Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
How To Stop Being A Perfectionist One Step At A Time
Published Jul 10th, 2020 & updated on May 22nd, 2021
When you think of the word perfect, maybe you think of a sunny afternoon on the beach, your partner’s eyes, or the smell of a new book. What you probably don’t think of is a mountain of stress, hours of procrastination, or feelings of inadequacy. How can something with the root word “perfect” be so not perfect? Welcome to perfectionism. In this article, we dive thru how to stop being a perfectionist and letting it run your life.
Perfectionism “involves a tendency to set standards that are so high they either cannot be met or are only met with great difficulty.” Basically, perfectionism is trying to make things so perfect that they become unattainable. Whether it’s spending hours on a simple task or rewriting an email for the tenth time, these high standards usually leave no room for error.
This leads to another noteworthy aspect of perfectionism: the fear of failure. Perfectionism creates the belief that making a mistake, no matter how small, will lead to criticism and rejection. The belief that, if you are not perfect you will not be liked.
As if this wasn’t enough, there is an added desire to be perfect that comes from social media. We all know what it’s like to see an immaculate Instagram feed where every image is filtered in Clarendon and everyone looks like they’ve walked right out of a movie – with the body to match.
What we never see are the makeup products, the 47 other photos, and the hours of editing that go into capturing even the most “spontaneous” and “authentic” moments. It’s easy to look at social media and believe that everyone else has the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect life.
It’s easy to believe that you should too.
Managing Your Perfectionism
Social media and today’s society are creating a world where, despite success, people feel inadequate. The growing issue of perfectionism is negatively affecting the mental health and wellbeing of people around the world.
Perfectionism is sometimes thought of as a positive characteristic. People pride themselves on being perfectionists. But for those who struggle with perfectionism, it is the complete opposite. We know how hard it can be. And we’ve got your back. Here are 4 ways to manage your perfectionism and make peace with where you’re at.
1. Set realistic goals.
Realistic goals are a great way to address perfectionism because they work with you, at your pace. You can start wherever you are right now and keep working on them for as long as you need to. Overcoming perfectionism won’t be easy or instantaneous.
Setting SMART goals allows you to split a seemingly impossible task into smaller, more manageable pieces. Goals will give you guidelines to stick to so that perfectionism doesn’t try to creep in. Having a trusted friend or family member check them over to make sure they are realistic and achievable is also a great idea!
2. Celebrate the little things.
Just because your achievements aren’t revolutionary and earth-shattering doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be celebrated. Maybe you posted a picture without editing it, or maybe you only proofread your email twice before sending it instead of the usual ten times.
Whatever your little victory is today, celebrate it!!
Rewarding yourself for the little things can help with perfectionism, too. By acknowledging that every little thing is important, you won’t feel like everything is riding on one big thing that has to be absolutely perfect. Celebrate the little wins – they’re all a part of the big picture.
3. Share your imperfections.
This will probably be the most terrifying thing ever. But as Brene Brown has taught us, vulnerability is the key to human connection. Every one of us experiences vulnerability but it takes courage and strength to let it show. In an attempt to remain perfect, we often don’t show our whole selves.
Don’t forget that every part of you, every stage of your life, is important and worth celebrating. Being grateful for where you are right now will help you acknowledge and accept imperfections as normal and human (we’re getting to that).
So, tell people about a time you failed. Post a picture without makeup on. Normalize imperfections. These are the ways to build connections and truly understand one another. You never know who you might be helping by sharing your vulnerability.
4. Remember: NO ONE is perfect.
Think about someone in your life who is perfect. Someone who has never sent an email with a spelling mistake, never forgotten their lines during a presentation, and never had a pimple on their face. Someone who has never made a mistake. You’re going to be thinking for a while.
Because despite what it may feel like, and what you may hear, and what you may see on social media, NO ONE IS PERFECT. Not even Beyoncé. Seriously. What we are is human.
We are clumsy, forgetful, imperfect, mistake-making humans. And we are still loved, and we are still beautiful.
When perfectionism is getting the best of you, make a conscious effort to shift your thoughts from “I need to be perfect” to “I will do the best I can”. Remember that your appearance, work, or grade does not define you. You are so much more than that. And if you ever forget, come on back here and we’ll remind you.