I’ve noticed that many people justify being a perfectionist when it’s wrapped up as a motivation for self-improvement. But recent research seems to indicate that the opposite is true; the more self-critical you are, the less likely you will be in improving yourself. My understanding of this dynamic is that when you’re really hard on yourself, you simply reinforce all the negative self-messages and doing so becomes an obstacle to making constructive changes. Generally speaking, who is motivated to help someone or something that they’re critical of?
It would be much better to be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion. If you’re not sure how well you do with self-compassion, you can check out this online self-administered test (http://www.self-compassion.org/test-your-self-compassion-level.html). The idea of self-compassion isn’t to suggest that you should become self-indulgent or lower your personal standards. I think it’s important to maintain a realistic self-assessment and to work towards self-improvement. It’s more about the way to do that, and it demands something of a paradox (and for clients who work with me regularly know, I love paradoxes!).
Can you expand your mind sufficiently to hold the view that you are ok as you are right now and that you’re presently doing the very best as you can while also acknowledging that you’re needing to improve? A wise Buddhist teacher once told his students “you are all perfect exactly as you are, and you can all use a little improvement”. I love that expression, and the sentiment captured within it. Can you hold your faults and flaws lightly, within a gentle and loving embrace, while simultaneously striving to make things better? I think you can!