Pie charts provide us with another way to challenge perfectionistic beliefs. The strong visual element makes this technique particularly powerful. You can use this skill to re-examine your thinking when you are unfairly blaming yourself. In other words, this skill is of most benefit when you are falling into the unhelpful thinking style of personalising.
When you feel as though the pressure is 100% on you to get something right, try drawing a responsibility pie chart. Start with a simple circle and consider all of the potential factors that could influence the outcome for the given situation. Leave yourself out of the equation at this point. Once you have listed the other factors, estimate the degree to which each is responsible for the outcome (out of 100%). Draw each factor as a representative portion on the pie chart.
As a final step, consider the space left over in the pie chart and how much of it is your responsibility. There may still be other factors that you haven’t considered. This technique helps you consider all the alternatives at play. As a result, you will see that it is not possible that you are wholly responsible for the outcome. You may still have a large portion of the responsibility, but it is less overwhelming than having the entire outcome weighing on your shoulders.
For example, Mia felt pressured to get a perfect score in her university group assignment. She was certain that this was wholly her responsibility, even though there were other members in the group. Mia argued that, because she was team leader, she had to check the final product to make sure it was perfect.
Mia initially assigned 100% of the responsibility to herself. Her pie chart looked like this:
After considering other factors, Mia’s pie chart looked a little different:
Although Mia still wanted a ‘perfect’ score, she accepted that quite a significant part of this outcome was outside of her control. This reduced the pressure a bit and she was able to focus on the things that were inside her control. When the assignment came back with a mark of 86%, Mia did not blame herself as harshly as she would have if she had not considered other parts in the responsibility pie.