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Written by: Ruth Riley
Moving Away From Perfectionism
The American Psychological Association (APA) understands perfectionism as the tendency to expect flawless performance from others or oneself over what the situation requires. This condition has potential links with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues(1).
Moreover, perfectionistic people can also undermine coping and recovery processes when facing chronic health problems(2).
Suppose you have a condition such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease that can cause a deformation of specific body parts. In that case, you may experience difficulty developing healthy self-esteem(3), most likely due to perceived physical imperfection.
Individuals with chronic health issues tend to compare themselves to others(4). This behavior may deepen existing perfectionism.
Several treatments for perfectionism are derivatives of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)(5).
For example, one study suggested that mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy can potentially help students experiencing difficulties due to perfectionism(6). This research indicates that alternative techniques such as mindfulness may help regulate negative emotions. Visit Motherhoodcommunity.com to know more about this.
Below are several suggestions on how to move away from perfectionism.
How to Move Away From Perfectionism
Practice Being Aware
Chronic stress can negatively affect the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning(7).
You can attenuate perfectionism by being aware that you are stressing too much about being perfect.
It may be helpful to pay extra attention to your thoughts and write these thoughts down, reflect on them, and better understand yourself.
Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes
Understanding that falling into mistakes is a typical life experience may help you see that it is acceptable to fail sometimes.
A study showed that perfectionists base their whole identities on their shortcomings(8). Perfectionism may cause individuals to label themselves as “losers” or abject failures.
You can practice learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby–something out of your comfort zone. Engaging in an unfamiliar activity may help you increase your patience with yourself whenever you make mistakes.
Focus on the Positive Things
Perfectionism can result from dysfunctional thinking. Faulty, inaccurate thinking may lead to “cognitive distortions” or patterns of erroneous thoughts(9).
Common “cognitive distortions” may include ignoring the positive and only seeing what is problematic in a particular situation.
When you notice yourself behaving in the manner above, pause and challenge yourself to think about at least three positive things you appreciate about the situation.
Set Realistic Goals
Perfectionists usually set unreasonable goals because they set overly high standards for themselves.
Begin setting more achievable goals that are challenging in a good way. Consider objectives that can help you develop more confidence in your abilities rather than place unrealistic burdens on yourself.
You can also practice lowering your self-expectations in certain situations. You may get motivation from accomplishing multiple smaller goals, encouraging you to pursue higher goals.
Learn to Accept Constructive Criticism
Another common trait of perfectionists is having low self-esteem. This characteristic drives them in pursuit of perfection to immunize themselves from criticism.
It is crucial to acknowledge constructive criticism as a positive thing to help you learn and mature. Condition your mind to recognize this kind of criticism and accept that it is normal to receive feedback from others.
Learn to Be Kind to Yourself
Recognize that the person that puts the most pressure on you is yourself.
Learn to ease up on putting too much pressure on yourself.
Be kinder and practice self-acceptance. Stay motivated to do your best but avoid beating yourself up should you fall short of your expectations.
Focus on the Meaning Behind Your Goals
While going after their goals, perfectionists focus on completing their tasks rather than finding meaning behind them.
It can be fulfilling to get to your destination. However, you can also benefit from noticing the joys and surprises along the way.
Appreciating the process or becoming more “process-oriented” can boost your satisfaction and productivity(10).
Examine the Hustle Culture
Hustle culture is the current trend that you can observe on social networking sites, podcasts, and other modern communication channels. However, this culture links with perfectionism, overachieving, and overworking(11).
Practice limiting your time on the media platforms above to help you move away from perfectionism.
Do Your Tasks
Perfectionists may procrastinate if they cannot ensure that they perform their tasks perfectly. These individuals overanalyze the steps they should take to achieve perfection, leading them to take longer than necessary to complete a task.
You can get past the paralysis of inaction by simply doing your tasks.
Create a rough draft or an outline when beginning a task and be consistent in doing it. Even if it is not perfect on your first attempt, be kind to yourself and make room for improvement.
Seek Professional Help
Recognizing that you require help is one of the first steps to overcoming perfectionism.
A cognitive-behavioral approach may help you better understand yourself and find the reason behind wanting to be perfect. Therapy can help reframe your mindset to veer away from a perfectionist’s thought patterns.
If you are still struggling after reading this list, seeking professional help may give you more guidance in your quest to move away from perfectionism.
- Trying to be perfect in an imperfect world: Examining the role of perfectionism in the context of chronic illness.
- Crabtree, L., Ont, O. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease: Sex, Sexuality and Self-Esteem. Sexuality and Disability 15, 293–306 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1024777632578
- Comparing yourself to others can have health impacts
- Beyond perfect? A case illustration of working with perfectionism using cognitive behavior therapy
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Versus Pure Cognitive Behavioural Self-Help for Perfectionism: a Pilot Randomised Study
- Learning and memory under stress: implications for the classroom
- Your Best Life: Perfectionism—The Bane of Happiness
- Time to End the Hustle Culture in International Development