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Overcoming Perfectionism


On rare occasions in life, all aspects of a situation can come together, and plans can materialize in perfect order – but only on rare occasions. If you believe otherwise you are caught in the trap and the illusion of perfectionism, and you know how much misery it can cause.  Here are some ideas to help you start the process of shaking up the habit.

 Accept that perfection as a consistent goal is unsustainable – because it is.

Some of the erroneous beliefs of perfectionism are:

  • Perfection is simply having high standards, and is good.
  • It is essential to never make a mistake.
  • Anything less than perfection is horrible.
  • If I make a mistake I am a failure.
  • If I make a mistake I will disappoint others enormously.

Some of the feelings and that can accompany perfectionism are:

  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Harsh self-criticism or self-hate
  • Shame, guilt

Some of the behaviors that can accompany perfectionism are:

  • Exaggeration of possible negative outcome (catastrophizing)
  • Procrastination
  • Giving up part way through a task
  • Giving up before you start a task

Here are some strategies for overcoming perfectionism:

  • Set very small, achievable goals. When you meet a goal, reward yourself in a healthy way.
  • Use cognitive re-framing to challenge and re-word your erroneous thoughts.
  • Shift Perspective: Ask yourself, if other people were looking at you in your situation, what would they expect of you?
  • Compromise: Practice lowering your standards on small tasks. You will feel anxiety doing this, but remind yourself that the purpose is to overcome perfectionism, and that each small step is in your best interest.
  • Reassurance: Encourage your progress, and remind yourself that you will never become a reckless or sloppy person, or a failure, if you give up perfectionism.
  • Practice “Exposure”: Exposure means deliberately doing something wrong, like driving the wrong direction or buttoning a shirt incorrectly. Try making these “deliberate mistakes” every day.
  • Develop Compassion: Developing compassion means first embracing the truth that we are all imperfect, and most people (including you) are doing their best. Then allow yourself to feel acceptance, forgiveness, kindness and generosity of spirit toward yourself and others.If you are like most people, you will need some help to implement these steps. That’s where therapy comes in.  Find someone who will support and guide you through the process of becoming a “ Recovered Perfectionist”!