It’s common to hear someone say “I’m a perfectionist.” Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself.
It’s a term we use to describe those of us who strive to meet the highest standard. It seems innocent enough, but the implications of perfectionism can be harmful. The impossible standards to which we hold ourselves may, in fact, be the reason for our stress, unhappiness, and lack of productivity. In our pursuit of perfection, we find ourselves falling short of our goals and becoming dissatisfied. The result is frustration, lack of motivation, and a fear of trying anything new.
As with any problem, the solution to begins with us. Perfectionism is a mindset, and thankfully mindsets can be changed! First of all, you need to determine if you are a perfectionist. AnxietyBC offers a great list of questions that can help you assess whether you struggle with this or not.
So, now that you know you’re a perfectionist, what do you do?
Perfectionism deals only in absolutes–everything is either the best or the worst. We don’t live in a world of absolutes, though, and this kind of thinking sabotages our performance. Absolutes are overwhelming, exhausting, and can defeat us before we even begin.
A great way to redirect our thinking is to focus on the positive.
When a crisis rears its head, perfectionism says:
This must be fixed.
This isn’t good enough.
I am not good enough.
The challenge is to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.
I am doing my best.
We can work on this.
This is just a problem. Problems can be solved.
I can only do what I can do.
No situation is black and white. There is something to be grateful for always. When that old, familiar script of perfectionism begins to play in your head, look for something to be grateful for. One of the best ways to break the pattern of perfectionism is to make a list daily of the things you’re grateful for. It’s difficult to be hard on yourself and others when you put the mental spotlight on the good things in your life.
Now that you’re monitoring your mental script and practicing gratitude, there are a couple questions you can ask yourself to keep from falling into the trap of perfectionism.
“What is my part in this?”
This question will right-size your control over the issue. It may be that you have no control at all! Maybe you’re trying to control something that belongs to someone else. Understand your part in every situation and don’t take on more than what belongs to you.
“Will this matter in 30 days? 6 months? A year?”
We often become over-involved in an issue because it seems very immediate and important when the reality is that it’s not. When you can accurately judge the importance of a problem, you can make sure you don’t give it more time and energy than it deserves.
Finally, remember that good enough is good enough. Perfection is an unattainable illusion that distracts us from living our lives with the joy and freedom we deserve. By all means, pursue your goals, better yourself, grow–but temper everything with kindness. None of us are perfect. Nothing we do is perfect. And accepting that truth is a huge step toward living a happy, healthy life.