Psychologists describe perfectionism as "striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations."
We know that the right mindset is key to achieving happiness and success. Ultimately, the belief that perfectionism is necessary for success can hold us back, run us down, and lead to burnout. Does it make you feel good? Does it help you achieve your goals? Personally, I find it exhausting.
If you find your perfectionistic tendencies tending to distract from or diminish your focus, try these tips to keep that negative self-talk at bay:
1. Give yourself permission to let go of the idea that everything has to be perfect.
Do what you can without driving yourself crazy, and let that be okay. It'll take practice. Imperfection will be uncomfortable. But it allows room for happiness and growth.
2. Address the underlying motives for your exacting standards.
Striving to reach your full potential is not the same as being a perfectionist. Sometimes perfectionism comes down to wanting others’ approval and acceptance.
It is often deeply rooted in fear of failure, of what others think, and/or of being not good enough — just to name a few underlying concerns. Recognizing the reasons for your perfectionistic tendencies can make it easier to see that they're unnecessary and even harmful.
3. Accept that there is no such thing as the "perfect" time.
If you're finding excuses not to do something, it's probably because you're afraid. Fear of failure, fear of change, and fear of disappointment can all contribute to the tendency to make excuses and wait to try something new or scary.
Being afraid to make mistakes will keep us on a hamster wheel. Having insight or a vision without taking action can be useless. We can prepare and research until we are blue in the face, but at some point we have to take the leap.
4. If you find it difficult to get out of the cycle of waiting for everything to be perfect, commit to taking one small step.
Doing this each day will help you create momentum to help you break free of the fear.
You don't need to know the end of the story to know the next step. You don't even need to know the step after this one. As soon as the next step reveals itself, take it. Keep doing that until you've reached the desired conclusion.
5. Recognize that mistakes are not catastrophes, but learning opportunities.
Doing something wrong teaches you so much more than doing something right.
6. Keep your high standards.
Taking imperfect action does not mean you stop caring about value and quality. It's just about learning that imperfection is not an impediment to action. Sometimes, done is better than perfect. When you find yourself at this crossroads, look at the bigger picture and ask yourself what really matters.
7. Embrace the fact that no one (including you) can do everything perfectly.
Do what you can, then surrender to the flow of the universe. Allow things to unfold as they should, practicing detachment from the outcome.
8. Course-correct when necessary.
Periodically reevaluate your to-do list. Ask yourself whether the things on it are things you "should" do or things you need and want to do. Prioritize, delegate, and rework ideas as needed. Getting your perfectionism under control gives you the freedom to reassess.
9. Commit to replacing perfectionism with self-love and compassion.
We are whole and complete as we are. Believing that should be perfect is a limiting, irrational belief that causes constant feelings of inadequacy. Shifting into a more realistic mindset of self-compassion makes our goals feel so much more attainable.
Life can be messy. That's what makes it beautiful. Self-compassion and acceptance allow us to embrace all that life has to offer — messiness, imperfections, and all — and that's what life is all about.
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