In pursuit of excellence

A few years ago I participated in Mrs. South-Africa. It was an amazing and eye opening journey, one that lead me to understand, love and respect myself on a whole other level. It made me challenge my beliefs and brought me to a place where I could re-discover parts of myself that was long forgotten. Unfortunately I’ve really struggled with a perfectionist mindset especially when it came to my appearance and the perception people had about me for a long time. Participating in a competition where beauty and the image you portray is at the forefront, didn’t make it easier. I’ve been struggling most of my life with the feeling of not being good enough, pretty enough (the list goes on…) and taking part in a competition like that shined a spotlight on those insecurities. 

During that time I did things like wash and dry my hair before going to the hairdresser because I didn’t want them to see me in a state where I am far from “perfect”.  Just typing this makes me cringe – how ridiculous and absolutely counterproductive.  The whole idea of going to a salon is having someone “do” your hair for a change. But as silly as it sounds, that is exactly what a perfectionist mindset will do to you.

Needless to say, I never before attempted my ultimate goal (well not until now at least).  Because in my mind there was no way I would ever be able to do it perfectly without some sort of a miracle.  I measured myself against an unrealistic idea of what skills I should possess, how many followers I need to have and if anyone would even want to hear what I have to say.  This made me doubt myself to a point of (almost) no return. 

At first, it made me really angry – with everyone and everything.  It seemed to me that other people just got their dreams handed to them without having to work for it.  How long was I supposed to stand in line and wait to be handed my golden opportunity, my platform, MY dream?  I wallowed in, what I perceived as, the unfairness of it all.

Luckily, I have amazing people in my life that want to see me achieve my ultimate goals, people who will tell me the hard truths with a lot of compassion because my success is a part of theirs and my well-being, a priority.  I am NOT good at accepting criticism.  I would actually go so far as to say that I hate it.  But, although it’s a bitter pill to swallow, we all need constructive criticism – it’s the only way to improve. 

One thing you need to know off the bat is that I don’t accept criticism from just anyone (and YOU shouldn’t either).  Honestly – if you are not in my inner circle or someone I highly respect, chances are very slim that I’ll even consider what you have to say.  I might listen and apply it if I feel it will add value, but I honestly don’t listen to some troll sitting behind a computer screen trying to break me down because they have nothing better to do.  There is a big difference between constructive criticism and someone just trying to break you down.  KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

My husband is one of the people that I allow to speak into my life.  I trust him with every detail and I know that my dreams are his as well.  He is also my biggest supporter and best friend.  He knows exactly how to handle me.  Because we live so “close” to one another it can sometimes be hard to really have perspective or see the bigger picture.  That is why I can’t expect him to be the only one to give me the hard truths, I need to trust other people to bring me back in line ever so often as well.

My life coach is also part of my “cheer squad”.  I’ve been going to him for the best part of 4 years now. For a while we have been going around in circles.   I was like a child throwing a tantrum.  I wanted my dream to be handed to me on a silver platter and I wanted it now.  I wasn’t listening to reason at all and because I actually KNOW that it takes hard work to achieve a goal, I didn’t want to hear it (see, tantrum – like a CHILD, so embarrassing). 

He allowed me to go through the motions for a while but eventually decided that enough was enough.  He explained to me in his very gentle yet straight forward way that I was the only one withholding my dreams from myself.  I had the dream, but lacked the INTENTION to get where I needed to be.  He explained that it is like wanting to go to gym at 5am without taking out your clothes or setting your alarm clock the night before. 

I needed to stop procrastinating and start working towards my goals but first I needed to accept myself, flaws and all. I needed to deal with the fact that I am not perfect and realise that I was never meant to be or do things perfectly.  I had to give myself more grace and be less critical, I had to celebrate myself for the person I am, the one God made me to be.

Next, I had to be willing to work extra hard to achieve my goals, willing to start where I am, with what I’ve got.  Not hiding behind a mindset of perfection any longer or waiting for the “golden ticket” to be handed to me.  On a side note: What would happen if I am handed a “too good to be true” opportunity NOW? Will I be ready to make a success of it?  Have I done the research and built up enough amo to be able to fire as soon as I need to?  (The answer, a deafening NO).   

So, eventually I listened to my lifecoach and started the process and well, the rest is history… 

Only kidding!!!  I would’ve loved this to be true though but that’s not how achieving excellence works.  It is a constant progression towards a goal.  Progress is always possible, perfection is not.  Remember that you will only ever LOSE when you give up, so when you fall (which inevitably you will), you dust yourself off and try again – you don’t quit. And if there is one thing I am not, it is a quitter. I never give up.

Here’s a few practical ways that helped me to consciously overcome my mindset of perfection that might just help you to take the first step and continue on the journey to realising your dreams.

  • Acceptance is key: Accept yourself flaws and all and give yourself enough grace. Know that it is OK to not always be ok and that everyone in the entire world makes mistakes.
  • Consciously lower the bar:  Achieving greatness or excellence is a slow and imperfect PROCESS.  Give yourself room to breath and enough time to achieve certain tasks.
  • Keep tasks “bite-sized”:  Small victories build momentum and leads to a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Be in the moment: The journey is just as important as the destination. Take a look at your progress and celebrate how far you have come.
  • Surround yourself with positive people:  People that will encourage and motivating you to keep on progressing forward, as well as people that will give you honest feedback.
  • Practice saying no:  Streamline/ delegate or say no to things that is not immediate or urgent.  If you say yes to everything you will get overwhelmed and not be able to focus on the job at hand.  If it’s not a “hell yes”, it is a NO.
  • Reward yourself:  After accomplishing your “bite-sized” tasks for the day, reward yourself for accomplishing them.  (Small things:  Go grab a cup of coffee, go for a walk etc).
  • Be MINDFUL:  Stay in tune with the ques your body and mind will give you.  Don’t ignore it.  Take regular breaks especially when you feel anxiety building up in your body.  Go outside – nature brings us back to the present.
  • You have to be FLEXIBLE and ADAPTABLE:  Start NOW and be willing to adapt your strategies and plans as needed.
  • Use informed intuition:  The ability to know when there is enough information or your methods are good enough to make a decision and move forward.
  • Become an incrementalist:  Someone who looks for forward progress in a general right direction. 

Nothing in life comes easy but if your dream is something you are really passionate about, something that excites and scares you at the same time and something that you know in your heart of hearts you can’t let go of, you need to start pursuing it, and you need to start NOW. 

Stop making excuses and stop doubting yourself.  Just take the first step and keep on progressing forward one step at a time.  You are worth living a fulfilling and abundant life.

Remember to #beablessing to yourself and ultimately those around you.

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