Everybody desires to be perfect. That’s why you’ll see many people going the extra mile to please as many people as possible. But unfortunately, it’s not possible to be perfect? This article provides you with tips on how to stop being a perfectionist.
Who’s a Perfectionist?
A perfectionist is a person who always strives to be flawless by preoccupying themselves with their inadequacies, working extra hard, criticizing themselves, and trying to have full control over every situation. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to know you are a perfectionist. Also, it’s important to note that virtually everybody has an element of perfectionism.
Many people make huge investments to become perfectionists, especially because of the affirmative meanings of the word “perfect.” But being a perfectionist can have a negative impact on your life and the people you interact with every day. One of the disadvantages of being a perfectionist is the fact that perfectionists tend to achieve less than regular achievers.
Perfectionists also have difficulty building and maintaining relationships because they cause a lot of stress. These people are very picky and always preoccupied with the idea of wanting to make everything perfect, which often leads to efforts to control situations and people.
This results in excess stress and takes a toll on your social life. In most cases, this kind of stress leads to anxiety and other psychological problems like low self-esteem, sleep disturbance, eating disorders, and psychological distress.
Characteristics of a Perfectionist
Sometimes perfectionists are confused with high achievers, but the two have several key dissimilarities. Here are some of the main traits of a perfectionist.
Like high achievers, perfectionists usually set very high goals and go the extra mile to achieve them. But while a high achiever can be contented with a great job or something close to perfection, a perfectionist won’t accept anything less than perfection. They view things and situations that are almost perfect as a failure.
A perfectionist is highly critical of himself or herself than anyone else. While regular achievers find pride in their achievements and support other people’s inadequacies, perfectionists focus more on mistakes and imperfections. They also tend to be judgmental and hard on themselves and other people who don’t measure up to their standards of perfection.
Controlled by Fear
While high achievers are pushed by their goals and desire to accomplish them, perfectionists are pushed by fear of failure. That’s why they look at anything less than perfect as a failure. Ordinary people are happy with steps made toward achieving their goals, even if those steps don’t achieve the desired results.
High achievers set high goals and enjoy the thrill of going the extra mile when they achieve those goals. Perfectionists, on the other hand, always set unreasonable standards and impractical goals. This puts them under immense stress as they pursue those goals.
Obsessed with Results
Ordinary high achievers tend to enjoy the process of pursuing their goals more than achieving the actual objectives. Perfectionists, on the other hand, are obsessed with results. They just want to achieve their goals and nothing else. They are so focused on avoiding failure that they see nothing interesting about the process.
Since it’s impossible to be flawless, perfectionists tend to be very defensive due to their less-than-perfect performance. A perfectionist will always take constructive criticism with a defensive attitude. High achievers, on the other hand, high achievers take criticism as valuable lessons to help them become better.
What Causes Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is a result of a combination of several factors. By analyzing these factors, you’ll begin to notice any traits of perfectionism in yourself. Here are the common factors that contribute to perfectionism:
Insecurity: Many people become perfectionists because of constant fear of being disapproved by other people or the feeling of anxiety and insufficiency.
Mental health problems: Anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other mental health problems can cause perfectionism. Studies have discovered a correlation between OCD and perfectionism. But understand that not every perfectionist has OCD, and not everyone with OCD is a perfectionist.
Family influence: If you were brought up by a parent who exhibited perfectionistic behavior or often expressed disapproval when your efforts didn’t result in perfection, you are likely to be a perfectionist. Some parents tend to be abusive as they try to encourage their children to be perfect.
Uncertain early attachment: If you had an uneasy attachment with your parents as a child, you may have difficulty soothing yourself as an adult. You may also have difficulty accepting a good outcome that is not perfect.
Is Perfectionism a Mental Disorder?
In this digital era, perfection has become the order of the day. Unfortunately, most of the things that look perfect on screen are fake. Therefore, trying to look like your favorite TV celebrity will only leave you depressed because it’s impossible to be perfect. The pressure to look perfect and be the best is taking a huge toll on many people.
Perfectionism is broad and is mainly characterized by an overcritical relationship with yourself. While setting high goals and pursuing excellence is a good trait, perfectionism can be dysfunctional because it can make you feel permanently flawed or inadequate. If you fail to achieve your unrealistic goals severally, you might end up feeling like you are inadequate.
The current struggles with perfectionism are slowly turning out to be a mental problem. Unfortunately, this problem is affecting almost everyone regardless of their age, education, and social status. This problem has become the main subject of discussions at TED talks, Instagram memes, podcasts, books, and online articles. Even renowned public figures and celebrities like Zendaya and Natasha Lyonne are now opening up about their struggles with perfectionism.
Perfectionism has also been linked to various mental problems. A recent study revealed that excess perfectionism is associated with depression, apprehension, low self-esteem, obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other mental issues. The endless desire to be perfect can leave you stressed, fatigued, and suffering from sleeplessness and headaches.
How to Stop Being a Perfectionist: 6 Tips
So, now that you understand that perfection is a huge problem, you should work hard to end it. Here are some of the easiest ways to stop being a perfectionist.
1. Focus on the Bigger Picture
Experts advise perfectionists to appreciate the opportunity cost of their behavior. When you focus on one task, you ignore a million other tasks and opportunities. It also gets you to the point of diminishing returns. So, you should take a step back and evaluate the task you are focusing on from a broader perspective.
2. Reset Your Goals and Standards
If your goals and standards prove to be unrealistic, you should shy away from resetting them. This may be a difficult thing to do alone, but you can seek help from a professional who understands how to deal with perfectionists. You should work with your colleagues and supervisors to reset your goals.
3. Create a Checklist
Perfectionism makes your tasks never-ending and the results unsatisfying. But with a checklist, you can outline your goals in a way that helps you see what is more important and what you’ve accomplished.
4. Quit Ruminating
Rumination is the tendency to dwell on a single thought or issue without finding a solution. This can be unhealthy because it prevents you from moving on or solving the problem. Experts advise you to take time to identify the triggers and discover ways to disrupt your rumination cycle.
5. Get a Different Perspective
Although it’s hard to know when perfectionism becomes counterproductive, you should ask someone for an honest opinion. It takes courage and honesty to open up to someone else about your inadequacies and desire to be better. Use their honest opinion to figure out what you need to do to stop being a perfectionist.
6. Monitor Your Progress
It’s important to take some time to reflect on where you are coming from, where you are, and where you are going. Experts suggest that you take a weekly review of your progress. For instance, you should check if there’s something or a situation that you avoided due to fear of failure. This will help you to identify the triggers and find the best solutions.