THE BLOG

A Flawed Life: It Just Might Make You Happier

09/01/2012 12:36 am ET | Updated Oct 31, 2012

When is the last time you read a glossy magazine and gazed at the pictures of flawlessly decorated rooms, shiny cars or airbrushed models and actresses with perfect clothes and hair and felt inadequate?

We each have a certain way of looking at the world. How we grew up and our own natural personality characteristics determine what we think and believe about ourselves and the world around us. Believing that you and the world around you must be flawless in order for you to be happy is a common in an age where we are surrounded by airbrushed images and messages that nothing short of perfection is acceptable.

Unfortunately, the pursuit of perfection doesn't make us happier or ease stress. A perfect body doesn't solve your emotional problems, a shiny new car doesn't mean you're any more likely to be taken seriously at work and a meticulously kept house can't keep you from a divorce or financial problems.

The fact is, believing you must be flawless adds to life's challenges. It is linked to increased stress and a number of other emotional, physical, and relationship problems, such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

On the other hand, doing your best can make you feel competent, proud and in control of your life. Being flawed allows you to have honest emotions, to tackle difficult problems and to see yourself as successful for what you do achieve.

How Do You Know If You Are a Perfectionist?

When you make a mistake, do you spend days, weeks or even months in self-recrimination? Are you intensely competitive and highly self-critical if you don't come in first? If you can't do something "the right way," would you rather not do it? Do you often find yourself correcting other people when they are wrong? Are you acutely aware of other people's expectations and self-conscious about making mistakes in front of others?

If you answered "yes" to the questions above, you may be overly focused on being perfect, rather than good enough.

How Can You Become Happier?

Perfectionism occurs in your thoughts. It is the thoughts about yourself, your actions, the actions of those around you and the world around you that must change.

Try This:

When you make a mistake and become self-critical, soften the thought. For example, instead of thinking "I'm an idiot," or "I'm a failure," think "I'm human," or "Mistakes are necessary to achieve anything new."

Refocus your attention. If you enter a room and typically notice all the imperfections, refocus on what is "right" about the room. Or focus on what is beautiful, comfortable or interesting.

Start conversations with a positive. Often when you're a perfectionist you hold others to your own perfect standards, which can create tension and damage relationships. When you speak to someone or give feedback to someone, start the conversation with a genuine observation of a positive characteristic or action.

Internalize positive self-talk. Try to turn that positive conversation into internal self-talk. If you get focused on your own mistakes and failures, or find yourself listing all the reasons you "can't" try something new, switch your focus to your positive characteristics or the positive actions you've taken. When you're mind wanders back to your failures or fears, refocus back on what your strengths.

Click for more about my new book, The Stress Response, or here to sign up for stress reduction tips.

For more by Christy Matta, M.A., click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.