If you’re a perfectionist, you strive to be the best at everything you do, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many perfectionists excel in their fields, but that doesn’t also mean that this personality trait isn’t without its downsides too. When a minor setback feels like a major personal failure, that’s when perfectionism becomes a problem.
Perfectionists may hold themselves or others to standards they know are unrealistic. If your perfectionism interferes particularly with your ability to form or maintain relationships, there are steps you can take to break free and be happy.
Perfectionism vs Aspiring for Greatness
There is no work of art in any museum that’s perfect. Every famous painting has plenty of blemishes that only a trained eye can spot. The Mona Lisa is a great work of art, for instance, but if you look at it with X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, you’ll find that the painting is made up of over 40 layers of paint. Had Da Vinci gone much further beyond the 40th coat, he could have lost the subtlety of human expression his paintings are known for.
Perfectionists tend to hyper-focus on even the tiniest flaws. If you focus on the things you’re unable to do perfectly, you end up feeling lousy, or incompetent. Do you see how perfectionism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Acknowledge that perfection is unattainable! Instead, aspire for greatness.
4 Strategies to Overcome Perfectionism
Implement these tips/ strategies for overcoming perfectionism, a.k.a. your obsession with being perfect:
Instead of envisioning your project as a perfect whole, and being overwhelmed, try viewing it as a series of well-designed, interlocking pieces.
- If you put your focus into completing each step, you’ll find that the entire process goes smoother. Stop worrying about the outcome. Instead, focus on one piece, or one, task after another.
- You climb a flight of stairs by putting one foot in front of the other. Avoid expecting an immediate victory. By keeping your mind focused on the task at hand, you can create a forward momentum. You’ll have less time to scrutinize the overall project because you’ll be immersed in the present moment.
- If you find yourself stressing over individual steps, break your task down into smaller chunks. Complete the next action without rushing. If you take it step-by-step, you’ll chip away at a large project without agonizing over whether it’s perfect.
3. Give others a break.
If you find yourself imposing your perfectionism on others, stop and ask why. It’s helpful to realize that others aren’t required to live by your standards.
- The more slack you give others, the easier you can be on yourself too. Everyone has unique skills and talents. Keep in mind that your friends, family, and loved ones can do many things better than you. However, it’s also likely that you excel in areas your peers struggle with.
- When you ask your friends to perform at your level in a skill where they lack confidence, they may feel controlled. Remember that our imperfections are what make us human. It’s perfectly natural. (Pun intended.)
2. Think in gradations.
One powerful technique that you can use to claim the life you deserve (free from perfectionism) is to learn to think in gradients.
- Grey is not black, and one point below 100 percent is not zero. At the end of the day, only you know how much work you put into a project. Be your own authority, and congratulate yourself on your effort.
- All-or-nothing thinking is unproductive because it only allows two possibilities; but reality isn’t binary. Computers rely on binary reasoning, but that’s because computers lack the ability to feel!
- You learn and grow the most as a result of your missteps. Reality isn’t an all-or nothing proposition.
1. Embrace your inner sense of humor!
Nothing defuses perfectionism like a healthy sense of humor.
- Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself, and start to see beyond a single viewpoint.
- If you can find the humor in your failure, you can analyze it objectively and learn from it.
Life isn’t perfect and neither are you. Give yourself permission to let go of your perfectionist ways. Take action today by using these tips to create measurable changes in your life and stop perfectionism. You’ll be happy you did.