Perfectionism and High Expectations Trap

How to overcome perfectionism

Overcome Your Perfectionist Mindset

Are you or your gymnast engrossed in a search of perfection? Gymnasts always seem to be shooting for perfection: the perfect landing, the perfect somersault, the perfect routine, or a perfect score.

After all, as a gymnast, you want to be the best. You may think if you set your sights on the highest level possible, you will stay motivated to keep climbing the ladder of success.

Think of this scenario… Mary G. is a Division-I freshman gymnast, and her best event is the balance beam. Mary set a preseason goal of an NCAA “perfect score.” Mary averages a 9.25 on the beam and is the third-best on her collegiate team.

Every gymnastics meet, she thinks, “I need to be perfect. I need to score a 10. If I score a 10, I will be the best in the conference.” For two years, Mary worked hard, learned new skills, improved flexibility, gained strength and power, and sharpened her tumbling passes.

By junior year, she improved her average score to 9.55. Although her teammates also improved their skills, Mary was still the third-best on her team.

If you were in Mary’s position, do you think you would feel your improvement was a success, or would you feel like a failure because you didn’t score a 10?

Do you think you would be motivated and work harder to become a better gymnast? Or would you feel your hard work was a waste of time?

Do you think you would feel excited and challenged before a routine or nervous and fearful that you might mess up?

Do you think you would be happy if you scored a 9.75 on a routine or feel you are still not good enough?

The reality is that the ideal of perfection is NOT a motivational factor.

The Ideal of Perfection Sets the Bar Unrealistically High

When a gymnast holds to the standard of perfection, they don’t just feel they need to score a ten on one performance; it’s feeling they need to achieve a “10” on every routine, every single time. The amount of pressure is excessive, overwhelming, and detrimental to optimal performance.

Olympic champion Suni Lee is A freshman at Auburn University. In a meet versus the University of Alabama, Lee won the all-around competition with an overall score of 39.700.

Lee’s first all-around collegiate win was since she won gold in the all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics. However, in the previous meet against Iowa State, Lee fell off the beam.

Lee stated her fall was the result of putting unnecessary pressure on herself.

LEE: “I think I was expecting too much of myself, and I feel like I just had to do everything for everybody. This time I actually wrote in my journal before the competition and was telling myself to go up there and enjoy it and just be myself.

When you put too much pressure on yourself or feel you must be perfect, you will feel anxious and be judgmental.

High anxiety and a loss of focus produce the very thing you are trying to avoid, mistakes and low scores.

Challenging the Ideal of Perfection:

Ask yourself: “Do I really need to be perfect when I perform?” No! Instead, think about doing the same routine you do in practice every day. Let go of the need to score your best.

Understand that it’s not practical to be perfect. This only leads to trying harder and focusing on avoiding mistakes. You want to focus on a human performance, not a robotic performance.

Give yourself the luxury of making mistakes – so you don’t worry about making them. You might think you made a huge mistake when you do a balance check on the beam, but it might not be that evident by others including the judges.

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