It's OK to be a Perfectionist, if You practice Self-Compassion
Perfectionism is to sport, what waves are too the ocean. It happens. And it can have some really positive outcomes. Look at Chloe Kim for a recent example. In her last run down the superpipe in Pyeongchang she could have just ridden straight through and still walked away with gold. No one would have faulted her for that. No risk. No need. But she went ahead and threw down an epic run. And when asked about it, she said she knew she could do better and wanted to go for it.
But there's a dark side to perfectionism. Anyone who has found themselves wallowing in the hole that is self-criticism knows exactly what I'm talking about. And it is well documented too. Rates of depression and generalized anxiety in sports populations are strongly correlated with perfectionism behaviors. This is amplified in the period after an athlete has a career shift away from their sport.
The solution is far from simple too. Dr. Joseph Ciarrochi puts it "everyone surrounding an athlete is pushing that athlete to perform just a little better, get just a little stronger, jump a little higher, and run a little faster. You, as a psychologist, can't really go in and say to the athletes, "maybe you should just relax your standards and enjoy life a bit more.""
But here is some cool new research that aligns with my own coaching philosophy out of Dr. Ciarrochi's lab. Turns out, if you practice self-compassion behaviors along with your perfectionism, it is possible that you can avoid some of the worst downsides.
Personally, I usually recommend some mindfulness and acceptance training together, but that is my own bias. How do you practice self-compassion?