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Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Is Perfectionism Keeping You Perfectly Stressed?

By July 10, 2013

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You may already be aware that perfectionistic tendencies can make us all feel unnecessarily stressed. (And by "us all," I mean perfectionists, as well as those who must deal with them!) The impossibly high standards of a perfectionist can turn a simple task into a much bigger challenge than it needs to be, and a challenging task into an overwhelming endeavor. Perfectionism can be paralyzing; when the intimidation of perfectionistic standards sap us of the will to even begin the task, productivity suffers. And even when we do complete the task, if we let perfectionism sneak in, we end up noticing what we didn't do perfectly, at the expense of congratulating ourselves for what we did. Perfectionism robs us of the satisfaction of achievement.

What you may not realize about perfectionism is that changing these tendencies (in yourself, at least) is within your control, and may be simpler than you think. In fact, simply making it your new goal to overcome the urge to play perfectionist may be enough to minimize this habit! The following getting-over-perfectionism tips can start you in the right direction. Try them when you find yourself focusing a little too much on perfection, and learn to enjoy being perfectly imperfect.

  • Are You A Perfectionist?
    Becoming aware of perfectionistic tendencies, as well as the trouble they can create, is an important first step in the process of overcoming perfectionism. This allows you to tackle perfectionism head-on. Simply being aware of the impossibility of being perfect all the time in all tasks can help to set you free from maintaining this as a goal. (Therefore, I recommend that you take the perfectionism quiz to see if you, indeed, possess these tendencies, or to what degree.)

  • Start A Rough Outline
    Rather than attempting to complete each step of your project perfectly, see if you can do a good-enough job completely first, and go back to put on perfecting touches later. That means, when cleaning a room, doing a "clean sweep" and putting away as much as you can first, returning to do organizing later, rather than cleaning out the room drawer by drawer. That means outlining and revising a paper or a report, rather than trying to get each paragraph on paper perfectly as you go. Think of your tasks in terms of "rough drafts" that can be perfected later when at all possible, and you'll likely have the time and energy to do the revising.

  • "Imperfect" Is The New "Perfect"
    If you have perfectionistic tendencies, you can put these thought patterns to work for yourself by setting a new goal of being slightly imperfect. Once you recognize that perpetual perfection is not necessarily a healthy standard to set for yourself, you can pat yourself on the back when you find yourself able to embrace minor flaws and imperfections in yourself and your work. I'm not recommending that you make major mistakes on purpose, but rather congratulate yourself on doing a "good enough" job when a good enough job will truly do. Pat yourself on the back when you find yourself embracing imperfections that are truly harmless or unnoticeable to most people. Give yourself a break when possible, and congratulate yourself for that break.

  • Doing a perfect job has its place (like when lives depend on it), but those situations are generally rare. More often, perfectionistic tendencies cause more stress than they're worth. When this is the case, it's time to let go.

    More Resources for Perfectionists:

    How do you deal with perfectionism in yourself and in others? Share your answer in the comments.


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