“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.”
According to Wikipedia, perfection is broadly a state of completeness and flawlessness. It is an ideal that we all strive to achieve. But is it imperative to be perfect in all that we do? The below people are undoubtedly the epitome of perfection, and they illustrate its follies.
1. Steve Jobs
Steve Job’s perfectionism was legendary. However, did you know that his obsessiveness with perfection caused him to be unable to purchase a couch for 10 years? In the book Steve Jobs, his wife Lauren Powell is quoted as saying,
“We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years. We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?'”
Be on guard, and do not hide your indecision behind the mask of perfectionism. Instead of basing your decisions on subjective ideals of perfection, it is good to be objective when making decisions.
2. Lance Armstrong
Now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to doping as a means to live up to the perfect story—a hero who overcame a deadly diagnosis of testicular cancer, and went on to repeatedly win the Tour de France, while having a happy marriage and family. Perfectionism became his worst enemy.Advertising
Perfectionists have an intrinsic fear of failure. They wish to be a success at everything they do. Sometimes, to achieve that success, they pay a very steep price. Lance paid with his integrity to maintain his ideal of the perfect story. However, wouldn’t the world still consider him an ultra-human champion if he simply competed after his cancer recovery?
Something that a perfectionist would perceive as failure would be a moment of triumph for others. In general, one should be more accepting of their failures and think of them as a necessary part of the process. It is fine to make mistakes. In time, they become the stepping stones to success.
At 73, Michelangelo was working intensely on the sculpture, Florentine Pieta—the sculpture that many historians regard as his most mature and provocative work. He put in an enormous amount of personal effort and energy to make it the perfect sculpture, until one day, he took a sledge hammer, and chopped off the sculpture’s arms and legs. Why would he break apart one of his greatest works that was born after a decade of brutal labor and emotional pain ? Well, Michelangelo, a perfectionist, was angered by the flaws in the marble.
Perfectionists, tend to have excessively high performance standards of doing things. They invest all their energy to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s crossed. However, many times this obsessive attention to detail, that manifests from the now or never attitude, takes up our valuable reserves of time and energy. This can lead them to abandon projects mid-way, and thus lose sight of the goals that matter the most.
4. Emma Watson
Did you know that Emma Watson cited perfectionism as the reason for taking a break from school?
In today’s world, it is difficult to narrow down our focus on the one most important thing. At work, it is expected of you to have competencies in multiple areas. At home, there are a lot of things that are fighting for our attention. Being a perfectionist does not allow multi-tasking. Instead it narrows down our choices and forces us to focus on one thing at a time, which, unlike Emma Watson, might not be a luxury everyone can enjoy.
5. Sheldon Cooper
The Ingenious Jim Parsons, portraying the character in Big Bang Theory is a classic example of a perfectionist personality that is not just obsessive and dogmatic, but also rigid and inflexible. He always wants to be in control of things, to the point of choosing and reserving his favorite seat in the apartment.
“In the winter that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer, it’s directly in the path of a cross-breeze created by opening windows there and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide as to create a parallax distortion. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.”
Perfectionists wish to have the perfect order in the universe, and to maintain the order, they become rigid and inflexible. Some go to the extent of controlling others, or if that does not work, they isolate themselves from society.
6. James Cameron
On re-releasing Titanic in 3D, James Cameroon, fixed the star constellation in the final scene of Titanic. In an interview he explains,
“Oh, there is one shot that I fixed. It’s because Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is one of the U.S.’ leading astronomers, sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen, and with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in. So I said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, and I’ll put it in the movie.’ So that’s the one shot that has been changed.”
Perfectionists often have trouble with focusing on priorities. They put in time and energy into things that are irrelevant, or of secondary importance. This in turn forces the projects to go in delays or excessive expenditure, where none might be required.Advertising
7. Bob Sullivan
When Bob, an investigative journalist, more than a decade ago was teaching at the University of Missouri Journalism School, asked his students, “What was the most important task of a newspaper editor?” His students shouted many answers such as “To break new stories,” “To be Fair,” etc. However, Bob said that none of that is true. What really matters for the Newspaper editor is the promise that the paper will be there every morning at 6 a.m when people wake up. He theorized:
“The most insidious of all human imperfections often lies hidden in the weeds most of our lives. But it rears its ugly head and screeches for our attention in an environment of intense deadlines. It kills all learning, and dooms us to a life of plateaus: the desire to be perfect”
Being a perfectionist forces us to conform with societal norms and expectations. A perfectionist ensures that there are no surprises—good or bad. The basic ingredients that make life interesting are weeded out leaving the perfectionist in a dull and boring world where each day is the same as the next one.
8. Russel Crowe
Russel’s perfectionist attitude has provided us with some thought provoking performances. However, perfectionism becomes a hurdle for him when dealing with criticism. When Adam Lambert criticized the director of Les Miserables for not finding better singers for the production, Russel Crowe, one of the leading actors in the movie, took the criticism personally. He recorded a studio version of his showpiece song in Les Miserables and posted it online, showcasing his singing talents. He blamed the poor vocals in the movie on the director, who insisted on shooting raw and real vocals, than the pre-recorded studio versions.
Perfectionist often view criticism as a personal attack and in turn become defensive when receiving feedback for their work. They are unable to take negative feedback in the right perspective. As a result, they bubble-wrap their weakness, instead of taking positive actions to deal with it in a healthy manner.
9. Sherlock Holmes
The famous detective’s perfectionist aspect is that he must have the most intriguingly complex case, to challenge his incredibly genius mind. However, when there is nothing to challenge him, he gets depressed and indulges in substance abuse.Advertising
“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
Perfectionism can make one depressed, frustrated and angry, especially if it does not see to bear the desired results. Most of the times being a perfectionist involves being anxious, and fearful of the imperfect world, which in turn leads to panic and anger that steadily turns into depression. It is a vicious circle that is not easy to get out of.
10. David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace, an award-winning American novelist, short story writer, essayist and professor, struggled with perfectionism.
“Perfectionism is very dangerous. Because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in…it’s actually kind of tragic because you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is”
Perfectionists do tend to demonstrate the five dark Personality traits: Argumentative, Impersonal, Narcissistic, Insensitive and a Fear of Failure. Beware of these traits. In the end, the big question is would you embrace these traits as an acceptable cost of being successful? I sure would love to hear from you about that in the comments below.
Last Updated on July 20, 2021
How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
- Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
- Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
- Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
- How did I do?
- Are there any areas for improvement?
- Did I sound or look stressed?
- Did I stumble on my words? Why?
- Was I saying “um” too often?
- How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:
- How to Give a Presentation Like a Pro
- 10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations
- Tricks to Deliver an Impressive Presentation Every Time
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