Many of these blogs I wrote some time ago and appeared on my old website. Please ignore the date is says it was published. Enjoy. 

The Perfection Stick

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There is great merit in practice to refine your skills, but don’t confuse this with chasing perfection. It is fine to aim for the stars and to recognise by doing this you will achieve great heights but targeting perfection can be unrealistic. It can set you up to fail and erode confidence. I meet people who regularly beat themselves with the perfection stick. They feel they are letting themselves and their horse down by not being perfect. Remind yourself all any of us can offer is our best, to strive to improve your best and that refining our skills is a journey not a destination. Recognise too that this is all your horse can offer too. Yes you and your horse will make mistakes and at times let each other down. These mistakes are part of the learning journey. Give yourself and your horse permission to make mistakes and you will enrich your learning. 

Perfectionism fuels the inner critic, providing constant nagging reminders that you are not good enough. Left unchecked this erodes confidence quickly. It's the wolf dressed in sheep's clothing, a villain masquerading as the good guy. It can cut your self-confidence to shreds, kill your motivation and send your performance down the tubes. Perfectionism will suck every ounce of enjoyment and satisfaction out of your horsemanship.  

Part of the cycle of loss of confidence can be setting your-self unreasonably high standards to be executed perfectly. This undermines confidence, because whatever you try to do is not good enough. You find it hard to focus on the positives as you tend to focus on what has gone wrong. When building confidence it is about stepping outside your comfort zone, expanding your world, trying something new, doing something unfamiliar or even trying something that is scary.   

Think for a moment...

  • How is it possible to do something perfectly when it’s something new or unfamiliar?
  • How is it possible to do something perfectly when it involves uncertainty, anxiety or fear? 

This sets you up to fail. Perfectionism for confidence building isn’t a great tool to use as it does nothing to encourage ‘giving it a go’ or giving your-self permission to learn from mistakes. And if you do give it a go, the outcome is bound to be a disappointment and the whole exercise is probably never repeated. The only way to build self- confidence is to actually ‘do something’ and experience that amazing feeling of success and achievement yourself. So you can see just how damaging a perfectionist attitude is to building confidence because it discourages taking action. 

Another thing about being a perfectionist is that the little things often don’t count. They’re just not important enough to matter and not worth doing. Even if they are worth doing, they’re certainly not significant enough to warrant any credit. So you don’t experience that all important sense of progress and achievement. 

On the other hand, the big things are way too scary to ever contemplate and are best avoided too. Even when you do attempt them it’s often a step too far, and with unrealistic expectations the outcome is bound to be a disappointment. Small manageable steps are the way to go for building confidence, with plenty of recognition and self-praise every step of the way, no matter how small. 

Having unrealistic expectations will guarantee disappointing outcomes. That does nothing to inspire confidence and encourage perseverance. The key to good self-confidence is therefore, having realistic, achievable standards and expectations.  Swap perfectionism with a burning desire to better your best. Accept mistakes are part of the learning process and view them as golden opportunities in works clothing.  Use better your best to motivate you and to push you outside your comfort zone.

This is just one small nugget I am sharing with you taken from the confidence building workshops I run. If you find yourself holding the perfection stick I say burn it, dig a hole and plant a tree on top, chuck it over the hedge.


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