5 Ways to Cure Your Perfectionism

Warwick Fairfax

September 21, 2020

Perfectionism is a struggle so many of us have.  No matter what we do, it seems like it is not good enough.  Other people might say our work was great, that dish came out really well, we played amazingly in that game.  But what do we say to ourselves?  Our work could have been better.  We knew we should have added that one spice that would have taken that dish to the next level.  We might have played OK, but there was that one crucial opportunity in the game that we did not take advantage of.  For us the glass is perpetually half empty.  We are never satisfied with our performance.

Wanting to do your best is great.  But when no matter what we do, it is never good enough, it can lead to a cycle of perfectionism.  We keep striving, but it is never good enough, so we strive harder, and it is still not good enough.  This perfectionism cycle means we are perpetually disappointed and frustrated, perhaps even ashamed.  It can lead to knots in our stomach, and it can even affect our health; certainly it taxes our mental and emotional well-being.

Here are some of the manifestations of the perfectionist syndrome:

  • We are way harder on ourselves than we are on other people.
  • We constantly move the goal posts, so no matter what goal we achieve, we make the target even harder to reach, ensuring that success as we define it is impossible.
  • Our sense of self-worth is tied with how we perform.
  • Anything short of perfection (as we define it) means we feel we are a bad person, unworthy, in effect.
  • We feel other people are judging us, looking down on us and criticizing us for falling short.
  • We continually compare ourselves to others, particularly in things we are not as good at, and they are great at.  Hardly a fair fight.
  • The worst-case scenario is when we fail or fall short in an area that we feel we are particularly good at.  That really hurts.

For perfectionists, with quite a few of us being locked in at home during COVID-19, it means that doing our best just got that much more difficult.  But do we give ourselves a break?  Of course not.  We are perfectionists.  There are no second chances, no do-overs.  Just the clear subconscious expectation that we will fall short.

So what are some tips for overcoming perfectionist syndrome?

5 Tips to Overcome Perfectionism

1. Do not tie your self-worth to your performance.  That is one of the biggest causes of perfectionism.  Realize that we all have intrinsic self-worth as human beings.  From my faith perspective, God loves us because of who we are not what we do.

2. Other people typically could care less how we are performing at any given time.  OK, your boss might care.  But in general, if we fall short one day, even by other people’s standards, they don’t all judge us. If they see we are trying and giving it our best, then that is what they value.

3. Give it your all, and then let the outcome go.  If we have given it our all, win or lose, succeed or fail, that is all we can do. We need to be satisfied with the outcome at that point.

4. When you fall short or make a mistake, understand what happened.  If there are lessons to learn, learn them.  If there are people we might have adversely affected, figure out what happened and why and if there is anything we can do better next time.  Then forgive yourself and move on.

5. Have a sense of humor.  We all have traits we wish were different.  We might be impatient, or messy, or hyper organized to the point where we get annoyed if anything is out of place.  Be able to laugh at yourself, when these sorts of things happen. It is OK, and we’re OK.

Remember, being so hard on ourselves might mean we become more risk-averse.  There might be times when we want to go for it, but our perfectionistic risk-averse nature might us hold back.  We don’t need that.  The world does not need that.

We all have days when we fall short.  We are not defined by those days. Sometimes we can feel like they are our worst days – and we’ll never be able to completely move past them.  But we have intrinsic value and worth.  Our performance does not define us.  When you sense those feelings of inadequacy are creeping up, be disciplined.  Like weeds rising up, pull out those negative perfectionistic thoughts.  We will not go there!  We have value!  We have worth!

Reflection

  • In what ways does your perfectionist attitude manifest itself?
  • What’s the biggest way your perfectionistic tendency holds you back?
  • What’s one thing you can do today to let go?

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