In the pursuit of perfectionism, we often go so over the top that we are afraid to take on a new task. What to do with the inner perfectionist?
Anxiety, buried inside the complexes, represses fears – all this prevents us from living fully and being successful in work, school, or personal life. Some complexes we can notice and correct as early as college.
Some students overdo it when they try to rewrite their notes or homework to perfection, but you can use an ordinary online paper editor and not waste so much effort and nerves.
But still, most students are faced with their inner perfectionists. And to get rid of them can help with simple tools and exercises, which developed Caroline Foren, a specialist in the field of communication.
We published a chapter from her book “Confidence: a clear guide to getting rid of fears, complexes, and anxieties.
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Nine Ways to Confront a Perfectionist Mindset
The thought of unlearning this kind of deep-seated way of thinking and behaving is frightening in itself. But remember, this is just an internal attitude that can be changed with a little regular effort and patience.
It’s important to understand: perfectionist thoughts don’t have to be completely banished from your mind, you just need to tone them down a bit.
I don’t want to ignore my pursuit of perfection altogether, because it makes me give myself to everything I do with passion.
I like to do everything I undertake conscientiously, and this may be enough, at least sometimes, to be satisfied with the result.
First of all, don’t expect your way of thinking to change overnight. If you’re mad at yourself for being obsessed with striving for perfection again, your maladaptive perfectionism (such is the irony of the situation) is making itself known.
Choose which perfectionism you are going to pursue: the adaptive, i.e. healthy perfectionism that plays into your hands, or the maladaptive perfectionism, the outright neurotic perfectionism that takes the joy out of life.
The former will be based on high standards, but the flawless result will become a reference point rather than an absolute goal when the slightest discrepancy with the ideal is recognized as a complete fiasco (both for the task and for you as a person).
A healthy perfectionist is not happy about failure, of course – there are no miracles – but it doesn’t crush you like a giant paperweight. Failure does not define one’s personality.
2. Cognitive Restructuring
It sounds convoluted, but it simply means a nagging revision of one’s thoughts and perceptions. The goal is to regularly examine the evidence that supports or questions perfectionist thinking about a particular subject and try to look at the facts objectively.
Will the value of your personality diminish if you don’t achieve the best of your best? If this book doesn’t succeed with readers, does that mean I’m a bad author? If I failed, does it follow that I am mediocre and always will be?
Relate your thoughts and feelings to the situation you are in. Look back at the past for confirmation. If you realize that a thought is based on a false foundation, write down a new, more realistic inference.
3. Revisit Standards
In overcoming perfectionism, it is fundamentally important to revise standards, where possible, so that they can be achieved with effort and are defined by you (not someone else).
If you set your own standards and can never meet them, that’s totally wrong. Shouldn’t the standards we adopt take into account our personality?
In my experience, if you set yourself unrealistic, unrealizable goals and therefore do not succeed, you are consumed by the bitterness of failure, which is accompanied by low self-esteem and self-blame.
From time to time it is very nice to get more than you bargained for, but it is impossible to achieve it all the time, and a true perfectionist tends to strive for simply non-existent heights.
Set yourself such a criterion for success for the next task, which you would approve and encourage if it was a person close to you. Make high but achievable demands of yourself.
Set yourself an unattainable bar, over which you can not jump, you should understand that, as a result, will wallow in despondency and never feel satisfied.
At the same time, you might want to maintain some standards, for example, in professional activities, but you realize that perfectionism is a hindrance, say, in your personal life, so perhaps in this area it makes sense to reconsider the level of the bar.
4. Changing Your Point of View
A healthy approach to perfectionism during a particular task is to take paper and pen and write down everything you would say to a friend who is in the same position and ruthlessly criticizes himself.
This kind of experience of comparing ourselves to others can be useful. It allows us, looking at the situation from the outside, to consider the facts objectively, without unnecessary emotion. What would you say to a person who has failed?
Would you say that he is an obvious loser? If you communicated with this friend as well as with himself, he would probably have stopped all relations with you. He would also call you a bastard.
Here, too, you can check and question your double standards: why do you show leniency to those around you, but set too strict rules for yourself? As trite as it sounds, we should treat ourselves kindly.
Why are we so sympathetic and sympathetic to others and so damn cruel when it comes to ourselves – and who could be more important to a person than themselves?
You may have developed perfectionism because of your demanding parents, but as an adult, the demand to be perfect in everything comes solely from yourself (I understand that at work your boss may insist on perfect performance, but I am talking about the fact that in all areas of private life you ask more of yourself than any boss).
We try our best to shun people who get on our nerves, so why allow ourselves to engage in self-pity?
5. Flawless Doesn’t Mean Good
As Henry James said, “excellence does not presuppose perfection.” Remind yourself that the most excellent things are not necessarily flawless. Even excellence is a pretty lofty goal, so the best we can strive for is to do our best.
A healthy perfectionist can aim for high quality without undermining his or her self-esteem and enjoy the effort. This is the path I have chosen.
6. Rethinking Perfectionism
Among other things, I try to keep in mind that unfailing perfection is creepily boring. Think about the person you adore. Do you love him because he is flawless, or do you find his quirks, quirks, and flaws fascinating?
If I didn’t have an occasional tussle with my fiancé, I wouldn’t value the other 95% of the time we spend together so highly. If every day is perfect, wouldn’t all days become like one another, unremarkable and boring?
To me, perfection is a psychological attitude that we mistakenly take as a guide to action, but let me disappoint you: it does not exist. Understanding this simple truth helps us go back to our basic values and ideas about ourselves and tweak them so that they are fair, realistic, and do us no harm.
7. Behavioral Experiments
Another thing you can do is to deliberately put yourself in situations where you can make mistakes and put up with them it’s all about how you respond to “failure. Will it make the world fall apart?
No. Your worries about a minor slip or failure in a not-so-important undertaking will diminish when you lose in more substantial ventures.
You will learn to come to terms with this state of affairs, be satisfied with “not a bad result,” and eventually develop flexibility of thought.
When you can say, “Yes, I screwed up, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” or “I made a mistake because I’m only human,” you will begin to get rid of the categorical way of thinking that clouds life, and you will gain the capacity for much-needed self-compassion.
Experiment with actions in which the consequences of mistakes are minor, and try to take failure for granted.
8. Push the Boundaries of Thinking
This is advice from psychotherapist Mark Tyrrell. In his work Uncommon Knowledge, he notes: “The chronic perfectionist operates within a limited framework and therefore overlooks the broader context – what exactly he does and why he does it. Look at things more broadly.
For example, instead of presenting a task as the raison d’être of all existence, try looking at it as an opportunity to enrich your creativity, regardless of the outcome.
9. Enjoy Your Leisure Time
This is a very important point. Have you ever met people who are so focused on their goal that leisure time does not bring them joy? Tyrrell explains that some perfectionists find life meaningless if they are not constantly striving for a certain result.
Free time given to activities that serve no purpose but pleasure is rarely valued in the so-called “repressive psychological mode.
Treat leisure time not just as a break from your normal result-oriented activities, but as a useful and valuable pastime.