High standards are great. Sometimes, however, we are so rigid in expectations for ourselves that we get bogged down. Needing to be perfect isn’t an asset. Perfectionism can:
- Impede efficiency – we spend so much time doing and re-doing, seeking perfection, that we waste a lot of time and things don’t get done
- Keep us stuck – sometimes we don’t do things at all if we fear we can’t do them well or become overwhelmed
- Be stressful – in the pursuit of perfection, we add in ordinate amounts of stress to our lives
- Erode joy – constant anxiety and self-criticism can zap the pleasure from our lives
- Decrease self-esteem – since we can’t actually be perfect, we end up feeling worse about ourselves because we don’t live up to our own standards
Perfectionism can take many forms. Some examples include: spending lots of time perfecting appearance, home, or your work; pressuring kids and expecting excellence in all their endeavors; negative self-talk (critical, harsh thoughts about self) when you don’t live up to expectations; procrastination; worrying bout what others think and feelings judged; feeling not good enough; needing to prove your worth; guilt and shame; not being able to be your genuine (flawed) self. I have struggled with many of these same feelings. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for dealing with perfectionism:
- I ask myself – “How important is this?” and “What’s the worst that can happen if it’s not perfect?” These questions help me keep my priorities in line.
- I set a time limit – I limit myself to a fixed amount of time to finish something so I can’t spend all of my time perfecting something that doesn’t need perfection.
- I practice – The old saying may be that practice makes perfect, but we want to practice being imperfect. At first it will be very uncomfortable to leave things less-than-perfect, but it will become easier the more you do it.
- I remember that mistakes are an essential part of learning.
- I enjoy the process, not just the finished product.
While I wrote this (imperfect) article, I thought of these books that may resonate you: