If you read my recent post, Are You a Perfectionist?, and decided you probably are, you might be wondering what to do about it. As I’ve said before, there’s a marked difference between high achievers and true perfectionists. Rather than simply working hard to achieve their goals, the latter group strives for flawlessness. They fixate on their imperfections, attempt to control situations, and can be highly critical of themselves and others. Relentlessly striving for extremely high standards that are personally demanding and often unreasonable can have very negative consequences. The good news is all of us are capable of change. Here are five ways to beat perfectionism…
Noticing and becoming more aware of your perfectionistic tendencies is the first step towards overcoming them. Mindfulness is ‘awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally’. Being mindful helps us train our attention and prevent our minds from wandering, allowing us to notice things we usually wouldn’t. It can take a while to master, but mindfulness is a simple practice with numerous benefits. For more information, read A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness.
Perfectionism often shows up in the form of procrastination. Tackling this habit can help you stop perfectionism in its tracks. Here are a few strategies you can try:
Sheryl Sandberg’s wise words are a great mantra to live by. It’s also worth noting your version of ‘done’ is probably excellent in everyone else’s eyes! I know it can be hard to relax your standards, so try to see it as an experiment. Be curious about what happens when you allow yourself to be ‘good enough’ rather than perfect.
Building self-worth plays an essential role in overcoming perfectionism. If your self-esteem is overly reliant on your ability to achieve, it can be helpful to broaden your interests and develop other ways of feeling good about yourself. You want to reach a point where your self-worth is about more than simply striving for and achieving high standards. Therapy can be a big help in this area. I speak not only as a Therapist, but from personal experience as a recovering perfectionist.
‘Self-compassion means being gentle, kind and understanding with yourself; accepting that you are not perfect; and understanding that there is potential for learning and growth in every mistake you make.’
So much of perfectionism is characterised by self-criticism. Learning to love yourself and direct kindness inwards is the best antidote. Self-compassion requires hard work and effort, but it’s fundamental to healing. This article from PositivePsychology.com includes eight techniques and tips to help you get started.