips for how to overcome perfectionism found in the book The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD.

Tip # 1. Balance high hopes with harsh realities: It is completely healthy to have expectations, but ensure that your expectations are unattainable. Remember that everyone has their limits. Ask your supervisor if for some reason you are unsure of whether or not you’re not your expectations are unattainable. Utilize your 1:1 time with your supervisor as an opportunity to keep your perfectionism in check.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to overcome a perfectionist way of thinking...

Beyonce says it best in her song Flaws and All,
 “I'm a host of imperfection…you see potential in my flaws and that’s exactly what I need”.

Follow me on Twitter @BDeniseCole


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