Almost everyone pursues perfection — doing the best job you can, setting goals and working hard to reach them, and maintaining high standards. But perfectionism isn’t about any of this.
Perfectionism is a maddening drive down a never-ending road for flawlessness; it provides no rest stops for mistakes, personal limitations, or the changing of minds.
Perfectionism can cause feelings of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt; it can cripple self-esteem, stifle creativity, and put a stumbling block in the way of intimate friendships and love relationships. Ultimately, it can create or aggravate illnesses.
If you are wondering if you are a perfectionist, answer the following questions:
1. Do I have trouble meeting my own standards?
2. Do I often feel frustrated, depressed, anxious, or angry while trying to meet my standards?
3. Have I been told that my standards are too high?
4. Do my standards get in my own way? For example, do they make it difficult for me to meet deadlines, finish a task, trust others, or do anything spontaneously?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions you may have a problem with perfectionism.
Perfectionism affects how one thinks, behaves, and feels.
If you have difficulties with perfectionism, it can make you feel depressed, frustrated, anxious, and even angry – especially if you constantly criticize yourself for not doing a good enough job after spending a lot of time and effort on a task.
Some examples of perfectionistic thinking are:
- Black-and-white thinking (e.g. “Anything less than perfection is a failure”)
- Catastrophic thinking (e.g. “If I make a mistake in front of my others, I’ll be humiliated)
- Probability overestimation (e.g. “My supervisor will think I am lazy if I take a couple of sick days.”)
- Should statements (e.g. “I should never make mistakes” )
Some examples of perfectionistic behaviour are chronic procrastination, difficulty completing tasks, or giving up easily, overly cautious, excessive checking, and constantly trying to improve things by re-doing them.
Here are some tools to help you overcome some of these perfectionist behaviours.
CHANGING PERFECTIONISTIC THINKING
You can begin by working on changing your way of thinking.
One of the most effective ways to overcome perfectionism is to replace self-critical or perfectionistic thoughts with more realistic and helpful statements. Some statements are “I did my best with the resources I had” and “Making mistakes makes me human”. Practice these helpful statements regularly as they’ll become your new reality.
Perfectionists have a hard time seeing things from another person’s point of view. Learning to view situations as other people might see them can help you to change some of these unhelpful beliefs.
Looking at the big picture.
Perfectionists get bogged down in details and spend a lot of time worrying about “the little things” (e.g. what font to use in an email). One helpful strategy to worry less about details is to ask yourself some questions such as “Does it really matter?” and “What’s the worst that could happen?”.
CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOUR
Having a problem with perfectionism is a lot like having a “phobia” of making mistakes or being imperfect – you are terrified of making mistakes. Facing fears in a gradual and consistent manner is the most effective way to overcome phobias. For example, to overcome a dog phobia is to gradually spend time with dogs, to learn that they aren’t scary.
Stop yourself from engaging in excessive behaviours designed to prevent imperfection such as repeatedly checking emails for mistakes. Set a time limit.
SETTING REALISTIC STANDARDS
Compromising involves setting more realistic standards or being more flexible with your very high standards. Are you worried if you lower your standards, you’ll let go of them and make mistakes often?
Realistic standards can help you to do your best without costing you things that may be important to you, such as family life, physical and mental health, and leisure time. Also know it’s okay to ask for help. When setting standards ask a supportive person who does not have problems with perfectionism.
Many with perfectionism cope with their fear of making mistakes by procrastinating, here are some suggestions to overcome procrastination. Create realistic schedules. Break down larger tasks into manageable steps. On a paper, write down the goal or deadline, and work towards it, set small goals for yourself along the way. Set priorities.
Perfectionists sometimes have trouble deciding on where they should devote their energy and effort. Prioritize your tasks by deciding which are the most important to accomplish, and which are less important. It is O.K. not to give 100% on every task.
REPEATED AND FREQUENT PRACTICE!
Practice the techniques you chose several times before you start to feel more comfortable with making mistakes. Don’t be discouraged if your anxiety isn’t gone right away, it’s normal and expected. Practice and repeat.
Because it is not easy to face your fears and change ways, make sure to always take the time to reward yourself for all the work you are doing. It is very motivating to give yourself a treat occasionally. A reward might include going out for a nice meal with friends or just taking some time to relax or pamper yourself.
There is a difference between excellence and perfection. Striving to be really good is excellence; trying to be flawless is perfectionism.
If you need some help set up a complimentary breakthrough your boundaries session here with me to discuss some options
Master the Mind, Master the Game