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How I finally broke free from paralyzing perfectionism

Looking back, the earliest account of my nearly paralysing perfectionism pace to my lower primary school days.As far as I can remember, I always owned a note book. Far from the usual ones in stores, mine was of an exercise book from my previous class that had not filled up from the subjects course work.

Every now and then I would open it and put down my thoughts, mostly girly stuff not to mention naive reflections of a village-bred nine year old.

I would give vent to my thoughts, which would flow through the pen onto paper and if I made a single mistake-of a misspelled word or jagged letter I would refuse to cross it out.

Instead I would tear out the entire page and start all over again regardless of whether I was in the last sentence or word.

Eventually the habit found its way to the classroom, affecting my class work performance often getting me in trouble for not presenting my work on time. Why? Because if the page did not look perfect to me, I would never hand it in.

While this obsession with perfection has been overly exhausting there was a justified reason to why I clung to it even in my young adult life. Any flaw in my work signalled a voice in my head, “You will never get ahead if you keep making mistakes” an undue influence in my mind that inevitably came with immense pressure.

Of course there is no class work in your 20s so perfectionism manifested itself in other ways. Like avoiding work assignments because I was afraid I won’t get it ‘just right’. Walking out of relationships because well it   jimagesust doesn’t feel right. It was no way to live.

People like to idealize perfectionism. Think about all the different things we are told we must perfect. We must find as perfect spouse, bring up perfect babies, maintain the perfect body shape, speak impeccably perfect English…the list is endless. But, pray, how can you find perfectionism in an imperfect world?

They convey it as an endearing quirk but here’s the thing: Striving for excellence and setting unrealistic expectations for yourself are very different things. The former is actually ambition while the latter is a crippling condition.

Fact is most perfectionists do not even realize they are one. They are convinced that their fixation just means that they are more determined or hard working. The irony is that perfectionism may be precisely what’s holding them back from success.

The first step to overcome perfectionism is to recognise it as a problem. There is nothing wrong with setting high standards but when this standards are unrealistic they could get in the way of enjoyment of life. Furthermore, life itself is an everlasting learning process and we are all a work in progress.

By repperfectionism-quotelacing self critical thoughts with more realistic and helpful thoughts we could well be on the way to seeking long lasting resolve.

Life’s successes can only come in addition to what we gain from trying and its okay to surrender to the moment, accept that we cannot control everything and embrace the uncomfortable state of uncertainty–that’s when we’re able to flourish.

I wish I could tell my 9 year old self what I know now, which is this: A crossed out word or a jagged letter isn’t going to hinder you from success.

This article was published on April 21 2015 on People Daily Kenya

The Telescope

Why integrity is abstract, yet a critical value

Success comes and goes, so goes a popular adage but integrity lasts forever.

Integrity has been defined as a constant consciousness of doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. That is no matter the consequences.

But this could prove daunting when we live in a fickle world where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. It is a thriving era of over-promise and under-delivery. There in lies our Waterloo.  Today, people seem to gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality.

Known or unknown to them, dishonesty may provide instant gratification but it will never last. Dishonesty has a way of attracting retribution. It may take time but in the end, justice is served, and , as one magistrate once said, it is best served cold.C-F-Payne

I can think of several examples of people without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, which creates the false perception of the path to success.

Unfortunately, that momentary result comes at an incredibly high price with far reaching consequences.

An underestimated fact is the immeasurable profit that comes with a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity which lasts forever as compared to a negative word of your character that spreads like wildfire. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can ever be placed on a scale.

On a personal level, integrity rewards in having an army of people willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputation of integrity. On the contrary, a person’s dishonesty will eventually catch with them.

It may not be today and it may not be for many years but you can rest assured that at some point there will always be the hour of reckoning.

We become more and more like the people we surround ourselves with day to day and if you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity then it follows, naturally, that you should surround yourself with people of integrity.

Why spend years building success then risk losing it at an instant to villainy relations? Careless mistakes of entertaining toxic company can prove very costly.

A Latin proverb says that wise men learn from the mistakes of others but fools from their own. Building a steady reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second for it to come crumbling like a house of cards.

That is why I always say to all who will listen: “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.”

This article was published on March 22 2015  in People Daily Kenya