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  • How to Overcome Perfectionism
  • Sonee Singh

How to Overcome Perfectionism

How to Overcome Perfectionism

I am a perfectionist. I don’t think I was as a child, but as I grew older, I became preoccupied with doing things “right.” It wasn’t just about doing my best. Rather, it was about making sure it was perfect, whatever “it” was, a school assignment, a work project, or a hobby. It had to look perfect, feel perfect, and be perfect.

The problem is there no such thing as perfection. It doesn’t exist. We all have flaws and everything around us has flaws. There is beauty and uniqueness in flaws. But, telling that to a perfectionist only gets them to roll their eyes.

When we see items arranged in exact geometric shapes, we are afraid to touch them- it’s like a museum. When we see things are organized in a casual manner, not messy, but casually placed, we feel relaxed- it’s cozy. It is in our nature to prefer comfort to coldness.

For perfectionists, it can be hard to accept this. It used to be like that for me, until I discovered that perfectionism was causing me more harm than good. I am going to share some strategies I learned to ease perfectionism.

Why Perfectionism is Harmful

Perfectionism can weigh us down with fear, make us feel constantly dissatisfied with what we do, have us obsess over the little things, and make us neglect ourselves, our health, and our self-interest (Fishel, n.d.).

Striving for perfection could consume me at the cost of my sleep, nourishment, or other commitments. It caused me stress and prevented me from caring for myself. To me, the project was more important.

It took me some time to realize this. When I did, I recognized that it was better for me to do my best, and let the rest go, and with it, release stress. I’m sharing what I have done to do this, as well as what others recommend.

How to Overcome Perfectionism

My strategy in overcoming anything we’re dealing with, whether it be perfectionism or something else, is asking a series of questions to uncover the roots of the behavior and identify possible solutions.

Why Do You Feel the Need for Perfection?

Consider the root of perfectionism. What drives your desire for perfection?

Ideas of perfectionism are often tied to our self-worth (Fishel, n.d.). Do you feel that if something isn’t perfect, others will think less of you? Or would you think less of yourself? Who are you trying to please and why?

Then consider, in what ways can you value yourself? Think of all the successes you’ve had and all that you have done well, even when it wasn’t perfect. What have you learned? What have you gained?

Where Does the Need Come From?

Consider your beliefs surrounding perfectionism. Why do you feel it is important to be a perfectionist?

For instance, I have a tendency to think in terms of black and white, which some call the all-or-nothing fallacy, and is when we believe that there are only two options: failure or success, mistake or accomplishment, laziness or productivity (Fishel, n.d.).

What happens if there was a gray area? How would things be if there were more than two possibilities? Think about how things would be like if there was a middle-ground.

Perfectionism is also tied to a need for control (Fishel, n.d.). We don’t know what the future holds, and perfectionism is a means to influence the outcome. We believe that if we get it just right then we are more likely to succeed.

The truth is we don’t have any control. It is difficult to accept. Yet there is no point in trying to control what is out of our hands. It is best to do our best and surrender the rest. Without getting stuck on over-planning, consider what would happen if things don’t go according to plan? What are the alternatives?

Other Considerations

Consider that there are always solutions. Even when there is failure or when things do not turn out as we planned or hoped for, there is always a way out, a way to turn it around, or a way to start over.  The world doesn’t end because things don’t turn out how we wanted. When we fail, we learn, and we grow.

Redefine what success means (Fishel, n.d.). Success isn’t all-or-nothing and isn’t tied to material gain or fame. At least it doesn’t have to be. It can be about lessons, experience, spiritual growth, giving back, serving a community, having a higher purpose, or something else that brings value.

I found an article that lists 10 tips to overcome perfectionism including developing confidence, eliminating goals, overcoming negativity, and eliminating over-thinking among others (Cretu, 2019).

Beware of The Little Voice

We also need to handle the voice inside our head. It’s that little voice that is nagging, doubtful, fearful, and critical. It is hard to handle, yet it is important to address it when easing perfectionism.

The best way to deal with it is to talk back to it.  When we catch ourselves saying that we are going to fall flat on our faces, that we will not be able to recover, that there is only one way out, or that everyone will hate us, respond and assure it. Tell it that we won’t fail, we will recover, there are other solutions, and no, not everyone will hate us for there are plenty of people who love us.

Think about these questions, journal about them, or discuss them with someone else. The more we ponder about what drives us and what causes our behaviors, the easier the solutions come to light.

Related Reads

How to Tap into Our Intuition

How to Stop Comparing Ourselves to Others

Why Self-Care is So Important

How to Cope with Loneliness

How to Stop Negative Thoughts from Taking Over 

Website Links

Tiny Buddha

References

Cretu, C. (2019). How to overcome perfectionism: 10 tips to stop beat yourself up and start feeling good enough. Boost Productivity Fast. Retrieved on January 31, 2019 from https://boostproductivityfast.com/overcome-perfectionism/

Fishel, B. (n.d.). 5 psychological strategies to ease the stress of perfectionism. Tiny Buddha. Retrieved on January 31, 2019 from https://tinybuddha.com/blog/5-psychological-strategies-ease-stress-perfectionism/

Image

Unsplash, Jonathan Hoxmark

  • Sonee Singh