By Tanya R. Bankston, MA, LLPC
Perfectionists strive to be the best at everything they do, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many perfectionists excel in their fields. However, that doesn’t mean that this personality trait isn’t without its downsides. Many of those downsides can be crippling to the person struggling with perfectionism. When a minor setback feels like a major personal failure, that’s when perfectionism becomes a burden.
Perfectionists may hold themselves and/or others to standards they know are unrealistic. If your perfectionism interferes with your ability to form or maintain relationships or causes you to struggle with performance, there are steps you can take to break free from perfectionism.
Perfectionism vs. Aspiring to Greatness
There is no work of art in any museum that’s perfect. Every famous painting has plenty of blemishes that only a trained eye can spot.
Take The Mona Lisa for example, it is a great work of art, but if you look at it with X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, you’ll find that the painting is made up of over 40 layers of paint (who knew, right). Had Da Vinci gone much further beyond the 40th coat, he could have lost the subtlety of human expression his paintings are known for. It is the imperfections that make this a great work of art.
Perfectionists tend to hyper-focus on even the tiniest flaws. If the focus is on the things that are not done perfectly, then the project may end up not being completed at all. You’ll procrastinate so much that the final product will be sub-par. Or, just the opposite can occur, and every attempt at completing the project will appear as imperfect. I have heard it stated, “Done is better than perfect.” This might be a great benchmark to strive for, completion rather than perfection.
Do you see how perfectionism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy? So how does a person change their mindset to release the perfectionist attitude and begin overcoming perfectionism?
Acknowledge that perfection is unattainable.
Instead, aspire to reach a level of greatness. I often share with my clients that perfection is the top of a pyramid and excellence is the rung immediately under perfection. When excellence is obtained it allows for imperfection while allowing for us to be just what we are “human”. As humans, we each start out as imperfect, and therefore cannot produce perfection…after all, we do not start from perfection.
Implement these strategies and begin overcoming perfectionism:
Overcoming Perfectionism Means Breaking it down.
- Instead of envisioning your project as a perfect whole, try viewing it as a series of well-designed, interlocking pieces.
- If you put your focus into completing each step, you’ll find that the entire process goes smoother. Stop worrying about a “perfect” outcome. Instead, focus on one task after another.
- Avoid expecting an immediate victory, and perfection. By keeping your mind focused on the task at hand, you can create forward momentum. You’ll have less time to scrutinize the overall project because you’ll be immersed in the present moment, and the process of each step fitting into the projects’ whole.
- If you find yourself stressing over individual steps, break your task down into smaller chunks. Complete the next action without rushing. If you take it step-by-step, you’ll chip away at a large project without agonizing over whether it’s perfect.
Overcoming Perfectionism Means Giving others a break.
- If you find yourself imposing your perfectionism on others, stop and ask why. It’s helpful to realize that others aren’t required to live by your standards. Honestly, it’s difficult for you to live by your standards of perfectionism (really where did you develop those perfectionist standards anyway?).
- The more slack you give others, the easier you can be on yourself. Exercise self-compassion! Show yourself grace! Everyone has unique skills and talents. Keep in mind that your friends, family, and loved ones can do somethings better than you (that is ok). You have things that you excel in as well, but when we compare ourselves to others, and we have a perfectionist mind-set…we generally look at ourselves with a sense of deficiency. Remember that our imperfections are what make us human, and unique.
Overcoming Perfectionism Means Thinking in gradations.
- One powerful technique that you can use to claim the life you deserve is to learn to think in gradients.
- Grey is not black, and one point below 100% is not zero. At the end of the day, only you know how much work you put into a project. Be your own authority, and congratulate yourself on your effort.
- All-or-nothing thinking is unproductive because it only allows for two possibilities. This is a thinking trap (more about thinking traps at another time)…be careful not to fall into this trap. It will end up looking like, this is project is perfect or imperfect, nothing in between.
- You learn and grow the most as a result of your missteps. Reality isn’t an all-or nothing proposition.
Embrace your sense of humor.
- Nothing defuses perfectionism like a healthy sense of humor.
- Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself, and start to see beyond a single viewpoint. Oh my goodness, I laugh at myself often, sometimes daily now because when I suffered with perfectionism I took myself way too serious!
- If you can find the humor in your failure, you can analyze it objectively and learn from it.
Life isn’t perfect and neither are you.
Give yourself permission to let go of your perfectionist ways. Disown that stuffy perfectionistic way of looking at life. Take action today by using these tips to create measurable changes in your life. You’ll be happy you did.
My name is Tanya, an online therapist in Detroit, MI, and I am a grateful recovering perfectionist…I am not perfect, and I am ok!
What is holding you back from beginning therapy in Detroit today!
Anxiety and perfectionism go hand in hand. Often we struggle as perfectionists to see that we cannot do it all. Often this can be attributed to our childhood upbringing or trauma. If you need a space to talk about the past, then we are here to help. At our online counseling practice, you will work with a skilled anxiety therapist who specializes in anxiety therapy and perfectionism treatment through online therapy in Detroit, MI. To get started on your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:
- Contact Introspective Counseling
- Meet with your anxiety therapists
- Begin your journey toward peace and wellness!
Other Services Offered at Introspective Counseling
We can support you as you begin to love yourself, give yourself grace, and begin overcoming perfectionism. You are more than the lies perfectionism tells us. If you need support, get in touch. However, we offer a wide array of services. Therapy for anxiety and perfectionism isn’t the only service we offer at our Detroit, MI practice.
Other services include counseling for well as provide screening and assessment for other mood and mental health issues including postpartum depression, anxiety and perfectionism, depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD and trauma, marriage counseling and couples therapy, therapy for moms, life transitions, grief counseling, therapy for high achievers, LGBTQIA+ counseling, EMDR Therapy, and services for entrepreneurs and professionals.
Our therapists are excited to work with you. We specialize in working with couples, families, and women of color. Whatever your goals are, our team will work to create a plan that focuses on targeting the thoughts and behaviors that get in the way of your actions aligning with your values. We look forward to working with you. Begin in person or online therapy in Michigan with us today!