“I don’t know how you do it all!”
“Wow! This is amazing! You’re a better man than I am!”
Those kinds of compliments feel amazing. And, there is nothing wrong with basking in praise of a job well done. However, for teachers who struggle with perfectionism, those kinds of comments can fuel the feelings that everything has to be done amazingly, impressively, and perfectly. Perfectionist teachers can feel trapped by their previous work, believing that people expect to see something incredible every time that teacher directs a program, creates a display, or plans a party. Over time, teachers may begin to feel alienated from the joy that used to fuel their passions, and they feel obligated every time someone asks them to take over a project.
However, if you are a driven, focused, high-achieving individual, letting go of perfect is easier said than done. You know that you need a better perspective, a healthier work-life balance, and the ability to say no. But how can you get there when this concept is such a struggle for you?
Realistically Assess Your Limitations
The first step to letting go of perfect is to take a realistic look at your limitations: physical, mental, and emotional. You can’t be super-human, and you have to acknowledge that you do have limitations. There’s nothing wrong with being unable to do an activity, no matter how worthy it is. So, before you commit to something or start a time-consuming project, ask yourself the following questions.
- How much time will this take? Don’t make the mistake of only planning for the “ideal world;” leave time for disaster days too.
- Can I keep up with my current commitments if I do this?
- Am I leaving time for family, rest, and self-care? There’s nothing wrong with taking time to sleep and take care of yourself and your family.
- Do I have the money, energy, and enthusiasm to give this project the attention that it needs?
Choose wisely the things to which you devote time, money, energy, and passion. Pick the most important things, put them at the top of the list, and let go of the things that have fallen to the bottom. Remember that priorities change over time, and if you need to bow out of an activity for the season of life you are in, that’s okay.
Explore Your Inner Motives
Be real with yourself. People-pleasing perfectionists struggle with the idea that they can’t let others down. However, if you’re only doing something because you worry about what others will think, then let someone else do it. It’s okay to turn down something if you’re not enthusiastic about it. Pass that opportunity on to someone who will really get excited about it.
Let the Kids or Parents Take Over
Delegate responsibilities for programs and projects to students or their parents. Learn to accept results that are not as good as you would have been able to do yourself, and remember that class projects should be about the class effort more than about your effort.
Remember Your Value
If the class holiday display or talent show presentation is not as good as those that the other classes have done, it’s okay. You are an excellent teacher, doing the best that you can. You are valuable as a human being even if you weren’t able to exhibit to the standards that you would have preferred.
Over time, you can develop the ability to let go of perfect. Doing this will protect you from becoming over-committed and over-stressed. Your family will appreciate your new outlook, and you will feel happier and more at peace with who you are.