Overcoming Perfectionism

6 min read

Let’s take a look at something that is is problem for a considerable amount of people: overcoming perfectionism. If that’s not you, I’m sure you will have met someone who demands that everything be ‘just right’. Someone who takes far too long to complete even simple tasks  and can frequently drive themselves and others to distraction.

Many of us are perfectionists in some areas of our lives, whether at work, running our homes or in our relationships. And while the thing we’re focusing on improves due to our high standards, many other things often suffer as a result. And sometimes, we are the ones who suffer.

When perfectionism appears, it frequently brings along its close companions: depression, anxiety and anger.

‘Trying to be better’ is not perfectionism, any more than drinking one beer is alcoholism. But it’s a problem when you’re drinking so much that you get fired from your job. And when you’re so focused on doing things ‘right’, many other things start going wrong.

Because, at the end of the day, true perfectionism isn’t about having high standards. It’s all about power. Attempting to exert an impossible, irrational level of control over a world that is often beyond our control.

High achievement?

What we are not talking about is high achievement. There is a distinction between being a high achiever and being a perfectionist. Both types of people aspire to success. High achievers are motivated to do their best. In contrast, perfectionists are motivated by fear, paralyzed by the prospect of failure. Before we get into how to overcome perfectionism, here are a few things you should know about it:

Perfectionism can significantly lower our self-esteem, enjoyment of life and sense of peace by causing immense stress, fear of judgment or feelings of inadequacy.

Perfectionism is frequently linked to mental health issues such as anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and stress.

Perfectionists put themselves under pressure to meet unattainable standards. As a result, they are highly critical of themselves and punish themselves for anything that does not meet their expectations.

Perfectionists also fear that if they don’t strive for perfection, they will become underachievers and fail to meet their objectives.

When perfectionists are afraid of failing, they procrastinate because they would rather do nothing than do something imperfectly.

When we buy into the myth of perfectionism, we harm others by setting unrealistic expectations for those around us.

Overcoming perfectionism is possible. So let’s take a look at ten ways to help overcome perfectionism.

1. Become more aware of who you are

The first step toward conquering perfectionism is to become aware of your perfectionist thoughts and tendencies. First, take some time to pause and reflect on your perfectionism-related thought patterns. You could even try writing these thoughts down to better understand them. We will be better able to change our self-talk about perfectionism once we are aware of how we allow it to take control of our lives.

2. Concentrate on the positives

When we want everything to be perfect, we tend to focus on the flaws in our work or ourselves. However, we must make a concerted effort to recognize the good. For every aspect of your life that you are dissatisfied with, challenge yourself to identify three things you appreciate.

Scripture teaches us that God our Father does not love us because of our performance or earthly achievements. He loves us and wants intimate relationship with us because of who HE is. God Himself has seen each of us as worth loving and pursuing despite our weaknesses and missteps.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV

This should help us keep life in perspective when we’ re tempted to look to ourselves & our accomplishments for validation.

3. Give yourself permission to make mistakes

When we allow ourselves to make mistakes, we can see that failing isn’t the end of the world. Instead, mistakes provide us with opportunities to learn, grow and improve. One way to practice this is to take up a new hobby that you will most likely fail at on your first try. Instead of attempting to be perfect, concentrate on enjoying the activity and gradually learning how to improve. You might discover that making mistakes is necessary to get to where you want to go.

4. Establish more reasonable goals

Perfectionists have a tendency to set goals that are unrealistic due to impossible standards. Setting more achievable and SMART goals is one way to let go of perfectionism. When our goals are realistic and challenging in a healthy way, we will feel much less stressed and more confident in our ability to achieve them.

5. Understand how to take criticism

Perfectionists often have low self-esteem because they take criticism extremely personally. On the other hand, constructive criticism can help us learn and grow. Recognize that constructive criticism can be beneficial and normal because it allows us to improve. Mistakes or missteps are unavoidable along the way and are a helpful way to learn in the longrun.

6. Reduce the amount of pressure you put on yourself

Remember that the person who puts the most pressure on you is you. Be kind to yourself and practise self-acceptance by lowering the unrealistic expectations you place on yourself. 

Today, know that if you do miss the mark or fail to reach the standards you’ve set yourself, you have an advocate or representative in Heaven. Jesus Himself has stood in our place via the cross & prays for our success today.

“But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” 1 John 2:1 (NIV)

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Roman 8:34 (NIV)

7. Prioritize meaning over perfection

Rather than trying to do it perfectly, try to shift your focus to finding meaning in what you do. If something brings us joy and purpose, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t done perfectly. Finding meaning along the way provides more fulfillment.

8. Make an effort not to procrastinate

Perfectionists are notorious procrastinators. This can cause inconvenience to others and be stressful in the long run. Of course, the hardest part is always getting started, but even sketching out a rough outline of our work ahead of time is preferable to doing nothing. Remember that it’s OK if your work isn’t perfect on the first try or draft; give yourself permission to work on the project again.

9. Eliminate negative influences

We should be particularly cautious about how social media promotes a narrative of ‘hustle culture’ and perfectionism in our work. If we need to limit or delete these channels, it can help us move away from perfectionism.

10. Attend therapy

As with anything to do with our mental health, it’s always great to seek help from a trained, licensed professional.

Insert Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

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