I’ve written a post about perfectionism before, and what I’ve seen is that it can be quite paralysing in certain areas of your life and make you feel quite miserable. I’ve struggled with perfectionist tendencies in some aspects of my life, but in others, I could not care less. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to focus more on getting stuff done and not stressing the small, unimportant stuff, but it hasn’t always been that easy. In this post, I want to talk about how to deal with perfectionism, whether you are a perfectionist in all aspects of life, or just one.
According to research, the number of people with perfectionistic tendencies is on the rise. Perfectionism entails that being good is not good enough, it has to be perfect. Perfectionists have unrealistic standards and goals.1,2,3
It’s good to want to do your best, but everything can’t be perfect, it’s just impossible. Unfortunately, we all make mistakes and we really need to make them to grow as humans and in business and relationships—they are inevitable—like death and taxes.1,4
Why it can be bad for you
The most obvious downside of perfectionism is the mental health impacts. It can lead to a myriad of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or even thoughts of suicide. A perfectionist’s standards are too high and frankly unachievable, it’s a burden. They may scold themselves when they can’t reach their high expectations of themselves. This need to be perfect is often driven by driven by a fear of failure and an ‘all or nothing’-mindset, and this can cause anxiety Perfectionists feel burnout more easily and overall less satisfied, and may feel more overwhelmed with new tasks than people who are not perfectionists.2,3,5
What’s worse, as a perfectionist, you might not get much done. Procrastination is a major problem with perfectionism—it’s paralysing. Perfectionists often also have problems with competing tasks. This could also manifest in taking way too much time to complete tasks, for example, taking two hours to complete a task that would take someone else 15 minutes. Or you redo things multiple times to ensure perfection. Ultimately, you can end up avoiding trying out new things or even just completing tasks because you don’t want to fail or make mistakes.3,4,5
Perfectionism is especially prevalent in high-achieving people. These people hold them to a higher standard than those around them. It’s sad because perfectionism isn’t as much just wanting to do a good job, or have a good outcome—it’s more how people will perceive you and what you do. They want other people’s approval. The problem with that is that you have little control over how people view you. Essentially, perfectionism, in the negative form, is a self-defence mechanism to avoid feeling judgment, blame, or even shame.5,7
Perfectionism is harmful because with it you see your self-worth in your achievements, not your relationships and other virtues. It’s also toxic to compare yourself to other people because you might not see the entire story.5
Perfectionists find it hard to relax. It just seems wrong when you’re not doing something. You spend all your ‘free time’ working towards personal goals.5 I’m all for being your best self, but you have to spend time with loved ones as well.
Things that can help
It sounds so cheesy, but the first thing is to recognise that perfectionism is getting in the way of living a happy life. Mostly, there will be people telling you that your standards are much too high, or that you can’t finish tasks on time because they have to be perfect.4 The first major thing I would suggest is therapy. A qualified mental health practitioner will guide you through what you need to do, and this will depend on how severely your perfectionism affects your life.
Here are some other tips:
Be kind to yourself and have compassion. This means looking at the big picture. Look at the big picture. Is this thing really that important? Will it matter in a year? What is the worst that will happen if it’s not perfect? Will you be able to survive it? You probably will. It can also help to change your perspective. Ask yourself, how might a loved one perceive you in your situation? Would they be so critical of you?4
It is also important to prioritise, which can be difficult if you want everything to be perfect. If you prioritise, you can focus on what is important and do not have to give it all to tasks that may not even be that important.4 I’d suggest asking a good friend or trusted colleague if you struggle with this.
To avoid setting unrealistic goals, chunk up a task into manageable pieces and steps. Then, celebrate the small goals that are accomplished on the way to accomplishing a big goal.2,4
Find a middle ground or compromise. If you can’t do the thing perfectly, can you find a way where you can do some of it?6 Basically, it comes down to picking your battles. Not everything has to be perfect. The dishwasher doesn’t have to be perfectly packed, as long as the dishes are washed.
Wean yourself off perfectionism. Identify where you could make compromises for how you could lower your standards to be more realistic. Also, just because you’re lowering your standards, does not mean you have no standards, it just means you’re going to be realistic.4
Have you ever had perfectionist tendencies? Tell me about it in the comments.
P.P.S: I used these sources: