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Wed, 2012-08-29 09:50
Authored By: Daniel Stewart

Daniel Stewart Question & Tip of the Month


Question of the Month

Martha Asks "My trainer says I'm a perfectionist.  I work very hard and really want to do well, but I get very disappointed when I make mistakes or when I don't do as well as I know I could have.  Does this mean I'm a perfectionist?"  

 

It is possible that you may have some tendencies of a perfectionist.  For instance, perfectionists are often highly motivated with a great work ethic.  It is not unusual for them to arrive at the barn first and leave last, work the hardest in lessons, and listen intently to everything their trainer says. As a result, they are often labeled as committed and hard working.  Having said that, perfectionists often believe that being best in lessons means they should be best at shows. Unfortunately, setting the "bar of expectation" this high usually causes pressure and unreasonable expectations that lead to mistakes, dwelling on them, feeling frustrated, and ultimately disappointed because they have let themselves down.  

Perfectionists often do something called "telescopic thinking;" seeing mistakes as if looking through the magnifying end of a telescope so they seem larger than they really are, but then looking at their successes through the other (minimizing) end so they seem smaller than they really are. In the end, perfectionists often struggle to enjoy success because it was either expected, trumped by memories of poor past experiences, not a complete success because it was not perfect, or because they are worrying about succeeding in the future.  Below are other signs of perfectionism:

  • Place unreasonably high demands and expectations on self
  • Motivated by standings,outcomes and impressing others
  • Attempt to ride perfectly, which makes them ride "mechanically"
  • Unable to let go of mistakes and/or makes excuses for them

If you think some of these signs describe you, read the following "Tip of the Month" for some ways to overcome perfectionism... and remember:

Imperfect written another way is "I'm perfect" (just the way I am)

Thanks for the great question, Martha!

Tip of the Month

Overcoming Perfectionism
Trying to be too good for your own good!  

Striving for the impossible- perfection -is a major cause of stress for any rider.  It occurs when an intense need to win makes it impossible to accept anything less.  It causes you to tighten up, worry about results, focus on standings, and fret about making mistakes.  Perfectionists try hard but tend to over think, over analyze, and over criticize.  Instead of measuring their success based on the quality of their ride, they measure it based on the quantity of their ribbons.  Sadly this leaves them with little time to focus on the many things they can do to create the success.  Here are some tips on how to overcome perfectionism.

  • Learn from mistakes. They are learning - not missed - opportunities 
  • Focus on solutions to problems instead of the problems themselves
  • Focus on yourself - not others (opponents or spectators) 
  • Recall a memory when you rode well but imperfectly and act that way
  • Repeat a motivating motto like, "Do your best - Forget the rest"  
  • Stay in the present.  Avoid thinking of past mistakes or future standings

Most importantly, remember that perfectionism is not a laughing matter, but riding should be.  Always remember to have fun! 

To submit a question or sign up for equestrian sports psychologist Daniel Stewart's newsletter, visit www.stewartclinics.com

 

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