5 Proven, Actionable Ways To Overcome Perfectionism

overcome perfectionism


Why do you really want to overcome perfectionism? Because your perfectionism is holding you back from starting things, or finishing things.

Either way, as you know quite well, it’s a huge waste of your time. And both those habits are typical of procrastinators — the time-killers.


Are You A Perfectionist?

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, then you are most probably one.

  • Do you need everything you do to be done to perfection?
  • Do you find anything less than ‘perfect’ unacceptable?
  • Do you find it hard to let others do the tasks?
  • Do you love to micro-manage your projects?
  • Do you live in constant fear of criticism? Are you afraid of failing your sky-high standards?

Being a perfectionist isn’t necessarily something to be proud of. While it’s healthy to want to succeed in life and achieve your goals, it’s not at all the same to always set hefty, unattainable standards for yourself — or others.

By the way, most perfectionists do not identify themselves as perfectionists.


Who Is A Perfectionist?

A perfectionist is one who refuses to accept anything short of a perfect standard. Such a person sets the highest standards of performance and expects an absolute flawlessness in the final products. Their expectations of perfectionism are both from themselves as well as others.

Being a perfectionist is a lot like being a high achiever, although the two should not be confused. Being a high achiever is by far better for your health, and will ultimately leave you happier.

But not so with perfectionists. They rob themselves of their peace of mind and enjoyment of life while going along the way.

While high achievers do go to great lengths to achieve their goals, perfectionists are restless control-freaks.

Perfectionism is defined by negative and obsessive tendencies. A habit of perfectionism can put you at a higher risk of harboring anger, anxiety, hopelessness, and depression. It can harm your life and your relationships.

Perfectionism is riddled with the underlying fear that a thing will never be perfect, so it not only lets you finish your projects, but also stops you from never starting in the first place.

Procrastination and perfectionism are close cousins living in the same house, couch-surfing their way through life.

Procrastination and perfectionism are close cousins living in the same house, couch-surfing their way through life. Click To Tweet

This is because as a perfectionist, we are too afraid whatever we do will never be enough. So we never even try. It ultimately drains our self-esteem and leaves us stuck in an endless spiral of negativity.

Having an ‘all or nothing’ approach to life, and beating yourself up for your failures or those of others, will never get you anywhere. At the end of the day, no one is perfect, and the sooner we all accepted that and loved ourselves — and others — regardless of our perceived ‘imperfections’, the better the world would be.


5 Proven, Easily Doable Ways To Overcome Perfectionism

But don’t worry; there’s help. You can overcome the negative trait, and create a fine balance in your life.

Though the transition may take time and effort, but ridding yourself of the burden of perfectionism will ultimately improve your life in a great way. So, for those suffering from perfectionism, here is a list of 5 tips to overcome your perfectionism and become happier as a result.

  1. Become Self-aware
  2. Beat The Negative Self-talk
  3. Forgive Yourself For Your Mistakes
  4. Change Your Attitude Towards Criticism
  5. Enjoy The Process

1. Become Self-aware

Becoming aware of your tendencies is key to overcoming it, as you may not even have realized how much perfectionism has intruded into your life. You may want to consider recording your thoughts so you can see how many of those in a day are laced with perfectionist tones.

If you can’t do this throughout the day, you could at least do it at the end of the day. This lets you become more conscious of your thought-patterns throughout the next day. Just don’t feel like you’ve ‘failed’ if you don’t have time to do this — try another day.


2. Beat The Negative Self-talk

Those who struggle with perfectionism will often realize they have patterns of negative thoughts relating to activities and interactions throughout the day.

Says Elisa M. Lee, a lifestyle writer,

You may realize that they have a critical voice in their head telling them that nothing they do is good enough, that they’re not trying hard, and that they are not enough. It’s critical to alter your self-talk and not let that ‘voice in your head’ bring you down all the time.

Having a constant mantra of ‘I am such a failure’ or ‘I can’t do anything right’ inside your head only causes you to be stuck in a self-loathing cycle, never moving past the mistakes.

You may not realize it, but perfectionism, low self-esteem, and even self-hatred, go hand-in-hand. So, be careful what you say to yourself, because the harshest things we hear about us are often from ourselves.

Becoming aware of your inner-voice, and consciously challenging its negative patterns, can go a long way in boosting your self-esteem and happiness.


3. Forgive Yourself For Your Mistakes

What if we were as forgiving of ourselves as we often are of others?

Sure, you must have messed up a few things in life — maybe you didn’t secure that crucial deal at work, couldn’t score a 60% on a test, or haven’t been the best son or daughter. Despite all that, at a certain point in your life, you have to accept you are human. And humans make mistakes.

Why not, instead, forgive your mistakes and tell yourself you learnt from them?

Constantly beating yourself up over failure means that you don’t get to move on and focus on the important things in your life. Just take the learning, and move on.

Besides, know this: no one really remembers your failures; only you do.

So, no one will reject you if you aren’t perfect. Things often don’t go to plan. By holding onto pain, guilt, or shame (or all three), just makes it worse.

Set human standards for yourself, and don’t label yourself as a ‘failure’. Everyone has flaws — how we overcome them makes us who we are.


4. Change Your Attitude Towards Criticism

Do you know how to handle criticism? If you are always reacting defensively to criticism, rather than taking it into account and attempting to mend errors, you may need to change your take on criticism.

Accepting you are a human, with flaws as any human would have, allows you to actually listen to what others say and make efforts to change your annoying habits. This leads you ahead in life. Rather than being stuck in a cycle of poor performance and viewing criticism as personal attacks, you make progresses.

Sometimes, the harshest criticism can actually help us to change ourselves for the good in entirely unimaginable ways. You just have to remember that mistakes are often excellent opportunities to learn new things and new ways. And, so, you don’t have to thrust a sword of criticism into the mistakes you come across every time.


5. Enjoy The Task Process

Perfectionists often focus on the end-game — and kill some part of themselves trying to make it a perfect ending. “To overcome perfectionism, try to live more in the present, and enjoy the process of what you are working towards.

Maybe you could consider journaling about how you feel as you work towards a goal, and how much you learn on the way. Or, you could join a group of like-minded people (for example, a group learning the same language as yourself), as suggests Harry Robinson, a productivity writer.

Discussing the enjoyable quirks of the work process often go a long way to cut down perfectionism and rush towards the end. And, if you don’t feel you’ve achieved ‘perfection’, you can look back on your journal or your new friends, and realize how much you have gained.

Perfectionists are control-freaks prone to anger, hopelessness, and depression. For their health, they need to learn to leave things at good enough. Click To Tweet

Final Words

Let go of your strict perfectionist streak and go for good enough. Every time you feel you’re fussing over the details of a task, giving it undue time and energy, remind yourself it’s okay to go for good enough. That way, you could finish the project at hand and go for another.

Set up deadlines and let yourself go when it’s time, whatever stage you’re at. Do it every time you take up a task, and it will form into a habit.

With time and experience, you will start to find it easier to stop at a point of good enough. You will intuitively understand your task can’t go up from 93% to 99% even if you gave it two weeks of extra time. You’ll learn to leave it at 93 percent, or a figure around that, on the deadline. Because that’s what normal humans do.

After all, you will want to be known for the tasks you took up and delivered rather than the one task you took up but never delivered.

Tip: Write down these 5 tips on a few post-it notes and tape them at several places. Make sure to put them where you spend at least a few minutes everyday, as your refrigerator door, and your bathroom mirror. You’ll start seeing serious positive results within 3-6 weeks.

[Perfectionism often makes you badly criticize yourself, we know. Why not take a look at this post How To Avoid Self-Criticism?]

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Authors’ Bio: Michael Dehoyos is an editor and content marketer at PhD Kingdom. He helps companies market their strategies, and writes for several publications. Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog.


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