Psychologist Harriet Braiker once said that “striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” There is no such thing as perfect. We often use the word perfect when we are unable to describe something, saying this is “perfect” is so basic that it almost undermines what you’re trying to express. It’s much better to say “This person is beautiful”, or “I love this shade of red” rather than “This is a perfect shade of red” or “This person is perfect.” Even when it’s meant as a compliment, I feel that the word “perfect” lacks true meaning. Perfect is a false idea we strive for instead of something more concrete, like achieving higher education or even wealth.
-You often fear failure, to the point that it holds you down at times
-You have a persistent dissatisfaction with what you’re doing or what you have achieved
-You continuously look for the right moment to do something
-You obsess over small details that have a minimal impact on the big picture
-You put your achievements and objectives before your self-care.
We’ve come up with a few steps you can take to break your perfectionism mindset and decrease your stress. These ideas should help you through your journey so you can enjoy life a little more.
“Average”, “mediocre”, and “ordinary” are often viewed as “dirty words” – almost derogatory. Banish that idea from your mind! Those words are supposed to represent the middle, and yet most people feel offended by being called “regular”. Face it: you will not be the best at everything you do. Most people are average at most things, and spend their lives being average. Does that mean we should look down at them or that they should feel bad about themselves? Absolutely not. We have this idea in society – and social media is largely responsible for it – that we need to be good at everything we do. That is a false ideology. We will be average at most things. We will be great at the things we enjoy doing. Accepting that you will be average and pursuing what you are good at is your road to success.
We are born to learn and discover. Life would be really boring if we knew everything and tried everything. As perfectionists, we have a strong desire to control every outcome. We have a tendency to fear that things will not go our way. These ideas create stress, which ultimately leads to cognitive bias – that is, we think we know everything, but we don’t. One example is thinking that if things don’t go your way, everything will fall apart. This fear of failure holds you back from learning and experiencing new things. We cannot control all aspects of a situation, no matter how hard we try. Exaggerated fears about the future take you out of the moment and decrease your chances of success.
Nothing is ever black or white, so don’t treat it like it is. Many of us believe our value is determined by our achievements; for example, we obsessively and compulsively pursue something and feel that any little mistake might undermine our self-worth. We cannot think that way. The all-or-nothing mindset takes a mental toll when we are pursuing a specific project. We put all our effort into one activity and completely neglect others, especially our health and emotional well-being. This is one of the most toxic things we can do to ourselves. One of my main issues – one that all perfectionists can relate to – is the idea that we’re either productive or lazy. Throw that idea out the window! We need time to relax. Set goals and time limits. It’s okay to set a task for tomorrow and squeeze in that extra episode of “How to Get Away With Murder” today.
If you’re driven by the idea that you are not successful enough, that’s okay. That is not the issue. The issue is that you need to reassess the way you measure your success. If you are working out and consistent at the gym but comparing yourself to Matt Fraser, you’re doing yourself more harm than good. You cannot compare yourself to a full-time athlete when you’re working a full-time job, hustling on the side and working out 3-4 times a week. That is not to say that comparing yourself to a coworker does not have some utility. If we didn’t make certain comparisons, we wouldn’t be able to evaluate our improvement. The key is to not generalize. If you start saying that his/her life is better or that he/she is more successful, it can lead you into a dark, deep hole. Examine how you define success in more detail. Is success an increase in free time? A doctorate in Economics? A deeper relationship? Those are specifics you can focus on. Don’t generalize your definition of success. Be specific. Then strive for that goal and reassess your next steps afterwards.
The best way to ease the stress of being a perfectionist is to set goals of varying difficulty levels. This will leave you feeling more fulfilled and in control while you consistently achieve and work towards bigger goals. Don’t generalize yourself and ideas; accept that you are a unique individual with personal strengths and weaknesses. Don’t let your flaws hold you back from achieving happiness and greater personal success. Be creative, go above and beyond, and enjoy the experience of the unknown.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Call it intuition, instinct, or a gut feeling: if we followed it, we just might be a lot happier. Intuition is a skill we are all born with, but one we submerge in the business of modern living.