Is perfectionism ruining your life? Most people in our culture view perfectionism as a virtue, but it’s actually a way to cover up insecurities and self-doubt.
I’ve always been a self-proclaimed perfectionist. I get easily frustrated when the things I create don’t turn out like I envisioned, and I hate doing things that I’m not “good at.” I also take an exceptionally long time to do anything, and I had to laugh when I read that one sign of perfectionism could be spending more than 30 minutes to write and rewrite a two-sentence email (this just happened today – how did the researchers read my mind?!?).
But what does perfectionism have to do with insecurity? Here are some facts about perfectionism:
- According to GoodTherapy.org, perfectionism can stem from insecurity. “A number of factors can contribute to the development of perfectionism. Anxiety, insecurity, and fear of disapproval may all lead to perfectionist behavior.”
- Children of perfectionist parents often show perfectionist tendencies.
- Perfectionism can be treated (in fact, they often use some of the same treatment methods as they do for OCD). If you feel like your perfectionism is out of control (as described in this article from The Huffington Post) or if you’ve been struggling with it for your entire life, you may want to seek professional help.
If your perfectionism isn’t detrimental to your health or if it’s only evident in a certain area of your life, like your competitive spirit in the gym, you may be able to manage it yourself. Managing perfectionism is a constant work in progress, though, so get ready for some hard work.
1. Change your thinking
Changing your thinking may be easier said than done, but according to AnxietyBC, it’s a necessary tool to overcome perfectionism.
When you feel perfectionism taking over, take a step back. Are you being realistic with your expectations? Are your goals attainable? Is it even possible to do what you’re trying to do?
Comparison is never a good thing, but it may help to think about (and evaluate) how others are able to do something similar. For example, if you’re struggling to keep your house clean, think about how a friend is able to do it. Maybe she has a smaller family, is able to clean during the kids’ naps, or has someone to help her. Think about what you’re doing right and what needs improvement. Is there something that you could do differently?
Look at the big picture
In the grand scheme of things, is having a messy house the end of the world? If the kids are fed and happy, who really cares if the toys don’t get picked up until bedtime?
This is my biggest struggle. I’ve had to learn to let go of things that I can’t (or don’t have the time) to change. It’s difficult, but think about your values. Do they align with what you’re trying to change? If not, is there something that you could do instead? For example, I let the house stay messy until bedtime. Before bed, the kids pick up their toys. No, it’s not my ideal plan, and I try to teach the kids to put things away when they’re done playing, but some things, like their Lincoln Log creations, get to stay until they’re done.
2. Change your behavior
Determine what is important to you
One of the first tasks in Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings course is creating your “best stuff list,” or a list of your top priorities.
This list will help you refocus your goals and make sure that every decision you make is in line with your priorities.
Make time for the things that are most important
Once you know what areas of your life are most important, be ruthless with your time.
Part of perfectionism’s stronghold is feeling like you aren’t doing anything well, so many people begin to step away from everything and do nothing. I’ve been there, when all I wanted to do was plop on the couch, eat popcorn and watch Scandal reruns as laundry baskets surrounded me.
Don’t give up the things that you love the most. Instead, focus on the things you truly care about and the areas of your life where you get the most joy. Most of these areas don’t require you to be perfect. Everything else can get pushed to the back burner.
Set realistic goals
One of my “best stuff” items was personal growth. I enjoy exercising and attending fitness classes at my local YMCA, but when I set a goal to “lose weight” and “exercise 5 times a week” after not exercising for months, I quickly became burnt out.
Instead of beating myself up, I revised my goal to exercise 2 times a week at the Y, which was much more manageable. Since my “mommy morning” friends also joined, we’ve been going together several times a week.
3. Change the way you feel
Getting proper nutrition is essential to feeling better. Often (at least in my home), when we’re feeling insecure, upset, or under the weather, we turn to comfort foods.
It’s ok to crave comfort foods once in awhile, but I’ve found that eating a balanced diet, including enough fruits and vegetables, helps me feel better about myself.
Study after study shows the benefits of exercise. Try new things and find something that you love.
Even just getting 30 minutes of exercise has proven benefits. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. Even going for a walk can have proven benefits. If you want to join a gym, many offer childcare (here’s a great list of fitness centers that offer childcare).
If you find that nothing else is helping, try talking to someone. Find a counselor, a priest or pastor, or even a trusted family member or friend that you can talk to.
Perfectionism doesn’t have to ruin your life (or the lives of those around you). You can overcome it by changing your thinking, changing your behavior, and changing the way you feel.
How has perfectionism affected your life? What have you done to change it?