How to Fight Excessive Perfectionism

By Karen Palmer on May 2020
Category: College Life

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Trying to achieve a great result is not bad at all. But being a perfectionist often means being your own enemy in a sense that it makes it harder for a person to be satisfied with what they do. Perfectionism often damages one’s self-esteem and negatively affects productivity; that’s why it’s so important to fight that inner perfectionist to become happier about yourself and the results of your work. Here are a few tips on how you can do that.

Should You Fight It?

Perfectionism is a tendency towards improving ourselves and a motivating force that drives our lives and our goals. However, sometimes it might hurt more than actually help in our everyday life, study, and work. If you wonder if your inner perfectionist causes you only problems, you should know a few signs of excessive perfectionism:

  1. All or nothing. If you believe that being not the best means being a loser, you may be a perfectionist.
  2. Being afraid of criticism. If getting critical feedback makes you angry or depressed, this is not a good sign. Being criticized is not the most pleasant thing in the world, but it helps us improve ourselves and grow.
  3. Waiting for a perfect moment. Many perfectionists are great procrastinators because they are simply waiting for the “perfect moment.” It’s hard for them to start working on the task as they need to know for sure that they are ready to perform the best result possible.
  4. Being weighed down by goals. A healthy perfectionist is a person who becomes inspired by their goals in lives; this is the source of their energy and motivation. However, a person with excessive perfectionism often considers their goals more like a burden because of a fear of not succeeding in achieving them.
  5. Neglecting yourself. A neglectful approach towards your health and rest time in order to concentrate on your work might be a sign of excessive perfectionism that might badly affect your health and personal life.

So, do you find these signs relatable? Do you procrastinate a lot and sometimes decide not to start a task at all if you can’t complete it 100%? If so, you definitely should learn how to control your inner perfectionist and make it work for you, not against. Here are a few easy tips on how you can do it.

Learn to Love Yourself

This is the first step that you should start with – respect yourself, your body, and your mental health, learn to love yourself no matter how “perfect” you are. Though this looks pretty easy, it’s hard to implement these simple rules in your life.

Whenever you start working on a task, tell yourself that you are doing your best, but your results will not define you, or rule your life. And whenever things don’t go the way that you planned, remind yourself that you are not the one to blame.

Stop Negative Self-talk

It’s hard to avoid that negative self-talk as perfectionists usually do that almost every single day. They blame themselves and might think, “I’m not good enough,” or “I hate myself for not being able to nail this task.” They also often sacrifice their sleep and meals in order to meet the deadline. But often these sacrifices and all the effort goes unnoticed by others, causing perfectionists to suffer.

What you should do to fight your excessive perfectionism is to start concentrating not on your fails, flaws, and downsides, but on the things that you do right, the things that you are good at, especially the ones that have nothing to do with your academic performance. For example, “I am a great listener and good at keeping secrets,” or “I am great at cheering people up.” Love yourself and praise yourself. Tell yourself, “I’m a great person and am trying my best” whenever negative thoughts cross your mind.

Prioritize Yourself

If your work or studying makes you forget about your needs, such as a good sleep or socializing, you need to learn to take breaks. Prioritize your health, as this is one of the most important things in your life, way more crucial than that one biology assignment. You probably will not even remember about those all-nighters that you are pulling now, but your health might be badly affected. Put yourself first.

Learn How to Let Go

Sometimes no matter how you try, you can’t achieve your goal. And it’s absolutely normal as you just can’t control absolutely everything.

The one thing that every perfectionist should learn is how to let go of your specific expectations, plans, and expected results and just move forward without constantly turning to this situation in your head. Many perfectionists tend to remind themselves about their mistakes from the past, thinking about what they did wrong and how they would approach such a situation now.

But learning a lesson from your experience and focusing on your failures is not the same thing. Let these mistakes go, let people who you delegate tasks do what they think is right. Stop being so controlling and learn how to relax and delegate tasks to other people. For example, you can turn to our team of writers if you are overwhelmed with your assignments.

Let Your Expectations Be Your Guide, Not Absolutes

Every perfectionist knows how devastating and annoying it is when the results don’t match your expectations. However, things in our world don’t really work the way that perfectionists think.

When a person has goals and expectations, they need to treat them like guidelines rather than absolutes with a 100% match. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to set your goals for the future. It means that not achieving them or achieving in a different way than you have imagined doesn’t mean that you are a failure.

There are many people who dream of being rock stars, for example, but there are not as many rock stars in the world, right? But many of those who have such a dream learn how to sing or play drums – they move towards their dream. And even though they don’t achieve it, they improve themselves, work on their skills, and have their motivation. It’s much better than just thinking, “I will never be able to achieve this goal; I won’t even do anything to try.”

Your expectations might not match your actual results, just like your goals, but they don’t have to. They are simply your own guides that you follow in your life in order to move forward.

Every Progress Matters

The majority of perfectionists tend to focus on their mistakes and failures, leaving their success unnoticed. They have very high expectations of themselves, putting the bar so high it actually hurts them.

Many good singers focus on the times they made mistakes during their performances; many scientists remember their hypotheses not being supported. This is a negative tendency that ruins your self-esteem and makes you feel disappointed continuously with yourself.

Such behavior can easily lead to depression and severely affect your mental and physical health. We all make mistakes – just accept that. You don’t become less of a great human being by making a mistake in your essay or failing a test.

You need to celebrate all the progress you make. Every success and every mistake of yours should be equally treated in a term that you notice your victories and learn from your failures. Because only if you treat your mistakes as another experience and praise yourself even for the smallest victories in your life, you can break those chains of dissatisfaction that pull you down.

If you do so, you will notice that it helps you strive for the better and doesn’t make you any less of a productive and aspiring person.

Learn How to Relax

Many perfectionists, though they are procrastinators, don’t let themselves rest as they think that they waste too much time on doing nothing useful. That approach grows into the feeling of dissatisfaction and guilt that haunts perfectionists, not letting them relax.

What can such behavior lead to? Problems with mental and physical health, work ethic, stress, depression. These are not the things that you want in your life.

Alternate working hours with breaks, and don’t shame yourself for having them. Sometimes we all need just to watch TV lying in our beds, and this is absolutely normal. Our brain needs to recharge and have some rest in order to work productively.

Final Thoughts

Perfectionism might be a real struggle, especially for students who live under the pressure of deadlines, grades, and responsibility. And though many perfectionists think they simply strive for better, they usually don’t understand how badly they treat themselves, setting their expectations so high. However, excessive perfectionism can only cause more problems when it comes to your health. Being able to work on your approach towards your tasks, results, self-esteem, and self-care is the only way you can fight excessive perfectionism to live your full life without negative self-talk. We wish you to find balance in your life.

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