Would you consider yourself a perfectionist? Most people say that they wouldn’t. However, when you take a look through your own life and identify patterns or reactions, you might be surprised to learn that you are, to some extent, a perfectionist. This can even be for one specific area in your life, or maybe multiple.
Perfectionism can be healthy, but it can also have a negative effect to where it overtakes all other parts of our lives. We’re going to dive into simple, practical ways to deal with perfectionism. This will help you set a healthy approach to your goals, tasks, and to-do lists.
Let’s tackle this perfectionism thing head on!
1. Get rid of your all-or-nothing mindset
This mindset is the root issue of many forms of perfectionism. Instead, replace this approach with the idea that “done is better than perfect.” Sure, your children might not have done the dishes the way you wanted, but were they finished? That project at work could have gone smoothly, but was it submitted on time?
An all-or-nothing mindset that says it should be perfectly done or not done at all is unrealistic. Life is not black and white. There is no clear demarcation between true success and true failure. Life is in the grey, in the confusing mixed middle. Give yourself permission to get grounded in this reality, versus seeing everything as black and white, or truly completed or not done at all.
When you approach everything as “all or nothing,” what happens is you start to act from a place of “nothing and nothing.” If you don’t give yourself permission to have an imperfect conclusion or an incomplete outcome, you’ll be frozen in time and unable to move forward.
But when you instead let things unfold organically and naturally, you’ll get more done even if it’s not “perfect.”
2. Embrace the 80/20 rule
Perfectionists often get caught up in procrastination because they want to ensure everything is done just right, which in turn means nothing gets done.
The 80/20 rule can help you break free. Perhaps you hold yourself to a very high standard, or you measure your progress on a project through the lens of perfection. Using the 80/20 rule, you can ask yourself a few key questions to get out of a perfectionist mindset:
What do you need to get done?
What have others done to accomplish what you need to do?
What does 80 percent success look like, and what are 20 percent of the things you think you need to do that don’t actually affect success?
This can help you differentiate between what’s crucial and what’s helpful but not necessary. Focus just on the 80 percent! It helps you to see beyond any unrealistic expectations.
3. Always check in on where you’re coming from
Everything you do, and the self-talk you tell yourself, needs to come from a place of respecting and valuing yourself. Use that as a measuring rod to compare your self-talk, your critiques, your tasks and your goals.
If you’re always approaching your to-do list from a place of acceptance and love, you’ll have no choice but to ease up on your perfectionism. Make yourself a priority. Make your own self-care, acceptance and health a priority. When those are your ultimate objectives, all other goals will fall into place accordingly.
4. Think of your standards as guides and not absolutes
Sure, we want an A+ on that school project or that “no feedback needed” response from our bosses, but our high standards should guide us toward excellence rather than creating a cold, hard measure for our own success.
You’re more than your achievements. You’re more than the outcomes of what you’re doing. Your standards should encourage you positively towards your outcomes, not crush you.
5. Be open to getting support
One reason perfectionism is so crushing and defeating, is because it isolates us in our own perfectionist ideals. Reaching out and asking for help helps us to admit that we can’t do it alone, and it helps ground us in a healthier perspective.
“Ceaselessly juggling multiple tasks is a self-defeating behavior,” warns psychology expert Suzanne Kane. “It doesn’t work. Something’s bound to drop eventually. Admitting that you’re not perfect may not feel good, but it’s easier than dealing with profound exhaustion, depression, anxiety or other ills. Others may ask if you need any help. If they do, and if you do need it, be gracious enough to accept. This isn’t a mark of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re well-adjusted and know the value of your support network. If no one asks if you need help and you know you do, don’t be afraid to initiate the request. It’s more than OK. It’s what compassionate human beings do.”
6. Get used to messing up
Exposure theory is the approach psychologists use to help people to confront the things they fear, whether it’s a fear of public speaking or stress about specific types of conversations. Psychologists believe that by exposing ourselves to the things that stress us out, in small doses, we build up resilience and experience and begin to realize the thing that we are trying to avoid is actually relatively harmless.
The same approach can apply to perfectionism. We often use perfectionism and unnecessarily high standards to shield us from our fear of failure, or our fear of having others recognize our shortcomings. Purposefully exposing ourselves to messing up can help us to realize there’s nothing to worry about when we miss our perfectionism goals.
“Overcoming your ‘phobia’ of making mistakes or being imperfect involves doing just that –gradually and purposely making mistakes and coming across as imperfect,” explains Anxiety Canada. “This technique also involves gradually putting yourself into situations that you usually avoid out of a fear that things won’t work out perfectly.”
The organization recommends trying the following:
Show up to an appointment a few minutes late
Leave a visible part of your house a little messier than you like
Wear an outfit that has something wrong with it (e.g. a small stain or spill)
By embracing the imperfect in our lives, we can see there’s nothing wrong with it and that others rarely judge us by the high standards that we judge ourselves.
You can pursue excellence, without chasing self-defeating perfectionism. You can aim for your goals without those goals crushing you under unrealistic expectations. You can embrace your potential, without overwhelming yourself with everything you need to do. This is the beauty of removing perfectionism from your life! You get a healthier perspective on what you’re doing and liberate yourself to be the person you can be.
Today, commit to aiming high without those goals bringing you low. Let perfectionism go, and experience life in its fullest!