Remove Perfectionism and Embrace Realism

“I’m a perfectionist.”

It’s a phrase thrown around a lot, but it turns out that the reality of perfectionism can be quite serious.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) defines perfectionism as a mode of behaviour which causes people to try and meet high standards, ultimately impacting the way they feel about themselves.

According to the CCI, there is a distinction to be made surrounding the “perfectionist” label:

“There is a big difference between the healthy and helpful pursuit of excellence and the unhealthy and unhelpful striving for perfection.”

Those who define themselves as perfectionists will likely have positive traits such as efficiency, motivation, and organisational skills. But even with these skills a dark side can still exist.

Some experts have gone as far as to call it the “bane of happiness” citing that where there is perfectionism, there is an increased risk of eating disorders, anxiety disorders and depression.

One study of college students showed that often successful people were in fact not perfectionists. This might be due to perfectionism’s link to psychological distress and procrastination.

If you recognise the negative impacts of this way of thinking in your own life, there are ways to move past it. The CCI offers a free program for tackling perfectionism which consists of nine easy to use and interactive modules.

Here are some ways to help overcome the plight of perfectionism and embrace a more realistic—and self-loving—approach to life!

Take a logical approach.

Consider whether the task as hand can really be done to perfection. After all, we aren’t robots. And it is our mistakes which help us improve and grow. Will trying to complete a task flawlessly be worth the frustration and excessive amount of time?  

Find the middle ground.

As the CCI puts it: think in shades of grey. Perhaps you don’t have to review a report 3-4 times before submitting it. Try reviewing it only twice and see how that goes. Trust your own abilities and compromise. It doesn’t mean you have to throw all effort out the door!

Be kind to yourself.

There is great value in messing up. If you spend all your time avoiding mistakes, you are also avoiding the precious lessons they hold. If your aim is excellence, then growth and development are your friends.

Set an example.

If you’re leading a team, this is an excellent opportunity to set a good example. Be clear about the standards of work you would like to see, but be conscious that these aren’t impossible to achieve. Be flexible and understanding of situations in your team as they arise.

Get support.

Ask someone you trust, like your partner or closest friend to call you out on any perfectionist behaviour. This could help nurture awareness and break the cycle.

Everyone can understand wanting success and excellence, but we must consider the price. Besides, if we are careful to avoid impossibly high standards we could land even closer to our goals.