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How To Deal with Perfectionist Tendencies

Updated: Aug 3, 2023


“Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.” Salvador Dalí


First, let’s start with defining perfectionist tendencies or what it means to be a perfectionist. A perfectionist is someone who refuses to accept anything less than perfect. When someone is a perfectionist, they will re-do and re-do and re-do something until they feel like it is perfect. This also goes for the standards that a perfectionist may hold for someone else. If someone is not perfect in their eyes, or if they did something that was less than perfect, then it is unacceptable. (Most of us have had a boss like this in the past.) Someone who has perfectionist tendencies, is uncomfortable when things are less than perfect, but maybe not to the extent as someone who identifies with being a perfectionist.


Some people are paralyzed by perfectionism and it causes issues at work and in personal relationships. If you see this happening, seek out therapy to help evaluate what to work on, how mend the relationships and find ways to handle the anxiety. If you are someone who feels like they have perfectionist tendencies, you may have anxiety around performance and completing tasks. This is may happen at work and at home, but it isn’t affecting relationships with people or job performance overall. If the latter sounds like you, here are some tips and tricks to dealing with perfectionist tendencies:


Tips and Tricks:


1. Practice Relaxation and Mediation:

“Okay Kristina, of course a therapist is going to recommend that. Meditation never helps me.” You are somewhat right. Meditation and deep breathing don’t help if you do not practice it on a regular basis. If you practice relaxation and meditation when you are at baseline, you are more likely to use it, and it will be more helpful when you are anxious, or off of your baseline. Deep breathing and anxiety are opposites. When you are feeling anxious or uncomfortable because you can’t get something perfect, take some deep breaths. Pause for a moment and reassess the situation.


2. Take a moment to observe your thoughts:

“Why can’t I do this?” “I’m never going to get this right.” “This is the worst work I’ve done in a long time.” “Uhhh!! I messed up again!” These are probably some things that you are telling yourself as you are working on something. By taking a moment to observe your thoughts, you can see if they are driving the anxiety, or helping lower it. If you stop to observe your thoughts, they are most likely negative, self-demeaning, and anxiety provoking. You don’t notice these thoughts when you aren’t paying attention to them, you just feel the anxiety building, or you are just getting more frustrated.


3. Challenge your negative thoughts:

Once you have taken a few deep breaths and reflected on your thoughts, you can challenge them now to see if they are accurate, or if this is another case of perfectionism taking over. In order to challenge your negative thoughts, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Is this something that someone else would care about?

  • Is this something that someone else would even notice?

  • Is this more important than getting a good night’s sleep/eating/ hanging out with friends/ than having a healthy relationship? (insert what you would be doing to work on your mental health if you weren’t stuck on this one thought.

  • If I leave it the way it is now, will it matter to me in 1 week/ 1 year/ 5 years?

  • What is the worst thing that could happen if it isn't perfect? (usually nothing will happen if it doesn’t get done perfectly)


If you find yourself by the end of these questions still feeling anxious, pretend like your best friend is asking you these questions about their work and see if the answers change. We are usually a lot more kind and understanding when we are talking to loved ones rather than to ourselves.


4. Walk away from it!

When you are getting frustrated or building up anxiet, it is best to take a break. Take some time to reset and get back down to baseline. Do something that you love to do. Go read a book, talk to your friends, eat some food. Even switching tasks can help. Go back to the task once you have been able to rationalize some of the thoughts that you were having.


“Okay, now I’ve worked on myself, but the people around me are still bugging me!” “My partner doesn’t put the dishes away by color despite asking them a million times!” “My best friend never folds the towel and hangs it up after drying her hands!” STOP! Go back to the tips and tricks and ask yourself those same questions. Before getting mad at the other person, do some self-reflection, and see if this is really just something that you have to work on in your journey of being okay with people not being perfect.


 

Thank you for reading, I hope that you found this helpful. If you are struggling with being a perfectionist, or issues similar to this, please reach out for more help. Email me or set an appointment. See you all next week!



 

Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing compassionate and tailored mental health support for moms at all stages of motherhood. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!

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