For perfectionists, everyday can be a struggle that involves self-judgement and criticism. The smallest task can cause anxiety and feel more important than it is. Having this mentality can be toxic for some people, considering a good portion of their mindset is focused on avoiding failure, often giving them a pessimistic thought process. Part of overcoming this involves awareness of what perfectionism is and assessing your desire to change its behaviors.
What is Perfectionism?
There is not one definition that succinctly describes perfectionism. However, the Center for Clinical Interventions describes it using the following components: relentless striving for extremely high standards; judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards; and experiencing negative consequences for setting such demanding standards yet continuing to go for them despite the huge cost to you. One of the biggest commonalities between all of the definitions of perfectionism is setting unachievable goals, or goals that can only be achieved through great measures, and criticizing your abilities based off of those achievements. With the help of a professional you can assess whether you are or are not a perfectionist; in what areas you are a perfectionist (work, school, relationships etc.); what keeps you going, and so on.
One of the best ways to create change in your life in regards to being a perfectionist is to weigh out the different aspects of your standards and behaviors. It helps to look at the negative consequences of perfectionism behaviors, positive consequences of perfectionism behaviors, personal benefit, as well as personal cost of loosening these high standards. A great way to start this journey is by allowing yourself to become aware of what your standards and measures for reaching these standards are. Be honest with yourself in terms of which goals are realistic and which ones are not. After doing this, you can start to fill out the categories previously mentioned. Visually seeing the different criteria in each category on paper can often be eye opening.
Part of changing your perfectionism will include behaving in ways that you are not used to. This can involve allowing yourself to make mistakes and focusing more on learning different ways to relax and de-stress. It will require time, effort and commitment. Generally speaking, a change like this requires support from other people. Whether it is friends or family, sharing with others that you are trying to change some of your behaviors can help with accountability. The help of a therapist can be very beneficial in helping you see certain situations from an unbiased, outsider’s perspective. Regardless of what behaviors or standards you would like to modify, it helps to start assessing your own desire to change and the reasons behind it.
Bianca Marcu, LPC