Perfectionism is never feeling “good enough” no matter how hard you try. Perfectionism is trying so hard to get things precisely right to escape criticism and rejection. When perfectionists set extremely high standards and don’t measure up to those standards, they feel dejected and see themselves as failures. Everyone tries to avoid mistakes, but perfectionists are continually anxious about their weaknesses being exposed that they get obsessed with accuracy of details. Many people suffer from fear, pain and exhaustion due to perfectionism. Over the next two articles, I will be offering an in-depth consideration of steps you can take to manage perfectionism. The grip of perfectionism can seem like there is no escape, but there is hope and it starts with changing your perspective.
The Mirage of Perfectionism
In order for change to occur, you must come to terms with the fact that perfection is an illusion that can never be attained. Perfectionism is the ever-dangling carrot that we chase after in vain, until we realize the process is futile. Weighing the costs and benefits of this lifestyle can help us gain clarity. Think about how perfectionism has taken a toll on your life. What have you missed out on? Are you sick of being exhausted, tired and consumed with worry? Ask yourself, Do I really believe perfection is attainable?
Identify Your Personal Problem Areas
The more you learn about yourself the better you can target those areas of vulnerability. What are your triggers? Where do you fall prey to perfectionism? Appearance, work, school, self, relationships, household, recreation/hobbies? Which people do you tend to be overly perfectionistic with your life? Your partner, mom, dad, brother, sister, friends, strangers, coworkers? Self-awareness gives you the opportunity to choose a difference response instead of react to those trigger situations.
Tune Your Mental Filer
Perfectionists tend to have a negative mental filer and quickly dismiss their strengths or the positives in a situation. Ask yourself, “Am I only focusing where I fall short? Have I discounted a positive point of view?” Challenge yourself to not discount your strengths just because you see a weakness or mistake. Remember, to gain a truthful picture, it is important to look at all the facts.
Change Your Beliefs About “Failures:”
Perfectionists get stuck in All or Nothing Thinking patterns where they see things as black or white. For example mistakes means failure to perfectionists. Perfectionists need to work on seeing the “gray” in life and monitor am I reacting too extremely to this situation? Attach new meaning to mistakes such as wisdom can be attained through challenges and this can make you stronger. Instead of condemning yourself for making a mistake, think what can I learn from this experience that will help me?
Embrace Kindness Towards Yourself
Adopt a more mindful mindset. Instead of criticizing yourself or attaching negative labels to yourself just observe the world around you. For example, instead of saying “I am a worthless because I did not pass my physics test, I can never do anything right” simply observe the event and say “Today I did not get a passing grade on my test” and reframe from passing judgment on yourself. Having compassion on yourself is about drawing your attention to a deeper understanding of yourself and the situation. This is same compassion you extend to others when you give them grace, understanding, and kindness. Maybe you recognize that math and science has never been your strongest subject and this month has been particularly hard for you in school because there has been a death in the family and you have had trouble concentrating.
Develop Flexible & Realistic Thinking
Perfectionists are rigid and unrealistic in their beliefs, saying to themselves: “I must be perfect or else…” or “I must be perfect for people to accept me.” Cultivating more flexible realistic standards looks like replacing self-critical statements with realistic positive coping statements such as “No one is perfect, All I can do is my best, I am only human, everyone makes mistakes, it is impossible for me to know everything and be the best in everything.” For example, the student who feels inferior because he did not know the answer when the teacher called on him. Adopting positive self-talk would look like this, “I am going to school to learn, it’s ok to ask for help or not know every answer.”
Christian Counseling for Perfectionism
Learning to let go of perfectionism is a process, and change can’t be expected overnight. However, if you are struggling to let go of perfectionism, there is help available. Christian counseling offers a great opportunity to address the issues in your life that are holding you in the grip of perfectionism. A Christian counselor can help you learn to use these strategies to combat perfectionistic tendencies.
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