In a therapy group that I attended on perfectionism, the therapist said an interesting thing. “The opposite of perfectionism is not failure but excellence.”
According to her, perfectionism actually holds you back from performing at your best. Now, you might not agree with this exact quote but I hope that you can see where trying to be perfect leads to misery and failure. When I stress over something for hours, it takes longer and drains me of joy.
But hope still remains. There are many ways to come against perfectionism that I have learned through therapy. Although they are not easy to use, I think that However, I am going to briefly focus on ten in this list.
- Set a starting and ending time. When you have a project due in school or work, try to give yourself enough time to finish it and then set it aside. That way you are not continuously worrying about and fixing it.
- Compliments yourself twice for each insult that you give yourself. This is very difficult but it builds up your confidence and teaches your brain to make new pathways.
- Ask a friend or family member for help if you are unable to think of anything good about yourself. Asking for praise might seem selfish. However just like asking for help, it is something that is needed sometimes.
- Focus of the process instead of the end product. This is especially helpful for creative or research-based projects. Instead of panicking because your painting is not perfect or your paper is in the middle of the length requirement instead of being as long as possible, try to enjoy learning and growing as a person. Appreciate what is happening in the moment instead of panicking about the end.
- Laugh at yourself. I hate writing this one. However finding humor in situations and mistakes can help you to be kinder to yourself. Instead of berating the mistake made, try to giggle at it.
- Put whatever you are working on in perspective. Will you die if this fails? Yes, I know that you feel like the world will reject you and all will hate you forever. At least that is often how I feel. However, it is sometimes good to remember that this is not the end of the world.
- Take a break. This is not being lazy. Instead, walking away for a little bit can help you to produce a better product.
- Collaborate with someone else. If you bring another person in, this project begins to be a team effort instead of solely based on you. Even if you just problem-solve with a roommate or parent, you can become less attached to and thus less perfectionist about your work.
- Remember that whatever you do is not a reflection of your worth as a person. All humans are worthy of life, love, hope, and joy. That includes you. Even if something you create fails, you are still yourself.
- Treat yourself like a friend. Would you say the harsh words of criticism to a friend? Even if you did not like something a loved one created, you would still try to be helpful and kind while being honest. Try to apply those same methods of encouragement to yourself.
So there are a few different ways to try to stop perfectionism. As I prepare for mid-terms, I certainly need to use them! Although they are difficult, I am going to try to work at one a day. How about you? I want to challenge all my readers to at least think about ways that you might be perfectionist. Is that helping or hindering you? Remember, the opposite of perfectionism is not failure; it is excellence.