Perfectionism can hold you back from achieving your goals. Learn 20 practical tips for how to overcome perfectionism and start making progress toward your dreams!
High standards can be good. They push you to improve and are frequently a sign of a good work ethic. However, when you regularly set your standards too high, it can be a sign of perfectionism — the belief that everything you do must be done without mistake or error. Perfectionism affects a lot of people, even if only in a small area of their life.
Perfectionists and high achievers are often considered the same, but their motivation is very different: High achievers are result-oriented, and their motivation comes from a positive place, while perfectionists are mostly motivated by fear.
The trickle-down effects of perfectionism can negatively impact your health and well-being. It contributes to burnout and stress, and some studies link it to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, OCD and eating disorders.
Is your life being negatively influenced by your perfectionist tendencies? Follow these steps to learn how to overcome perfectionism for a healthier and happier life.
1. Identify Perfectionism
When learning how to overcome perfectionism, you must first determine the problem. If you identify with the following remarks, you may have perfectionist tendencies:
- You think a task is not finished until it’s perfect.
- The end product is the most crucial part.
- You take a long time to complete tasks, much longer than others around you.
- You don’t start tasks until you have time to execute them flawlessly.
- You feel frustrated, anxious or angry while trying to meet your standards and are self-critical.
- You double, triple or even quadruple-check things to ensure they’re perfect.
- You avoid trying new things because you fear you’ll make mistakes.
- You sweat the small stuff and agonize over tiny details.
Once you recognize and identify the signs, changing your behavior is easier.
2. Change Your Thinking
Changing the way you think is easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort. Perfectionists often see the world through a lens of negativity because they think they should be able to do better. To begin changing your thinking to help you overcome perfectionism, here are a few examples of positive self-talk to swap in when you start criticizing yourself:
- It’s okay if not everyone likes me. No one is liked by everyone.
- I don’t have to put on a happy front. Everyone has bad days.
- I’m not a failure if I make a mistake; I’m just human.
- At least I tried. All I can do is my best.
Other ways to change your thinking include looking at the big picture instead of getting bogged down by the details and asking yourself what advice you’d give a friend if they were in the same situation. Chances are you’d be a lot kinder to your friend than you are to yourself.
3. Purposely Break Perfectionist Behaviours
This is one of the most challenging points to implement, but purposely breaking perfectionist behaviors is very helpful. It is similar to exposure therapy, a technique used to help people overcome phobias by gradually exposing them to what they fear. The behaviors you want to break will vary depending on the areas of your life in which your perfectionism takes over.
To start, you can try some of the following exercises:
- Speak spontaneously in a meeting without rehearsing what you are going to say. This can help you to feel more comfortable speaking off the cuff and can reduce anxiety about being perfect.
- Send an email without proofreading it. This can be a helpful exercise for those who obsessively check their work for errors. It can help you to see that small mistakes are not the end of the world.
- Try a new restaurant without reading the reviews. This can help you to let go of the need for everything to be perfect and pre-planned. You may find that trying something new can be exciting and fun.
- Leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight. This can be helpful for those who have a hard time relaxing in an imperfect environment. You may find that the dishes can wait until the morning and that it’s okay to have a little mess.
- Wear a shirt that has a visible stain on it. This can be helpful for those who obsess over their appearance. It can help you to see that imperfections are a normal part of life.
- Show up fashionably late when meeting a friend. This can be helpful for those who worry about being on time or being perfect in social situations. It can help you to see that being a little late is not the end of the world and that it’s okay to relax and enjoy yourself.
4. How to Overcome Perfectionism: Set Reasonable Goals
To overcome perfectionism and achieve success, it is important to create SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. By following this approach, you can set realistic and attainable goals, which will help you see results without becoming overwhelmed when things start to go awry.
Here is a breakdown of the SMART goal approach:
- Specific: Be clear and specific about what you want to achieve. Rather than setting a general goal like “be healthier,” specify what you want to accomplish, such as “exercise for 30 minutes daily.”
- Measurable: Create goals that can be measured, so you can track your progress and see how far you’ve come. This will help you to stay motivated and focused on your end goal.
- Achievable: Set challenging goals, but also realistic and achievable. If your plans are too difficult, you may become discouraged and give up.
- Relevant: Make sure your goals are relevant to your overall objectives and align with your values. This will help you to stay focused and motivated.
- Time-Bound: Set a deadline for achieving your goals so you have a specific target to work towards. This will help you stay on track and progress toward your goals.
5. Learn How to Take Criticism
Perfectionists often struggle to handle criticism and may react defensively, seeing it as a personal attack. However, if you can change your attitude towards constructive criticism, you can turn it into a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. It’s important to remember that not all criticism is constructive, but learning to accept feedback can be a valuable way to make progress and learn from your mistakes.
6. Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes
Mistakes can feel like the end of the world if you are a perfectionist, but the reality is that everyone makes mistakes. At certain times, we all feel like failures and errors can be costly, but they aren’t the end of the world. It can be challenging to start allowing yourself to make mistakes when you’ve become obsessed with avoiding them at all costs.
One great way to implement this is to take up a new hobby. Chances are you won’t be very good at it in the beginning, and that’s the point — making mistakes allows you to slowly improve and learn as you go.
7. Focus on Meaning Instead of Results
Perfectionists often see the world in black and white and place an excessive focus on the end result rather than enjoying the journey to get there. However, it can be beneficial to shift your perspective and find joy and meaning in the process rather than placing all of your emphasis on the final outcome. When you enjoy the journey, the end result becomes less important, and you can still feel a sense of accomplishment even if the task isn’t done perfectly.
8. How to Overcome Perfectionism: Go to Therapy
In the past, therapy has often been associated with negative stereotypes, but attitudes toward mental health treatment are changing. Learning how to overcome perfectionism can be a challenging task, and seeking help from a professional therapist can be invaluable in developing the skills and tools needed to address this issue effectively.
Many therapists can help you discover the root cause of your perfectionism and provide tailored strategies to overcome it. However, it may take some time to find the right therapist who can offer the support and guidance you need.
One common type of therapy for perfectionism is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is widely recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA). This approach aims to change negative thought patterns and maladaptive behaviors that contribute to perfectionism. By identifying and challenging these patterns, CBT can help you develop more realistic and balanced thinking, improve your emotional regulation, and learn new coping skills.
9. Remove Negative Influences
Many external factors can change how we view ourselves and the world. Social media is known for its negative effects and has allowed people to curate the version of their lives they want others to see, which can further exacerbate perfectionist behaviors. Podcasts, TV shows, books and even some friend groups can negatively influence you. Removing those negative influences is vital when figuring out how to overcome perfectionism.
10. Stop Procrastinating to Overcome Perfectionism
It may be surprising that perfectionists are procrastinators, but the correlation makes a lot of sense. Perfectionists often put off tasks that they know they don’t have the capacity to do perfectly until they have the time needed to dedicate themselves to certain projects or tasks. Therefore, one crucial step towards overcoming perfectionism is to stop putting off tasks. Instead, create realistic, manageable schedules and set priorities.
- How to Improve Concentration: 10 Ways to Focus Better
- I Tried 7 Happiness Hacks for a Week — Here’s What Happened
- Body Positivity: 5 Steps Towards A Positive Body Image
Do you like this post?