One thing many of the clients I see struggle with is perfectionism. This has an impact on all areas of their lives and can lead many to anxiety, stress and depression as they struggle to keep up with past achievements and worry about meeting future demands. This article about perfectionism – 7 ways to stop it running your life shows you how to deal with being a perfectionist.
Perfectionism – 7 ways to stop it running your life
1. Getting stuck
Often trying to make everything perfect means that it is difficult for you to complete things because you are unable to let things be good enough. By allowing things to be good enough you will unstick yourself and also learn that when something is good enough rather than perfect nothing bad happens – often people’s perfectionism is around feeling safe and if you can challenge this you’ll be able to learn that you can be O.K. with good enough.
2. Compare and Despair
When you are comparing how you feel on the inside to how other’s look on the outside, (e.g. looking at Facebook photos) then you are making assumptions about other people’s lives and these assumptions will always leave you feeling inferior. If you want to make comparisons to get an idea of how well you doing – compare yourself to well yourself – you could compare yourself to how you were a year ago or in therapy you could compare yourself to when you started attending counselling. This will give you an accurate idea of how you are doing.
3. Here and Now
When you are striving for perfectionism you will often end up disappointed as nobody is able to achieve perfection the whole time. Insisting on perfection takes you away from the here and now because you are either thinking about past disappointments, how you feel you should have done better or worrying about not being good enough in the future. Bring your attention back to yourself now in this moment. Pause and concentrate on your breathing for five minutes using mindfulness
4. The Big Picture
It can be helpful to get some perspective and keep the big picture in mind. If you’re struggling with something or putting all your time and energy into something, ask yourself – how important is this one thing in the grand scheme of things? What is the worst thing that could happen? How much will this matter to me in five or ten years’ time?
5. Find the fear and silence the Shame
As Brené Brown says, “Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking” Behind your perfectionism there may be shame around not being good enough, about needing to ask for help, fear of failure, making mistakes, taking a risk, among others. Is it important to find out what is behind your need for perfectionism and work on this fears and the shame behind them so you can be aware of what triggers you into feeling like this – counselling may help you with this by offering you a safe space to explore this.
6. Prioritise your perfectionism
Often perfectionists spend so long trying to get everything done perfectly and get bogged down in small details that they lose track of what is important. Spend some time prioritising by seeing what is urgent versus what is important, and tackle the urgent important tasks first.
7. Observe your critic
Become aware of what you tell yourself about your need for perfectionism. Observe these thoughts without judgement just noticing these and detaching from these – for example I am telling myself that if I don’t do well enough on this exam that my whole career is ruined. By becoming more detached you will be more able to access and develop a more compassionate side that will help you break free from the need for perfectionism.
I’d love to hear how you’ve changed your relationship with perfectionism. Let me know by leaving a comment.