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3 min read

Perfectly Imperfect: How to Overcome Perfectionism

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What is Perfectionism? And is it a Bad Thing?

Striving for excellence is not necessarily a bad thing, but different mindsets can branch from this concept. High achievers are more likely to strive in a healthy way, while perfectionists tend to attach so much importance to doing everything "just right" that their self-esteem, mental health, and even performance can suffer.

Those with a perfectionist attitude constantly feel the need to push themselves for more and rarely feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Perfectionist tendencies are high achiever standards that have taken on a less healthy, more negative aspect. Perfectionists may set unrealistic expectations for themselves, and find themselves in a state of chronic procrastination because they have difficulty initiating or completing a task until it can be done perfectly.

Perfectionism leads to negative consequences such as low self-esteem, feelings of stress and low self-worth, and anxiety. Learning how to overcome perfectionism can lead to increased mental health, greater satisfaction, and higher self-esteem.

Signs of Perfectionism

What does perfectionistic thinking look like? Many people may have perfectionistic tendencies, but believe they are simply high achievers. Here are some ways to tell that you or a loved one may have more of a perfectionist mindset. Perfectionists tend to:

Set unrealistic goals. A perfectionist typically has unrealistic expectations and standards and will set the bar so high they can't reach it.

Engage in black-and-white thinking. Perfectionism rarely makes room for gray areas. Something is either right or wrong, and there is nothing in between.

Have low self-esteem. Because they often set themselves up for failure with unrealistic standards and expect to achieve perfection, they often have low self-worth and may struggle with negative thought patterns.

Engage in negative self-talk. Because nothing is ever perfect, you will often find that people experiencing perfectionism tend toward self-criticism.

Experience socially prescribed perfectionism. Those who are perfectionists tend to believe that other people have the same standards of perfection for them that they hold themselves to.

Experience other mental health issues. Often, perfectionism and other mental health challenges go hand in hand. Some may experience conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anxiety disorders.

Strategies to Overcome Perfectionism and Embrace the Imperfect

Overcoming perfectionism can lead to healthier thoughts and behaviors, and better performance. The following are a few helpful tips to overcome perfectionism.

Become Aware of Your Negative Thoughts and Patterns

Self-awareness is the first step toward self-acceptance. By learning to identify patterns of perfectionist behavior and thinking, you can start to make changes. Take some time, if possible, to journal some perfectionistic thoughts you may notice throughout a given day. If you don't have the time, simply make a conscious effort to identify them.

Gain Perspective From Others

Talk to friends and family members to find out what they may notice about your perfectionism behaviors. Sometimes it can be difficult to see in yourself, but if you suspect that your high achiever tendencies may slide more into perfectionism, other opinions can be helpful.

Break the Cycle of Perfectionist Behavior With Positive Thinking

Make a concerted effort to notice the best in others and yourself. One of the ways perfectionism can negatively impact your life is by causing you to be critical of yourself and others, even in small details. Try to turn the tide by looking for the good in other's work, and in your own project.

Challenge Yourself

Next, challenge yourself to notice when you are having a negative thought about doing something, and then flip the script. For example, if you are working on a paper and you think to yourself, "this is full of spelling mistakes and poor grammar," take a moment to examine the truth of that statement. You may revise it to something like, "I've been working hard on this, and it expresses some great ideas! There are two spelling errors that I can easily fix."

Monitor Progress

Keep track of your progress on your journey toward achieving your goals in a healthy way. If you finish certain important tasks in a timely way because you didn't waste time worrying about them being perfect, make a note of it. If you took care to set realistic goals for a project, make a note of it. If you notice that you spoke in a kind way about yourself, make a note of it.

Practice self-acceptance and self-care.

Finally, learn to be kind to yourself. This means allowing yourself to work at your own pace, setting achievable goals, and learning the difference between criticism and constructive criticism. This may take time, but with patience and intent, it can be done. You may also want to enlist the help of a therapist.

When Therapy Can Help Overcome Perfectionism

Sometimes perfectionism can be so deeply ingrained that it can take a mental health professional to help support you in learning to identify impossible standards and highly critical self-talk. If you feel stressed trying to work through these tendencies on your own, therapy can help. It can be difficult to overcome perfectionism, especially if you've spent a lifetime holding yourself to unattainable standards.

If you are unsure of how to overcome perfectionism, a therapist can guide you in learning to be kinder to yourself, help to shift negative thought patterns, and even educate on self-care and time management.

Overcome Perfectionism in Austin, TX

Overcoming perfectionism isn't always easy on your own. Sometimes, to overcome perfectionism in thinking and behavior, you can use the support of a mental health therapist.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, we offer a range of online therapy and in-person appointments that can fit into any schedule, so that you can work with your therapist on building self-worth and making positive changes in your thoughts and behavior.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Austin therapist to offer their expertise and guidance in moving away from perfectionism and learning to be a high achiever in a healthy and self-affirming way. 

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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