If you have the uneasy feeling that you've failed unless you have all your perfect ducks in a perfect row, then the chances are that perfectionism has you in its grip.
This pernicious lack of self-belief can be extremely destructive. Whereas high achievers are pushed on by a desire to achieve, perfectionists are often driven by fear of failure, leading them to set unrealistically high standards they have little hope of meeting. This can hamper their ability to achieve, resulting in crushing blows to self-confidence.
Ironically the big problem is that far from living in a perfect world, perfectionists are often surviving in a negative cycle of fear: of being found out, of not being good enough, of what people think. As they want things to be perfect, this will be skilfully hidden from those around them.
It’s perverse that it's this fear which can result in perfectionists exhausting themselves in pursuit of a hugely successful career or business along with a perfect relationship, high-achieving children, domestic mastery, sexual brilliance, ultimate fitness, social high flyerism and fashion iconism leaving them feeling ragged and miserable.
If this is resonating with you and you want to fix it, this six-point plan will help get you started:
1. Catastrophic thinking is a huge barrier for perfectionists. The 'it's got to be perfect or there's no point' approach can impact on all sorts, from how much you exercise to whether or not you put yourself forward for a promotion at work. If you're an 'all or nothing' kind of guy or gal, try the 'something instead of nothing' approach: you may not have time for an hour in the gym, but is a 10-minute run around the block better than nothing?
2. Are you taking on too much in your quest for perfection? Try ditching those things that don't excite you or enhance your wellbeing. OK - you still need to clean the loo, but then sometimes life just isn't perfect...
3. Review your standards. If you always aim for 150% and fail, try aiming for 80% and succeed. When you get to 80%, reset the sat nav for 90% and so on.
4. Members of the perfectionist club will tend to spot mistakes before anything else: things that haven’t measured up. Next time you find yourself tut-tutting over a typo find something that’s right too. Match every wrong with something right. You'll slowly start to think more positively.
5. Challenge the evil voice inside you that is critical of everything and ask it: "So what?"
6. Train yourself to accept less than perfect as OK. Regular exposure will help - so try letting the odd tpyo go. Will it hurt to arrive in time for the train rather than 20 minutes early?