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I’m a woman who’s tired of being a perfectionist

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 20s. I’m always thinking I have to get things done without making any mistakes. I can’t find a way out of this rigid mind-set.

Since I was very young, I’ve often been praised for being self-reliant. It’s probably because I’m the eldest daughter in my family. Growing up in that environment, maybe I got ingrained with the idea that I should always be independent and do everything the right way.

I’m incapable of taking a flexible approach to some task by thinking, “Well, it doesn’t matter,” or “It’s OK to try this instead.” It’s just not in me to adopt such an attitude. As a result, however, I do poorly at things that people with a flexible mind-set can accomplish without difficulty. And I’m miserable about it.

On the other hand, my self-righteous pride keeps me believing I’m a sensible person. It also prevents me from telling others that I actually lack confidence in achieving something. I always end up thinking I should cope with things on my own and, as a result, I can’t find ways to ask others for help.

How can I live life a little easier?

M, Ibaraki Prefecture

Dear Ms. M:

I admire your efforts to do things properly. You should have absolute confidence in that approach.

The problem is what to do when you can’t achieve something even after lots of effort. When that happens, you blame yourself, become envious of those who can let things go from the beginning and not worry so much, or endure feelings of pain brought about by your failure without talking to others about it.

So let me make a suggestion. When you can’t succeed at something despite serious effort, train yourself to accept the result by telling yourself, “I’ve given it all I have, so it’s alright.” This approach is completely different from taking something lightly from the beginning and starting out only halfheartedly.

I have another suggestion. If you want to accomplish something but find your goal too challenging, you should set an easier goal to start with, and gradually set your sights higher. Focus on each stage of the process and continue to give it your utmost, and you’ll eventually be able to accept yourself.

You should take pride in your efforts to do things the right way, and not worry so much about accomplishing perfection.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from May 3, 2017, issue)Speech

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