Perfectionism can be viewed as two sides of the same coin. On one hand, it can motivate you to develop remarkable work, while on the other hand it can cause an abundance of unnecessary anxiety. In fact, due to the need to be perfect, the World Health Organisation concluded that a significant number of young people are suffering from mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. As any perfectionists would tell you, this occurs since being perfect isn’t easy; adequate work is never enough.
Unfortunately, being diligent comes at a cost. Your rigorous work takes a lot of effort to produce and the constant attention to detail is time-consuming. The stress that comes with this can eventually lead to a person experiencing a burnout. Burnout leaves individuals feeling mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted to continue working. Keeping this in mind, unfortunately, there isn’t a cure to perfectionism. However, there is a way to handle it effectively. This can be done through constant and conscious work.
Here are five ways to help cope with perfectionism:
- Increase Awareness – The first step is to be aware that you have a perfectionist trait. This trait is better seen as a behaviour rather than being a part of your identity. By seeing it in this way, it would be easier to change your behaviour rather than identity. To become aware of when your perfectionism comes out, ask yourself the following questions; is it when you need to share something publicly like a blog? Hand in something to someone? Organise your work? By being aware of this, then it can be changed.
- Give priority to your self-care – When you’re an overachieving perfectionist, taking time off is probably never on your to-do list. However, it is important to keep in mind that taking some time off, sleeping, and engaging in a hobby is essential to refresh yourself. Try practicing self-care to reduce feelings of fatigue and inefficiency when trying to be perfect. Remember that time off is not time wasted!
- Visualise the worst-case scenario – Perfectionism comes hand in hand with the idea that a person can never fail. To battle the fear of failure, identify your worst-case scenario in the event of failing. Face your fears by challenging them with what is likely or not likely to happen. This will help you realise that the worst-case scenario is in fact not too bad in reality.
- Practice saying “no” – Perfectionists tend to be overambitious which results in them struggling to say “no” to new opportunities. Instead of taking on new opportunities, use your energy to invest in your passion and well-being. Creating healthy boundaries by saying “no” is one way to maintain your energy.
- Experiment – Every situation we encounter is different from the last. Thus, you can try out different experiments to see what works and what doesn’t work for you. This can be done by practicing different scenarios of when you can be “good enough” instead of “perfect.” Some examples of this include that you don’t need the perfect partner but someone good enough for you or you don’t need to always eat perfectly healthy but balance your diet. This will help you break the habit of needing to constantly be perfect. There are so many options for you to try so just go for it and have fun with it!
By attempting to apply the above to your life, you can use your perfectionist traits to your advantage. By lifting the pressure of perfectionism, you will learn that being “good enough” is really good enough!
Mandy is a Trainee Gestalt psychotherapist who enjoys working therapeutically with adults on various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing. She also has experience working with anxiety, victims of domestic violence and eating disorders.
World Health Organization. (2017). Depression and other common mental disorders: Global health estimates. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/254610/1/WHOMSD-MER-2017.2-eng.pdf?ua1