8 Simple Steps on How To Overcome Perfectionism

How can you tell if you are a perfectionist? A perfectionist is someone who holds the underlying belief that perfection can be attained and it should be. Many people in our world today are perfectionists or have been perfectionists at some point in our lives. Personally, I’m quite the perfectionist, always setting the highest standards for myself and never expecting anything less. In fact, if you are reading this article, you are probably a perfectionist too, being drawn to the word “perfectionist” in the title and all!

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So, Are You A Perfectionist?

You can usually spot a perfectionist a mile away, simply because of the extremist behavior that is exhibited. Here are ten tell-tale signs on whether you’re a perfectionist or not:

  1. You are highly conscious and hyper-critical of mistakes. Hence, you have an extremely sharp eye toward details.
  2. You aim to be the best in everything you do, even if it is something that you are not interested in.
  3. You spend copious amount of time, right down to the last moment, to perfect something. You would rather sacrifice your well-being (such as sleep, eating time, etc) than let something be less than it can be.
  4. You set absolute ideals. There is only black and white, no grey.
  5. You are the harshest critic of yourself. You would beat yourself up over the smallest thing that went wrong, to the extent of being neurotic.
  6. You mull over outcomes if they did not turn out as envisioned. You wonder why it wasn’t a different outcome, and whether you could have done anything to prevent that.
  7. You are defensive toward criticism and have a fear of failure because they suggest imperfection.
  8. You only have the end goal in mind. If you don’t achieve the goal, it really does not matter what happens in the process.
  9. You have an all-or-nothing approach. If the situation does not allow him/her to achieve the standard he/she laid out, he/she will abandon the task because it does not make sense to spend time on something that he/she is not going to conquer.
  10. You are very conscious of any situation which might give others the perception you are not perfect.

If you are a perfectionist, you will find the above traits highly familiar to you.

Okay, So here’s your eight steps to overcome perfectionism, for life:

1. Be aware of your motivations for perfection

To overcome perfectionism, first understand why you are a perfectionist. Why are you a perfectionist to begin with? To what end does your perfectionism serve?  Chances are, you will find that your underlying motivations for perfectionism are likely tied to an aspiration to be a better person, to be the best you can be, and to do right by others.

Knowing these motivations serve to remind yourself of why you strive for perfection to begin with, after which you can use them to cross-check with your behavior and see if your perfectionist tendencies actually serve you or pull you away from your vision of yourself.

For example, say you are a perfectionist because you want to achieve your best results in everything you do. Say you are preparing a presentation and you can’t seem to finish it because you keep finding things to edit. More specifically, these things you keep mulling over are little, nitty-gritty things, which don’t make a difference to the overall output.

It helps to review these questions: How does your obsession with trivial details help you to achieve your best results in life? Could you actually spend that time, elsewhere, in a more meaningful manner that enables you to achieve better results?

Make sure your perfectionism doesn’t turn into a self-sabotaging tool.

2. Recognize that ideals are directions, not absolutes

Neurotic perfectionists tend to beat themselves up incessantly over little setbacks and thwarts to their plans. They tend to see them as “failures”; in their minds, they think: “If I don’t achieve my goal or vision, that means I’ve failed. There is no point in doing any of this anymore. I have no way to rectify this situation. It’s a lost cause.”

As a perfectionist, you should recognize that your ideals are directions to work towards and not absolutes which you need to achieve. It is not your ideals that are the problems here; it’s your attachment towards them which need correction.

Ideals are very good. Whatever ideals you have, continue to hold them. Set BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) because they drive you in your growth. Commit yourself to said ideals and goals. At the same time, don’t attach yourself to them. They are meant as to inspire, guide, and bring the best out of you, not to make you feel bad about yourself. If you ever feel bad about not achieving a certain ideal or goal, review your attachment with it, and let go of this attachment.

3. Respect and love yourself

Are you beating yourself over something that could have been better? Let go of all these negative thoughts in your mind. You did what you could within that particular context. Recognize you are an individual with your own rights and integrity versus subjecting yourself to all the self-abuse and self-depreciation. Treat yourself with the respect you deserve.

Read: Are You Self-Sabotaging Yourself? (Understanding Self-Sabotaging Behavior and Breaking It)

4. Focus on the big picture

Overcoming perfectionism requires you to start seeing the forest for the trees. Use prioritization techniques such as Time Management Matrix (Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to aid you in identifying tasks which you should do and tasks which you should abandon altogether. For the tasks which you need to be involved in, use the 80-20 principle to help you gauge when to stop. Whenever a particular task is taking too much of your time, it is good to ask yourself ‘Does this matter in the bigger scheme of things?’. If it doesn’t, chuck it.

5. Focus on what can be done

Forget about mistakes that were made in the past which you cannot do anything about. Learn from them and move on; obsessing over them does not change anything at all. Realize that the time you spend thinking about your mistakes actually takes you away from time which you can have spent on more productive things instead! Stop worrying about things that are not within your locus of control, such as the future or perceptions by others. Plan for contingencies but beyond that, do not waste your time harping over it.

6. Delegate and let go

Have faith in other people’s abilities and delegate tasks to them. If they do not seem to be doing a particular task right, teach and help them instead of taking over entirely. Teach a man how to fish so there is more fish for everyone, rather than doing all the fishing yourself and limiting the total output.

7. Enjoy the entire process

The process is the longest part of achievement – enjoy it! Find ways to lighten it up – learn to laugh at yourself, take things positively, rest/eat/sleep/play when it is time to, take part in enriching recreational activities, do not deprioritize your social gatherings or time off from work.

Read: 365 Days of Motivation

8. Celebrate the victories and progress made

Give yourself a pat in the back for everything that you do, regardless of the outcome. Reward yourself or other people if a good job is done. Give credit where credit is due. Wholeheartedly celebrate your victories when they come along—you have rightfully earned them!

By the way, I still think that humans are perfect – it is in the imperfections that I see perfection.

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Your Turn…

What about you?  If you’re trying to change a certain script in your life, start small and experience some success.  Build from there.  What has been stopping you from moving forward with change?  What rituals (or habits) do you want to change in your life? The bottom line is that it’s never too late to take a step in the right direction.  It’s never too late to break free and become the person you are capable of being.  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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Source: Personal Excellence – Celes Chua

Published by: Invigorated Solutions.  Bob and Tracy are Co-Founders of Invigorated Solutions.  Tracy is a certified Life Coach specializing in life transition coaching, career changes, major life changes and family matters.  Both can be reached at info@invigoratedsolutions.com

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Passionate about life, learning, love and sharing their experiences of life, Bob & Tracy Wallace enjoy sharing their invigorated (energizing) solutions / advice and useful life tips for living life to the fullest on their popular life development blog, “Invigorated Solutions”.  Click HERE to visit our website for more valuable information.

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