The Secret Cost of Perfectionism

People who described themselves as perfectionists often have standards that are so high that they either cannot be achieved or do so at a great personal cost, i.e. overexerting energy or being cognitively inflexible. Perfectionists tend to believe that anything short of perfection is horrible, sub-par, and just flat out unacceptable. Even minor imperfections will lead to catastrophic results which negatively affect one’s sense of self. Below are some questions to ask yourself about whether or not you consider yourself a perfectionist:

  1. Do you have trouble meeting your own standards?
  2. Do you often feel frustrated, depressed, anxious, or angry while trying to meet your standards?
  3. Do you struggle delegating because you think others will not do as good as job if you did it yourself?
  4. Do your standards get in your own way? For example, do they make it difficult for you to meet deadlines, finish a task, trust others, or do anything spontaneously?

If you answered yes to some of these questions below are some pointers to help decrease some of those unrealistic standards you have placed on yourself and in turn to increase your own self-compassion:

  1. Perfectionistic people are often very critical of themselves, one of the most effective ways to overcome perfectionism is to replace self-critical or perfectionistic thoughts with more realistic and helpful statements. For example, saying such things as “Nobody is perfect” or “my best is good enough” or “What is the worse that is going to happen?”
  2. Leaning into vulnerability and practicing not being perfect. Another example could be telling someone you do not know the answer or when someone asks how you are doing, tell them the truth instead of giving them the answer that you would normally give in the checkout line at the grocery store.
  3. Realize that everyone makes mistakes. Asking yourself “is this really going to affect me in 1 week? 1 month?” Also, learn to live in the grey instead of the black and white thinking that often plagues our identity and relationship with others.

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