Written by Linda Binns
Are you a perfectionist? If so, is it good thing or a bad thing?
There are times when perfectionism might be a good thing – for example, if I’m about to have surgery, I’d really like it if the surgeon operating on me is something of a perfectionist. If someone is doing work for me, I like them to have perfectionist tendencies because I want them to do a really good job for me. If you do work that requires a lot of fine, intricate detail, then being a perfectionist would be a good thing.
But being a perfectionist can definitely get in the way and even be very unhealthy. For example, perfectionists often don’t just have high standards, their expectations and standards can be unrealistic. According to research, perfectionistic tendencies have been linked to things like:
- Depression and anxiety
- Social anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Eating disorders, and much more
This is a common problem as well for those who are highly sensitive, as they tend to be extremely critical of themselves.
What if, instead of perfectionism being defined as either good or bad, there is a healthy version of perfectionism, which is about having high standards, motivation and discipline and wanting to a good job, and an unhealthy version, which is when your best never seems good enough and everything seems to frustrate you.
Also, you might need to be more of a perfectionist in your work, but perhaps it’s not serving you to be a perfectionist in other areas of your life.
I think the key is to notice where and how it serves you, and where it doesn’t. Also to recognize that being hyper-critical of yourself and everything you do is not serving you either.
I began to notice that my perfectionist tendencies were mostly not serving me. So I now acknowledge that I’m a recovering perfectionist. I still have high standards, and I always like to do a good job, but I no longer beat myself up if I make a mistake, I just put it right to the best of my ability and move on. I am also letting go of the constant self-criticism (always a work in progress).
If your perfectionist tendencies are getting in the way, here are some tips to help you move to a more healthy level of perfectionism:
- Understand how it holds you back
Perfectionists find it difficult to be happy. They have unrealistically high expectations of themselves and are rarely ever satisfied with what they accomplish. They are afraid of making mistakes, afraid of how others will judge them, and often procrastinate. Because they have unrealistically high expectations of themselves, other people often feel intimidated or uncomfortable around them.
- Examine your expectations
Perfectionists usually have expectations for themselves that are so high they can only be met with great difficulty, or can’t be met at all. If you often feel frustrated, angry, depressed or anxious while trying to meet your standards then your expectations are unrealistic. Ask yourself if you would have the same expectations of someone else. Are these expectations realistic? How could you tolerate a slightly lower level of expectation?
- Look at the big picture
It’s easy to get so bogged down in the details when you are a perfectionist that you make very little progress or drive yourself crazy with minutia. When you find yourself obsessed by a detail, ask yourself: How much does it really matter? What’s the worst that could happen? Will this still matter as much next week, next month, next year?
- Give yourself permission to set realistic standards
Once you’ve acknowledged that your expectations and standards may be unrealistically high, practice lowering your standards a little and recognizing that good enough is good enough and that your idea of good enough is probably somebody else’s idea of perfection. Instead of demanding that you exercise every day of the week, see if you can reduce it to 5 days or 3. Give yourself permission to do less.
- Examine your fears
As you start to let go of some of your high expectations, it’s possible that anxiety and fears will surface. Pay attention to what you feel and examine it – what is it really about? Logically you know that the world won’t fall apart if you don’t do this specific thing in this specific way, so what are you really afraid of? Perfectionism covers up the fear that you’re not good enough, and that’s what your real fear is. Perfectionism is simply how this belief plays out for you.
- Prioritize and know what’s important to you
It’s not possible to give every single thing you do the same amount of energy and attention. Know what’s most important to you. Where do you really want to put most of your time and energy? Are you putting a lot of extra effort into something when your time and energy would be better spent somewhere else?
- Accept and learn from mistakes
It’s difficult for a perfectionist to embrace the concept that mistakes are normal and a part of life. Their unrealistic expectation is that they should never make any mistakes. Instead of being afraid of mistakes, use them as an opportunity to learn something. A mistake is simply something that did not go the way you expected or wanted it to. What can you learn from that?
- Remove the all or nothing mindset
Perfectionists tend to see things as black or white, all or nothing, success or failure. In reality, nobody achieves success without some form of struggle and learning from failures. See if you can allow yourself to do things incompletely, imperfectly and imprecisely – that is a more realistic path to achieving the success you’re looking for.
- Change your relationship with yourself
What is your typical self-talk? As a perfectionist it’s easy to berate yourself when things don’t go as you feel they should. Perfectionists are not kind to themselves. They push themselves mercilessly and never give themselves credit for their accomplishments. Stop self-blame by acknowledging that you’re doing your best. Switch your negative self-talk by learning to have more loving and respectful self-talk
- Celebrate progress
It’s difficult for perfectionists to acknowledge their progress. They’re so busy focusing on the fact that in their opinion it’s not good enough or could have been better and so focused on what they’re doing next that they never feel they have anything to celebrate. Learn to celebrate even small successes. Take a moment to acknowledge yourself when you complete something, when you learn something new, and when you overcome a challenge. You’ll ultimately find that you accomplish much more when you ease up on yourself.
If your perfectionist tendencies are working against you, learn how to make them work for you instead. You’ll be happier, and so will everyone around you. Here’s an affirmation that can help:
“I release the need to be critical of myself. I do my best and that’s good enough.”
Linda Binns is known as the Breakthrough Energy Expert. She works with individuals, organizations and business owners to maximize productivity, effectiveness and potential. Specializing in working with those who are intuitive, highly sensitive and/or empathic, Linda’s passion is helping people step into their greatness, so they can go from stuck to unstoppable. She teaches the skills to step through challenges with ease resulting in opportunities opening in every direction. For free Unstoppable Energy Tips or to find out more about Linda’s products and services, visit https://www.LindaBinns.com.