How to Overcome Perfectionism

How to Overcome Perfectionism

How to Overcome Perfectionism

Last updated date : January 13, 2022

There is a difference between healthy versus maladaptive perfectionism. Above all, both groups want to succeed, do well. People with healthy perfectionism are motivated to do their best, whilst those with maladaptive perfectionism are driven by fear, insecurities and low self-esteem. In this article on how to overcome perfectionism, we are going to cover 12 tips, ideas and strategies to overcome perfectionism.

Chapter 1:
Overcoming Perfectionism with Insight

Firstly, often it all starts with improving awareness, becoming aware of your perfectionism. Perhaps your friends and family have told you that you have high standards, or maybe you had read about perfectionism somewhere and found that you could relate. Some people are told that they have perfectionism by that marital counsellor, psychologist or doctor. It can come as a rude surprise. Often the first step to overcoming a problem is to become aware of it. Mental health professionals call this insight. Once you have insight into your perfectionism, the next step to overcoming perfectionism usually is a sense of acceptance and wanting to improve.

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Chapter 2:
Becoming Aware of Your Perfectionistic Tendencies

Once you have insight into your perfectionism, you might start to see signs of it in your everyday life. You might get strong thoughts about wanting to succeed, fears of being a failure if you don’t achieve or worries about not being able to impress others. Take some time to notice these thought patterns around perfectionism. In our Epsychonline perfectionism course, we have worksheets where you can write down these thoughts to understand them better.

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Chapter 3:
Overcoming Perfectionism by Changing Your Mindset

Thirdly, you might have heard of fixed and growth mindset. When we have a growth mindset, we see our mistakes as a healthy part of learning and growing. When we take a growth mindset to perfectionism, our growth mindset provides a healthy way of managing disappointment and failure. Most successful athletes, politicians, actors, business people and entrepreneurs have filled at some point in their lives. Whilst they may not have used a “growth mindset “per se when overcoming their setbacks, the approach and strategies they took likely were aligned with the growth mindset.

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Chapter 4:
How to Overcome Perfectionism with Self-Compassion

Fourthly, perfectionists are notoriously hard on themselves. They often set higher standards for themselves than others. Self-compassion, being kind and understanding to oneself can be hard for perfectionists. Everyone makes mistakes and struggles. Kindness and self-compassion can help to motivate people to achieve better. Instead of beating yourself down if you don’t meet your high standards, practice some self-compassion, go easy on yourself.

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Chapter 5:
Healthy Expectations

Having high, lofty expectations is universal among perfectionists. In fact, it is part of the definition of being a perfectionist. Often these high standards are unrealistic. Since they are impossible to meet, attempts to meet those expectations lead to frustration and disappointment. If you are constantly disappointed and upset with yourself for not meeting your expectations, perhaps, reassess the goals that you set for yourself. Having healthy expectations, breaking down big tasks often leads to better outcomes in the long run.

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Chapter 6:
Overcoming Perfectionism by Allowing Yourself to Make Mistakes

This ties into the third point about having a growth mindset. When we allow ourselves to make mistakes, we allow ourselves the chance to learn, grow and do better. Often mistakes are how we find answers. 

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Chapter 7:
Learn How to Overcome Perfectionism by Receiving Criticism Well

As we touched on earlier, perfectionists often have low self-esteem and a negative view of themselves. They struggle to take criticism. Yes, sometimes criticism can hurt, and it can feel like a failure. However, constructive or helpful criticism can lead to learning and growth. When someone is giving you feedback, try to listen and understand if they are being helpful. Sometimes the feedback that you receive may help you solve a problem or open the door to a solution.

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Chapter 8:
Saying No to Negativity and Stress

Perfectionistic tendencies are rarely consistent; they go up and down in intensity. Stress and negativity can often make up perfectionism stronger or more intense. Perfectionism can be seen as a way of coping, managing stress. When we are under the pump, we focus more on our work and being productive. Suppose you can manage the stress and negativity that you are under. In that case, you might find that your perfectionism comes down. Therefore make sure you get adequate sleep, exercise, and find time to relax and spend with friends and family.

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Chapter 9:
Overcoming Perfectionism by Managing Procrastination

Resolution and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. At Epsychonline, we have a six-week course on perfectionism. Week four of that course is dedicated to perfectionism and procrastination. Briefly speaking, perfectionism and procrastination go hand-in-hand. If you can get better at time management, adhering to deadlines, keeping yourself accountable. You will notice that your perfectionism comes down several notches.

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Chapter 10:
Learning How to Overcome Perfectionism by Learning How to Say No

This point is similar to the fourth point. If you can say no to expectations from others and yourself, you will be well on your way to overcoming perfectionism. If you have multiple competing interests or goals that you are working towards, it might help to say no to one or two of them. That way, you will be under less pressure and stress as well. 

Chapter 11:
Overcoming Perfectionism by Redefining Yourself

People with high standards, perfectionists, tend to define themselves and their work by success and accomplishment. Whether it is a degree from a prestigious university, earning a large salary, driving a nice car, these status symbols are seen as ways of defining self-worth and value. Instead of defining yourself by your accomplishments, focus on defining yourself by your values. This can help blunt the extreme edge of perfectionism. For instance, instead of having a goal to earn a large year-end bonus at work instead, focus on your value of generosity. Your goal could then be to buy nice presents for your nephews and nieces.

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Chapter 12:
I Am Overcoming Perfectionism by Ending Comparison

Finally, comparing ourselves to others often leads to us feeling worse about ourselves. The comparisons we make are never accurate because we don’t know all the facts about the other person’s life. Also, we usually compare the worst bits of ourselves to the best parts of others. Comparison can get in the way of overcoming perfectionism. Instead, focus on self-appreciation, loving the imperfect parts of yourself. If you can genuinely appreciate yourself and value yourself, you will be on your way to overcoming perfectionism.

Overcoming perfectionism is no easy task. There are many ways to go about it, as we have shown in this 12-step article on how to overcome perfectionism. We hope these 12 tips help. Pick the ones you feel suit you the best. We have a perfectionism course at Epsychonline, which you can find on the courses page. Share your thoughts about perfectionism and the successes you have had trying to overcome it, no matter how small! Plus, what you have learnt along the way.

Learn how to overcome perfectionism, 12 tips to overcoming perfectionism, ending comparisons, redefining yourself, managing procrastination, learning to say no.

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Written by
Dr Joseph Kekulawala
Psychiatrist

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