If you suffer from anxiety, chances are that you are obsessed with X-cellence. It's astonishing how many of us anxious-types are perfectionists, so today, in the third of my blogs focusing on A.N.X.I.E.T.Y. where I take one of the letters as a start point, I'm going to look into how believing you have to be X-cellent at all times and anxiousness are linked.

Obviously, I'm not advocating losing all sense of ambition, but perfectionists tend to feel even minor imperfections will lead to catastrophe. Believe me, I know. I'm the woman who once cried because I got a 'B' for an essay. I was only 12 at the time, and it shows how far back my perfectionism goes. I even got annoyed I couldn't find a 'proper' word beginning with 'X' for this blog, then I reminded myself I couldn't rewrite the English language single-handed!

Being obsessed with X-cellence makes it scary to make mistakes, so we become fixated on checking, improving, agonising over small details. Striving for perfection is exhausting and unrealistic, and means we're constantly setting ourselves up for failure. Then, when after spending time and effort on something, we don't achieve an A*, we criticize ourselves, which can make us feel depressed, frustrated, angry and – yes, you've guessed it – anxious.

Perfectionism is an example of what's often called distorted thinking; when you think about it, no one can achieve A* for everything. Even the greats have off days. Nadal doesn't win every tennis match. Clooney doesn't get an Oscar for every film. I'd wager even the Queen has days when her smiling and waving is half-hearted – there are plenty of photos when she looks grumpy!

So if even the greats have off-day, you might like to ask yourself what's wrong with you taking a few miss-steps? Being average sometimes? Because recently I've realized: I don't need to be perfect to be a success – and nor do you.

To ease the anxiety that can result from perfectionism, the trick is to learn to let ourselves off the hook. But changing old ways of doing things is hard, and feeling a failure is a very strong emotion, so I suggest you start small. Today, for instance, you could:

• Get to an appointment 15 minutes late
• Leave your house or flat a little messy
• Send a letter or e-mail that includes a few mistakes
• Dine in a new restaurant without first researching how good it is

Afterwards, make sure to reward yourself to mark your achievement – or perhaps I should say lack of it! And if you'd like to share how it went, why not comment on the blog? There's no need to be perfect there.

Sarah Rayner
A Moodscope member.

Every day during Mental Health Awareness Week, Moodscope are giving away a signed copy of Sarah Rayner’s new novel, Another Night, Another Day, which is currently available exclusively at Waterstones. Its focus is mental health, but it’s also a real page-turner about people and their imperfections. It’s a story that may resonate with Moodscopers and today is another chance to win. Just email [email protected] with 'Giveaway' as the subject and we'll pick one person each day to receive a free signed copy.

The Moodscope Team.


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