Perfection. It Simply Doesn't Exist!
Today we’re talking all about perfectionism. It is what it sounds like, the notion of appearing or the need to be perfect. While some may argue that having high personal standards is incredibly adaptive and has even helped athletes, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, singers, even influencers achieve their success. Perfectionism has been shown to be correlated with anxiety, depression, insecurity and inadequacy, as well as eating disorders. So what’s the difference between having high standards and the need to be perfect?
Well, one focuses on performance whereas, the other is on the need to be flawless, which is impossible to achieve. And if we do happen to meet it, it was so difficult to attain that when we have it, we still believe we are a failure because it wasn’t easy for us to achieve.
Perfectionism can become a problem when we allow it to interfere in our day to day. For instance, if you expect your friends, co-workers, or spouse to be perfect then relationships can get damaged. The sheer obsession on how perfect everything “should” or “could” be can prevent you from studying for that upcoming big exam or finishing a work deadline and lead to unwarranted stress.
How to Avoid Needing To Be Perfect?
-Awareness Check. The first step to overcome perfectionism is recognizing that your standards are too high. I’m not saying you should have low or no standards, just when a standard is so high that it gets in the way of your friendships, work or school, and mood (frustration, depression, anxious, anger) then it’s likely too high and is interfering in your life.
-Practice being mindful and catching unhelpful thoughts. Some examples of unhelpful thoughts related to perfectionism include sentences that include “should,” for example, it should be this way or “black and white thinking” if it’s not perfect than I’m a failure. You can learn how to be mindful and how to catch unhelpful thoughts here.
-Practice reframing unhelpful statements and practice reciting more helpful ones. The more you practice, the easier it will get. Some examples are:
“No one is perfect.”
“Everyone makes mistakes, it’s okay!”
“It’s okay to not be liked by everyone, not one person in the world is liked by everyone!”
“I’m doing my best and that’s what counts.”
-Be realistic. It will be hard to do this for a while. A way to practice is to visualize how someone else might act in this scenario? Or if a friend were to ask you for help, what advice would you give them?
-Focus on improving your self-esteem. We are all human and have imperfections. Know what your strengths are and embrace your weaknesses. When you make a mistake, reframe it as a life lesson instead of as failure.
-Identify scenarios where you are more likely to want to be perfect. Then practice positive helpful statements (ones listed above) preventatively. For instance, are you browsing social media? Tell yourself, these are simply pretty snapshots and not truly perfect moments.
-Practice not being perfect. Being a few minutes late to an appointment, for example.
Talk to someone and ask for help! If you’d like to learn more about this topic, contact your health insurance and seek out a licensed cognitive behavioral psychologist. They will be able to learn what’s contributing to and maintaining your need to be perfect and will help you learn practical skills that you can use on your own to overcome your perfectionism.
Disclaimer: Information being provided on this page is general in nature and is not intended to replace or serve as therapy. Should you be experiencing emotional distress or difficulties at school, work, or with relationships, it is encouraged that you contact your insurance health provider to locate a mental health professional in your area. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others at your nearest emergency room.