“I’m a failure if my boss has some edits to this report.”
“I’ll never get it all done. There’s always something more I can do.”
“I don’t know what perfect looks like. Nothing will ever be ‘enough.’”
“I need to go over this document again; I’m sure I’ve missed something.”
“I won’t get that promotion if my manager finds a typo in this document.”
“Making sure I get this exactly right is more important than getting a full night’s sleep.”
“People will think I’m stupid if I don’t know the answer to their question.”
If any of these statements resonate, it’s likely that you have perfectionistic tendencies. Maybe you’ve already seen it in yourself, or maybe you’re just now starting to wonder if you trend toward thinking and behaving with perfection as your goal.
Perfectionism is such a common mentality in our modern era. In fact, many people hold it as a badge of honor. They see it as a strength that they hold themselves to a high standard and believe that it’s what pushes them to achieve the success they have.
But fewer people talk about the negative effects of holding themselves to a standard of perfection. The reality is that so many people are silently suffering from mental and physical symptoms, including anxiety, panic attacks, depression, sleep and mood disruption, over- or undereating, and over- or under-exercising, as a result of this impossible standard.
If you recognize perfectionism within yourself, consider these 5 things that the perfectionist in you may be in desperate need of.
Recognition that perfection is an unrealistic standard.
Perfectionism is an unrealistic standard — plain and simple. No matter how hard you try, you will never be perfect.
When asked what perfection looks like, most people endorse that there isn’t a definitive finish line to achieve perfection. This serves only to reinforce a perpetual cycle of falling short of expectations.
When you start to recognize that perfection cannot be the goal because it’s unattainable, you can start to set more realistic goals for yourself. Being honest with yourself about your capacity and limits will improve your confidence which will likely positively impact your ability to achieve the goals you establish for yourself.
Alignment with your values.
As you start to set realistic expectations for yourself, consider your values.
Your values are a lighthouse for how you want to behave. For example, if you value adventure, but you never take a vacation and even tend to work on weekends, you probably aren’t living in line with this value.
Shifting to values-based living can be a supportive tool to keep yourself in check when perfectionism creeps in. It can keep you focused on living in line with what matters to you, which going to be much more satisfying and beneficial to your well-being than chasing a finish line that you’ll never reach.
Awareness that imperfection is a gateway to connection.
That perfect Instagram feed: do you relate to that?
The friend who claims to never have any problems and says her marriage is perfect: do you feel connected to them?
The co-worker who always gets praised: do you seek out this person to share work frustrations?
Often times, we don’t relate to perfect and often feel disconnected from the people we view as perfect.
Instead, we connect with people’s humanity. We become more comfortable with our own shortcomings when we can see them in others. We realize that we can find comfort in sharing our imperfections with others and can open the door to be supported and support others when they mess up.
Humans are wired to connect, and when we are able to be our authentic selves, flaws and all, we often feel closer to others and more connected with them.
An abundant dose of self-compassion.
Allow self-compassion to be your best friend as you start to tackle perfectionistic thoughts and actions.
Perfectionism says: “You’re not good enough.”
Self-compassion says: “Your best is always good enough, regardless of the outcome.”
Self-compassion is a practice, and it’s a tough one for most people to embrace. It’s often easier to be more compassionate with others than with ourselves, so try to think about what you might say to your best friend, sister, or daughter in any given situation. That can be the starting point for integrating more self-compassionate language into your own self-talk.
Increasing your comfort with failure.
If you want to start to become more comfortable with not being perfect, practice failing. This might sound extreme, but the more that we realize that we can learn from failure and that we are able to recover much more quickly than we believe we can, we become less afraid of what not being perfect will mean.
We often make being imperfect out to be something much worse than it actually is. We also often underestimate our resilience as well as our ability to learn from the challenges and setbacks we face.
Becoming more comfortable with imperfection means leaning into it. It means creating situations where you allow yourself the potential for failure. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself and achieve more than you thought you would, and other times you might not. But from those times, you’ll likely learn what worked and what didn’t, and you’ll be able to use that information to inspire your next move.
While perfectionism is a struggle that many people face, it can have detrimental effects on our well-being. By starting to implement these perfectionism antidotes, you’ll be on your way to becoming less fused with perfectionism and more in line with value-based living, which is the pathway to living more fully, purposefully, and joyfully.