Are you a perfectionist? There’s nothing wrong with wanting things in your life just so, wanting things beautiful, wanting everything done right, and wanting to work hard to achieve great goals. Each of us has our own view of what is perfect, but there is no overall standard for it. Holding ourselves to perfectionism as we see it can be detrimental to our own health and insisting on our own standard can be detrimental to our relationships with others. Managing your perfectionist tendencies can be an important life skill.
High Standards and Reality
Yes, high standards for yourself in every area of your life are good. You don’t want low standards to live by, but you cannot set high standards and expect perfectionism from each of them. There isn’t a perfect life – or even a perfect job or a perfect mate. Looking perfect or behaving perfectly are unrealistic. Things don’t happen perfectly.
Set high standards but don’t make their achievement be the ultimate measure of your sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. Learn how to re-evaluate those standards as needed to allow for small imperfections and flexibility. Consider that striving for perfection can mean you don’t realize many of the goals or plans you desire because you spend so much time and energy that it decreases what you can do.
Pressure and Perfectionism
If you believe that things must be just so, done this way, or appear that way, you are putting too much pressure on yourself. For example, if you cannot leave your home without everything being put away and all things looking perfectly clean, you might put a lot of pressure on yourself if you’re already running late.
If you take the time to clean up, you could be late for work, the kids could be late for school, and you could be so stressed as you are driving that you ruin your morning and theirs. Are those possible outcomes worth the clean house? Making choices with a larger perspective is important.
Mental Health and Perfectionism
You’ll drive yourself crazy if you want things perfect and don’t allow any room for mistakes. In fact, your own mental and emotional health can be affected with depression, anxiety and other impacts of stress. And you’ll damage relationships with people around you too.
4 Tricks to Keep Perfectionism in Check on a Daily Basis
Here are some tips to help in managing your perfectionist tendencies on a daily basis:
Perfectionists often spend far too much time trying to perform even mundane tasks perfectly. Take some time to consider what in your life you feel most strongly about being the highest quality. Then try to let go of other things as being subject to the ‘perfect’ requirement.
As you look at your daily activities, make decisions about when to do them and how much time to spend on them based on that assessment. Prioritize the most important things. This can decrease pressure and increase your satisfaction.
- Take Mistakes in Stride
If you’re a perfectionist, making a mistake can feel crippling and derail your productivity for the rest of the day. Practice taking your mistakes in stride and seeing them as opportunities to learn something for the future. Rather than dwelling on and feeling badly about it, focus on the future and how to avoid the mistake or improve the next time.
- Take a Perspective Break
Next time you find yourself panicking over a small detail that isn’t perfect or stressed about all you have to do perfectly that day, take a step back and give yourself a ‘perspective break.’ Simply ask yourself how important a task really is. By forcing yourself to assess its importance, you’ll be able to recognize when you’re obsessing over less important tasks and save time for working on the things that actually matter.
- Get a Friend’s Take
Another way to keep your tasks and problems in perspective is to ask a friend for their take on things. If you’re convinced that your room just doesn’t look right no matter how you arrange it, for example, ask a friend what they think. Their comments can show you if it’s your inner perfectionist speaking or what could be changed for a better result. This can make it easier to realize when the detail you’re stuck on simply isn’t a big deal or give you helpful input.
- Hold Yourself Accountable with Kindness
There’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but if that comes at a cost to sanity or self-esteem, it is not worth it. Staying kind and understanding about your own flaws and inconsistencies is key to sharing that generosity of spirit with others.
Replace your harsh and demeaning thoughts and self-talk when things aren’t ‘perfect’ with positive reinforcements. Give yourself a break by looking back at your track record of successes instead of the shortcomings. This can encourage you as you continue managing your perfectionist tendencies to make your life and relationships more enjoyable and fulfilling.
If you want to do more work in this area, I recommend this journal. The Perfectionism Journal is new in spring of 2022 and provides prompts, exercises and room for reflections. Check it out to see if it will be a tool for you. https://amzn.to/3Fm0PfK
I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.