A Christian Counselor’s Guide to Managing Perfectionism, Part II
In my previous article, I started taking a look at the problem of perfectionism. Perfectionism describes the feeling that your best is never good enough. No matter how hard a perfectionist works, he or she will always feel that the final result comes up short. The cycle of perfectionism is difficult to escape: aiming for goals that are impossible to attain, the perfectionist sets him or herself up for failure, which leads to self-loathing. From there, the perfectionist feels that he or she must try harder, and the cycle starts again.
Fortunately, this cycle can be broken. If you are struggling with perfectionism, there are steps you can take to manage your feelings of inadequacy before you reach burnout. Following from my previous article, I would like to consider a few more ways that you can fight perfectionistic tendencies in your life. My hope is that, by taking these crucial steps toward breaking the cycle, you may find peace knowing the worth within yourself.
Reevaluate your Goals
Perfectionists tend to be motivated by the avoidance of ridicule, rejection, and disapproval. Work to set goals based on your needs and desire, rather than for external rewards or to please other people. What is it you really desire beyond perfectionism? Perfectionism can cast a shadow on the real you. In efforts to be perfect, you shut part of yourself down, limiting that your gifts, talents and abilities. What areas do you need to break free from, and what dreams would you fulfill? Reorienting your motivation can make a huge difference.
Fine-Tune your Wide-Angle Lens
Instead of “losing the forest through the trees,” practice looking for the forest. In other words, because perfectionists tend to focus intently on details, training yourself to look at the big picture will help give you a more accurate story. To help reduce worry about small details, ask yourself questions like, “Does this really matter? What is the worst that could happen? Am I discounting other details? How would another person view my situation? Are there other ways I can look at this situation?” For example, maybe you missed your workout today, but looking at the bigger picture you have been diligently exercising consistently for the month.
Self-Monitor Your Daily Actions & Mindset
Relinquishing perfectionism is a day-by-day process and requires you to self-monitor and self-coach throughout the day. Confront your fears hidden behind perfectionism. What are you afraid of? What is the worst thing that could happen? Begin to self-examine when feelings of anxiety and depression surface. Ask yourself, “Have I set up unrealistic expectations for myself today?”
Cultivate a Holistic Self-Value
Perfectionists are hyper vigilant to their imperfections and weaknesses. They tend to be very critical and self-loathing, and therefore have difficulty seeing their own personal value. Channel that inner zealousness for perfection toward a new goal of accepting your whole self. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Accept imperfection and extend the grace that God gives you to yourself. Do away with social comparison habits, knowing you can only be yourself the best and trying to be someone else will be unsuccessful.
Accept God’s Truth About You
Perfectionists believe their worth is based on their performance. Switch from a “works”-based mentality to intrinsic value by meditating on the fact that you have value because God created you. Begin to believe you are enough because God made you; your value is not based on what you do, but who you are. Mediate on verses that show God’s heart towards you. He accepts, delights and loves you even with all your flaws. The Pharisees were consumed with outward appearances and perfection but God looks at the heart of man. You are God’s masterpiece, His Beloved, His child, the object of His affection and delight.
Galatians 1:10 – Changing your Focus from Men to God
Perfectionists focus on gaining other’s approval and fall prey to the mind-reading trap, believing people have a negative view of them. Fixating on people’s opinions becomes a lifestyle and can become oppressive – you are constantly worrying about what you are wearing, saying, acting, etc… Galatians 1:10 states, “Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ.” Work to shift your focus on pleasing God and embracing His opinion of you rather than trying to please other people.
Journeying Toward Freedom in Christian Counseling
Focus on the journey, not just the destination. Refine your ideas of success. Maybe success is about enjoyment of the task or learning something new, not being the best or being perfect. See the value in the pursuit of the goal not just end result. Prioritize your tasks and see where you can allow more flexibility. Maybe you can accept completing a task at 80% or 90% instead of 100%.
If you want to discover how to conquer your negative perfectionistic habits, talking to a Christian counselor can help you begin to see your true value. In Christian counseling, you can further discuss these strategies for defeating perfectionism and make a game plan for breaking the cycle of perfectionism.