On Saturday night's Strictly Bruno Tonioli joked about recovering from "Ed Balls syndrome". From the point of view of a practicing Clinical Psychologist, I'm hoping 'EBS' is contagious. We could all benefit from catching it - if that means we try our best and celebrate our efforts rather than try and achieve perfection.
Following Ed's victorious turn on the floorboards of Blackpool, he is a well needed reminder of the wonders of being real and the importance of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.
In my clinical practice, I often tell my patients of the negative impact of striving to be perfect. That it's an illusion that doesn't exist. An impossible standard to reach so you constantly feel you're falling short or failing. But sometimes I see my patients looking at me unconvinced.
Perfection is not just a hard ideal to live up to; it's also a hard ideal to give up on. In advertising, magazines, social media and TV - we face an onslaught of perfection, especially in the run up to Christmas. "Mediocre", "average" and "OK" are thrown around like insults. We're told that only perfect is good enough.
It's not difficult, then, to understand why very few adults try new things or attempt to learn a new skill, preferring to drive through life on autopilot. New experiences, new hobbies and challenging ourselves on a regular basis are massively important for maintaining good mental health, personal growth and improving self-esteem.
The biggest barrier for most people is the fear that they won't be good enough or will make a fool of themselves. Of course there's a pleasure in being good at something, but improving, working hard, doing well at something you didn't think you could do is immensely fulfilling and great for self confidence.
Enter Ed Balls... A real life example that shows that practice does not make perfect - and that it really doesn't matter. Someone like us (obviously not in run the country sense, but in a normal person doing strictly way) giving it his all, despite not being brilliant.
Don't put off trying a new experience because of feeling embarrassed or being less than an expert. Look at Ed Balls, he's stepped out of his comfort zone and has really gone for it. Reminding us that it's not about being the best, it's about doing your best. A wonderful lesson on the benefits of perseverance.
Every now and then, why not give 'EBS' a try. Some of the best things in life are just outside your comfort zone.
Tips to try something new:
• Just start, don't wait until you feel ready - even the most confident people never feel truly ready
• Approach it as an experiment
• Let go of your preconceptions of how it will turn out
• If you're making anxious predictions, remind yourself thoughts aren't facts
• The best way to challenge anxious predictions and disprove them is to put them to the test
• It's still about trying hard and putting effort in, but instead of aiming for perfect, it's setting a realistic standard for yourself so that your goals are achievable
• Take time to learn what works and what doesn't work
• Forget about failure; remind yourself that mistakes are part of learning and finding the right way
• Switch shoes - think how you observe others. We generally just watch or listen and enjoy. The scrutiny we put ourselves under is x10 - x100 more than we ever give to others
• We generally warm to people who have a go; those that are the best are much harder to relate to.
If you need any more persuasion, here are 10 reasons we should all try something new and give up on sticking with trying to be perfect:
1. You regret the things you don't do much more than the things you do
2. It shakes up your routine and helps you break out of a rut
3. Requires courage (something it's good to know you have)
4. You get to enjoy something new and learn a new skill
5. It gives you a fresh perspective and improves motivation
6. Leads to increased confidence and self-esteem
7. Great for personal growth and learning more about yourself
8. Makes you more interesting, reduces boredom and loneliness
9. Lifelong learning and social activity are important to mental wellbeing and happiness
10. It's even thought to give you better immune function and sleep.
So stop putting off, take a leaf out of Ed's book, forget perfection and try something new. We all need a bit of Ed Ball's syndrome in our lives.