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Excerpted from Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. Copyright © 2006 by Barbara Sher. Excerpted by permission of Rodale, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"Each time you judge yourself, you break your heart."

  Barbara Sher, Refuse to Choose, Part 5

1. Perfectionists need to admit the source of their conflict. Too many Scanners say, "I'm my own worst enemy." Be honest. You're not working for your own high standards; you're working for someone's approval. It could be your parents, your high school English teacher, your boss -- even your nosy neighbor. It could very well be a voice from your past. Wherever you find a perfectionist, a critic is not far away. But you can waste a perfectly good life trying to meet the standards of someone who thinks you're not good enough because they can't understand who you are. I have some tips in later chapters that will help you handle this kind of problem, but for now, just know what's really behind the paralysis caused by perfectionism.

2. You need to cross some things off your "See, it's impossible!" list. You might not know it, but you're trying to prove you can't do everything you want. If your list is really long, check to see if you've added on extra things to prove how hopeless it is and justify your despair -- and continue to stay immobile. One man at a workshop said, "I'll never be able to do all the things I want to do. I want to swim and run, too. And play my guitar. But I also want to learn a language, and I'm fascinated by botany, and I have to earn a living, too."

But many people do all those things and more, and they would never think to put them on a list. Your impossible list is saying something else -- something like "I'll never get a chance to do what I love; it's hopeless."

3. You can shrink the size of your project to fit reality by keeping only the parts you love the most. When we think about what we want to do, we often make the project so big it really is next to impossible. If you've done that, cut it down until you have only the elements you love best and try to find a way to do this new, smaller version. If it still includes the heart of the dream, you can do it with complete satisfaction.

Cyndy wants (among many other things) to relearn her rusty biblical Greek so she can translate a book into English. But she doesn't have time, and the project is huge. Some people could spend a decade on such a project.

How can she make the dream less of a major production? The heart of her dream was the pleasure of turning out a good piece of work for her church. We found that she can sit down with one important passage and her dictionary and in 1 or 2 weeks turn out an inspiring piece for her church newsletter -- and she can start right now.

4. Doing what you love isn't a privilege; it's an obligation. Isn't it selfish to do what you love? You might think that it's okay to have a hobby, but if you're a Scanner you want more than that: You want to play an instrument, go to mediation classes, take a holiday in Denmark and another one in Ireland, learn tap dancing, and more! Is that allowed?

Well, if you do these things in place of having a job -- if you've burdened someone else with taking care of you and you don't pull your own weight or fulfill your legitimate obligations -- the answer is no, it isn't allowed. But if you were that irresponsible, I doubt you'd be looking for permission in the first place. More to the point, by denying yourself the right to do what makes you happy, you may be depriving others of a shot at their happiness; and that's not allowed.

If you're pulling your own weight, you're actually being selfish by not doing what makes you happy. The things that fascinate you exist because of some talent you were born with. You have the eyes to see what many people miss. That's how talent affects all of us. And you owe it to all of us to use your talents.

5. You'd do everything "right" if you could. "If I could stick with something, all this mess would go away. If I weren't afraid of failing, I'd be okay by now. If I'd just quit hesitating and spring into action, my problems would be solved." But don't you understand that if you could do those things, you would have?

Even if you don't agree, that kind of reasoning goes nowhere and fixes nothing, and it's pointless to think about it. Believing those myths can hurt you. Write these words on a piece of paper and put it up on your bathroom mirror so you see it every time you brush your teeth:

Each time you judge yourself, you break your heart.

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