If you’re like many people, you might think, “What’s wrong with being a perfectionist?” Perfection can easily be confused with having high standards but they’re not the same. High standards can be productive, healthy, and good for your self-esteem. However, perfectionists set standards for themselves that are typically unreasonable and unattainable. They continually strive for flawlessness, they’re rarely satisfied with their performance, and they blame themselves when things go wrong—even when they aren’t responsible. Perfectionists tend to define their self-worth by their productivity and accomplishments, so they consider mistakes as personal failures. The pressure they place on themselves to always achieve lofty goals inevitably sets them up for disappointment and feelings of frustration. As a result, perfectionists often berate themselves with an abusive internal dialogue.
Being a perfectionist erodes self-esteem in many different ways and for a variety of reasons:
- You think you’re never good enough. When you expect perfection, you’re establishing an unhealthy standard and setting yourself up for failure.
- It feeds stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. The quest for perfection can also extend the physical, contributing to body image issues and disordered eating.
- Perfectionism can negatively impact performance. Perfectionists often get stuck in a fear of failure mentality that leaves them waiting until the last minute to act. The result? Things don’t get done in time or the work is rushed and not its best, and the vicious, self-defeating cycle continues.
- It bolsters negativity. With so much attention being paid to getting it “just right” or on self-flagellation for mistakes, it can cause you to overlook all of the good things in your life.
What steps can you take to let go of perfectionism?
- Recognize perfection as a problem. Understand the difference between perfectionism and high standards. Realize that while having healthy high standards and setting realistic goals are good for you, being a perfectionist is not.
- Set realistic goals. Goal-setting done right is great for building self-esteem. Take the time to examine whether your goals and expectations are attainable. Replace perfectionist expectations with healthy, achievable objectives.
- Look for the positives in yourself and your life. Pay attention to the good things instead of magnifying the negatives. Notice your good qualities, the things you’ve done well. and the good things about your life. Look for the good in others, too.
- Love yourself in your entirety, including your imperfections. See the bigger picture and know that you are worthy as a whole person. One minor imperfection does not make you “bad” or “unworthy.” Keep in mind that everyone on earth has flaws too.
- Stop procrastinating. Don’t wait for the perfect moment or situation to take action, because that will never happen. Take action now, even when things aren’t perfect. You’ll feel empowered by getting more done and by participating more in life
- Think of mistakes as lessons. Perfectionism can come with a fear of failure, which gets in the way of moving forward. Allow yourself to make mistakes and give yourself the opportunity to learn and grow from them.
- Become aware of your negative self-dialogue. Harsh and critical self-assessments reinforce perfectionism and procrastination. Replace your inner critic with the voice of love, reassurance, and compassion.
Perfectionism is a habit, and all habits take time to break. But the effort is worth it. Letting go of perfectionism allows you to achieve a very important thing—being a perfectly imperfect prson. Yeah, we did that on prpose. 😊
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Founder, Executive Director at The Body Image Therapy Center. For help call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.