How to Overcome Perfectionism
Overcoming perfectionism isn’t just about accepting you’ll never be perfect. It’s about embracing your imperfection, flaws, weaknesses! Your warts make you unique and, ironically, more lovable.
If you need help overcoming perfectionism, read The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD. The main idea of the book is that perfectionism often limits your success and happiness. Even when it doesn’t, it stops you from appreciating what you achieved. Ben-Shahar recommends becoming an “optimalist” (his new word) instead.
The Pursuit of Perfect will help you accept failure as part of life, and enjoy the journey instead of only focusing on achieving your goals and reaching your destination. It’ll also help you learn how to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made and the people you hurt.
Your imperfections make you lovable. Perfectionism creates stress and anxiety; self-acceptance leads to happiness and peace.
“I went for years not finishing anything,” said Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying. “Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.”
5 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism
Perfectionists often procrastinate, because they’re afraid they won’t do a good and perfect job. They’d rather fall back on the excuse of “oh, I only had two hours to do this, so it’s not that good” instead of trying hard and possibly failing.
Perfectionists set themselves up for emotional and mental health problems such as eating disorders and anxiety attacks. They don’t enjoy their success….and they live in fear.
1. Balance high hopes with harsh reality
Perfectionists have expectations and goals that simply can’t be met! To overcome perfectionism, you need to balance great expectations with reality, my friends. Accept that your limits – and other people’s limits – are real. You simply can’t create perfection.
2. Practice being imperfect
The best way to stop trying to be perfect is to let yourself (and others) release imperfect work to the world. Be imperfect in your parenting, projections, and relationships with others. The more you practice being imperfect, the more comfortable you’ll be with it!
If your perfectionism makes you very hard on yourself, read my reasons for forgiving yourself for the “bad” things you did.
3. Savor satisfaction for what you’ve achieved
Learn to appreciate and honor your effort, the journey, and your accomplishments. The big picture matters more than the tiny details: the fact that you’re hosting a dinner party means more than whether the dishes match, and the fact that you finished the report at work matters more than a few grammatical errors.
4. Express your emotions
To overcome perfectionism, learn to accept your painful emotions (regret, disappointment, depression) – but don’t ruminate on them. In The Pursuit of Perfect Ben-Shahar writes, “Rather than having thoughts playing in an endless loop in our heads (ruminating), we would be better off expressing our thoughts verbally or in writing.”
5. Take action towards your goals
What have you always wanted to do, but didn’t because you were afraid of failing? Try it now! Audition for a community play, send a resume for a job, ask someone on a date.
“Don’t worry if you fail and have to try again,” writes Ben-Shahar. “In writing, reflect on how this process of learning from failure applies to other areas of your life.”
Extra tip for overcoming perfectionism: figure out why you strive to be perfect
For instance, I always wanted to be perceived as being perfect because I grew up thinking that only perfect people are loved. Now, I realize that we’re all imperfect, and my husband loves me even though he knows my weaknesses, mistakes, and flaws. I still want to be seen as perfect, but I’m getting better at accepting myself for who I am. Warts and all!
Do you want to be perfect at work? Don’t bother, because you’ll fail! Read Why Doing a Good Job Won’t Get You Ahead at Work.
If you have any thoughts on overcoming perfectionism, please comment below…I can’t offer advice, but it may help you to write about your struggle to be perfect.
May you learn how to accept yourself fully, and not be consumed with the pursuit of perfection in your life.
“Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett.