10 Ways to Stop Being a Perfectionist

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism, according to Merrian-Webster, is defined as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.”

Perfection is generally understood as not making any mistakes. We all have a desire to do things right in life.

But when it gets to a point where we want to do everything right in our work, it can cause us a lot of stress and anxiety.

As the saying goes, it’s important that we don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. You can recognize that the good you’ve achieved is enough sometimes.

Related: 11 Reasons Why Imperfect Is the New Perfect

What is the root cause of perfectionism?

According to goodtherapy.org, a variety of factors can cause someone to be a perfectionist. Among the possibilities include:

  • Fears of disapproval
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Mental illnesses like OCD or anxiety
  • Having a disapproving or perfectionist parent

You may feel pressure to live up to previous achievements if you’ve had a history of great accomplishments.

Fortunately, through learning and choosing to have better thought patterns, you can feel less stress about your work not always being perfect.

How to stop being a perfectionist

Girl with hands over head stressing and needing to learn how to stop being a perfectionist

1. Learn to trust yourself

As mentioned earlier, wanting to do things perfectly and be perfect in something partially stems from insecurity.

You’re insecure in the work that you do. You lack trust in your abilities and actions being good enough.

Look back at your previous accomplishments in life and look at that as evidence to believe in yourself.

If you choose to trust yourself in what you do, you’ll feel less doubt about making sure everything is perfect.

2. See mistakes as a chance for growth

Remember that mistakes can be a positive thing, because they help you to grow as a person. You see that you can do better next time and improve.

Unless we’re a natural at something, inevitably we all make mistakes. But as long as you recognize the importance of learning from them, you can feel less bad about them.

3. Be realistic about your goals

It can be the case sometimes that we set our goals and expectations a little too high. You can’t expect to be a skilled tap dancer overnight after one practice.

You also can’t expect to be big and muscular after one workout. Remember that in order to to achieve big goals, you first have to achieve small goals.

Set your expectations and goals at a realistic level that’s specifically fits with where your skill level is at currently.

If you’re new to something, don’t expect to be perfect at it immediately. Try to focus on just getting one small thing right first and build up from there.

4. Question your negative criticism

It’s often true that sometimes we can be our own worst critic when it comes to what we do in life. But sometimes you have to question the criticism you give yourself.

It can help to have a good friend, family member, or mentor tell you whether you’re being too hard on yourself.

If you bake a cake, and the frosting is perfectly even everywhere except one small spot which you think ruins it, you’re being too hard on yourself.

Put what you see as flawed in perspective to limit your feeling of distress when not everything with your work is perfect.

5. Focus on one or two things a day

No matter how hard you try, you can’t do everything in one day. When you’re using your time to do one thing, you’re taking away time to do another thing.

You need to set your priorities to accomplish whatever you feel would be the best use of your time. I always feel if I can two big things done in my day, I can be satisfied with myself.

Every night before you go to bed, decide what your top priorities are going to be, and the next day, put your attention towards achieving those things.

6. Remind yourself that you are enough

As I expressed in a previous post titled, “you are enough”, you don’t have to achieve anything to be worthy of respect and love.

As the unique human being, you are enough to be loved, respected, and appreciated no matter how perfect you are at something.

So, in the midst of your improvements you’re trying to make in life, keep reminding yourself that even though things aren’t how you want them to be yet, you are enough.

7. Think about the positive you’ve achieved

When we focus too much on our mistakes, we forget about the positive we’ve achieved in the work we’ve done.

Every time you think of one thing you did wrong, think of two things you did right. Give yourself encouragement for the things you achieved in your day.

It’ll make you feel good and keep you positive on your path to improving yourself.

8. Be happy with good enough

Not everything always has to be perfect. If you make a 95 on a test, even though it’s not a 100, it’s still an A.

You have to recognize that good can be good enough for the work you’re doing sometimes. Be happy if you reached a high achievement at something even if it isn’t the highest you could achieve.

9. Find a distraction

When it gets really hard to make your time on how well you’ve done at your work, take time to focus on something else.

Move on to some other task or choose to do something that relaxes you such as watching a funny movie or listening to music.

Getting your mind off of things for a little bit can help calm your mind and allow you to see your work from a better perspective.

10. Speak with a counselor

If you think your perfectionism may be tied to a mental disorder, the best thing you can do is seek the help of a professional.

You can find a therapist that can help you sort through your thoughts and emotions and help you be less stressed about trying to always be perfect.

Try using one or all of these techniques to help you not feel a need to do things perfectly. The less you feel a need to do things to perfection, the happier you’ll feel.

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