Being a perfectionist is very stressful, as we set lofty expectations for ourselves that are rarely possible to meet. We feel amazing and validated when people comment on our achievements and successes but feel awful when we fall short of what we deem “acceptable.” Perfectionism can be harmful by placing undue stress, anxiety, and shame on us, in turn impacting our quality of life and diminishing what we have achieved.
For all the perfectionists reading this post: I see you and hear you. I know the struggle and am happy to provide some ways to challenge perfectionism:
Understand how it has served you.
In understanding how perfectionism can be harmful, it is also important to consider the ways in which it has been helpful to us. I’m a firm believer that we keep engaging in certain behaviors for a reason. For many of us, the drive to be perfect has actually pushed us to attain many great feats – whether that be receiving an acceptance letter from our dream college or a promotion at work. Though our drive to achieve is often motivated by fear of failure, perhaps it has given us the extra push to do well for ourselves.
Understand that perfectionism is a myth.
I’m sorry to break it to you, but whoever told you that you can reach perfection was lying (to you and to themselves). If you move through the world with perfectionist tendencies, you may be able to reassure others that perfectionism is unattainable but still struggle to accept it for yourself. However, it is not possible to be perfect, as we are human. We make mistakes, we falter, and we fall down. Not even Oprah is perfect. The more we view ourselves through the lens of being human, the more we can let go of this harmful myth that we can achieve perfection.
Start to reframe your imperfections as opportunities to grow.
Those of us who move through the world with perfectionism tend to be very rigid in the way we think; we often view success as fitting in a small box with anything falling outside of that box as failure. This is actually limiting in that it prevents us from learning new skills in the face of challenges. The more we can increase our flexibility to challenges and think outside of the perfectionism box, the more we can grow and develop as people; by experiencing how we can adapt and grow our skills in the face of challenges, we can also build self-esteem and confidence.
Let yourself be “bad” at something.
If you find yourself growing anxious after reading the previous statement, you are not alone. When we feel that we are bad at something, we often equate that with failing and thus not being good enough as people. Though uncomfortable, it can be a healing experience to allow yourself to be “bad” at something while focusing more on the experience of doing it. So draw that rendition of a dog that looks like a horse; swing the bat and miss. Try to enjoy the experience rather than the result…allow yourself to learn for the sake of learning.
Seek Therapeutic Help.
It is also important to get to the root of perfectionism and understand where it comes from. Therapists can provide empathy and compassion while helping you work through the root of the issue, whether that be key experiences in childhood, teasing apart issues of self-worth and being “perfect,” or other challenges that may show up for you. For help with this, more tips, and attentive support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.
Hi, I’m Ashley Barnes, therapist for individuals and couples at Love Heal Grow Counseling.
I help individuals and couples who seek to improve and enhance their relationships, those who wish to heal from painful experiences and navigate big life changes, and those who aspire to improve their mental well being.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Ashley