Have you always been a perfectionist? Do you often find yourself feeling not good enough or like you're not doing enough? Are you tired of being too hard on yourself and others? Find out how to overcome your perfectionism with these 5 steps.
By Roksana Fraczek | Dream-Career
Photo: Dream-Career via Canva
If you're a perfectionist, you know that feeling when you give your best to something, but it never seems to be good enough for you. No matter how hard you try, you are never quite satisfied with the outcome of your work. And even when you do achieve success, you tend to play it down or write it off as a fluke.
You strive for perfection in everything you do, and you never settle for mediocrity. Unfortunately, this push for perfection may come at a steep cost.
Perfectionism can lead to stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression. It can also interfere with your ability to grow, enjoy life and be productive. And so, it's very important to stop glorying perfectionism and recognize it for what it is - a toxic, self-inflicted, and unattainable standard that compels you to reject who you are at the core.
The pain behind a perfect facade.
Many people become perfectionists after experiencing traumatic or stressful events early in their lives.
If you show perfectionistic traits, you might have been raised in a household where no matter how hard you tried, you were never seen as good enough. Or maybe you were the "perfect" child who was always expected to get straight A's and falling short of perfect would be criticized or judged.
“Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect. Prove.” - Brené Brown, Author, Researcher
As a result of your experiences, you might have grown up feeling insecure or unworthy, which now manifests in your life as a subconscious need to prove yourself and seek approval from others. In doing so, you might have also learned to distrust your own instincts and become overly reliant on the opinions of others.
Perfectionism is often a way of coping with deep-seated feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. By setting excessively high standards for themselves, perfectionists hope to avoid the pain of criticism and rejection.
However, in reality, perfectionism only leads to more pain and suffering. It's an unachievable goal that keeps you trapped in a cycle of self-criticism, dissatisfaction, and doubt.
The dark side of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is often lauded as a positive trait. After all, it's the perfectionists who go above and beyond. But perfectionism has also a dark side. When it's not kept in check, it can lead to a range of painful consequences.
Perfectionism can interfere with your ability to get things done. This is because you may spend too much time trying to perfect the details to achieve unattainable standards while you fail to complete the rest of your work.
On the other end of the spectrum, perfectionism can lead to procrastination. This is when you feel a subconscious fear of failing at things, which prevents you from starting anything at all.
Missed opportunities for growth
Another consequence of perfectionism is that it can prevent you from taking risks and trying new things. It shuts the door to learning and cuts you off your dreams. When you're a perfectionist, you might be so afraid of making mistakes or disappointing others that you don't even try to attempt new things. You might also have difficulty receiving feedback or criticism because it feels like a personal attack. As a result, you might miss out on opportunities to learn and develop in life.
"Perfectionism tells us that our mistakes and failures are personal defects, so we either avoid trying new things or we barely recover every time we inevitably fall short." - Brené Brown, Author, Researcher
Mental health problems
Perfectionists put an immense amount of pressure on themselves. As a result, perfectionism has been linked to a number of mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, burnout, and eating disorders.
When you're a perfectionist, you're never able to achieve the unattainable standards you've set for yourself. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and disappointment.
Disconnection from your true self
Perfectionism can also lead to a disconnection from your true self. When you're focused on achieving perfection and you constantly compare yourself to others, you might lose sight of your values and what's truly important to you.
When you are afraid of rejection you sacrifice parts of yourself to be accepted by others, and so you eventually reject yourself.
Disconnecting from who you truly are is the ultimate price you pay for your perfectionism.
Recognizing a perfectionist.
If you are not sure if you are a perfectionist, here are some signs that might help you figure it out:
You have extremely high standards for yourself and others.
You're hardly satisfied with your accomplishments.
You are constantly self-critical.
You often feel like you're not doing enough.
You often feel like you are not good enough.
You dwell on your mistakes.
You find yourself spending too much time on tasks that don't matter while neglecting those that really do.
You either procrastinate or spend most of your time working.
You are often chasing unattainable goals.
And even if you're breaking down and can't do it any longer, you keep spinning in a cycle of self-defeat. You attempt to reach impossible standards and uphold the image you want others to see.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to dealing with perfectionism, but if you are struggling with it and want to let go, here are some tips from a recovering perfectionist to help you cope:
Step #1 - Define what matters to you
Determine what is important to you and what really matters. When you know what you value and who you are - especially when nobody is looking - it will be easier for you to slowly stop rejecting yourself in order to please others and meet impossible standards.
Step #2 - Accept your gonna fail - a lot
That's just life. It's okay to screw up sometimes. Accepting this will help you be more forgiving of yourself and will take some of the pressure off.
Step #3 - Get great at failing
Recognize that if things don't work out it's not a reason for you not to exist but an opportunity to grow and get it right the next time. So, go ahead and ask yourself, What did I fail at? How did I cope with that? What did it teach me? How can I do it differently next time around?
Step #4 - Let go of the need to control everything
The truth is, there is very little in life that we can control. And so, trying to control everything will only lead you to frustration, anxiety, and disappointment in life. Recognizing that you can't control everything will help you relax and go more with the flow. Accept that there are things beyond your control and instead focus on what you can influence.
Step #5 - Talk to someone who can help you identify your blind spots.
Choosing someone you trust who can give you constructive feedback, will help you get a more well-rounded view of yourself. Whether it's a therapist, coach, or close friend, working with someone who can help you see your blind spots is a great way to become more self-aware and learn how to let go of perfectionism.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Perfectionism can be a debilitating affliction, robbing us of joy, productivity, and peace of mind. While perfectionism might seem a good thing at first, it's one of the biggest roadblocks to happiness and success.
If you're a perfectionist, you may feel like you can never relax or enjoy life because you're always striving for an impossible goal. But it doesn't have to be this way. By being more mindful of your thoughts and actions, recognizing that setbacks don't define you as a person, and being more accepting of yourself, you can learn to let go of perfectionism. Remember that you are in control of your own standards. You can choose how you act and live a happier, more balanced life.
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