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Is being a perfectionist a bad thing or not? Most perfectionists know they’re a perfectionist. BUT there are some people in denial, may not know they are one or don't think it's a problem. Personally, I am a recovering perfectionist and I knew I was a perfectionist, BUT I didn’t think it was a bad thing. I thought it was good to have “high standards”. I say “high standards” in air quotes because perfectionism is more than just having high standards.
So, let’s break down the traits of a perfectionist.
All or nothing mentality
You think EVERYTHING is all or nothing. If you don’t have time to deep clean your whole house, you just don’t do it because it won’t be “right”. You don’t apply for that job that you know you would be just right for because you don’t have every single qualification on the job ad. You don’t study the Bible because you want to do it perfectly like an 80-year-old saint. You fail to take action because it has to be done perfectly or not at all.
You’re highly critical of yourself and others. You think you should be perfect and when you realize you aren’t, you beat yourself up. It doesn’t stop with you either. You treat others this way too. You are the editing/critique person in the office. You can point out flaws faster than anyone else.
This ties in with the highly critical characteristic. You think you and everyone around you should be perfect. You think EVERYTHING should be perfect or it shouldn’t be attempted at all. If something isn’t perfect is bugs the mess out of you until you fix it!
Depressed by missing the mark
Missing the mark can cause you to be depressed. You think it means you are wrong or unworthy just because you made a “mistake”. Side note: it’s probably only a mistake to you. NOT anyone else.
Fear of failure
Fear of failure keeps you from perusing your goals and dreams. You are afraid that you will fail, and everyone will laugh at you. You are very hard on yourself about failures because it means the worst thing ever….. that you’re not perfect.
This is a big one. You don't start anything because you are waiting for the right time. You can't ride a bike with training wheels because people will think you're stupid and laugh at you. You have to wait until you can magically ride a bike WITHOUT training wheels to let people see you riding a bike. BUT here's the thing. Unless you ride a bike with training wheels, you won't be ready to take off the training wheels. So, you will never ride the bike because you’re afraid of riding a bike with training wheels.
Training wheels signify you “don’t know what you’re doing” and you want people to think you are perfect. This actually sounds so dumb that you would think like that, but you do. You have to be okay with sucking at riding a bike at first. It’s okay. You have to give yourself permission to be a beginner. Procrastination is taking it safely. If you procrastinate and don't put anything out there, you won't have to worry about being judged.
You want to control everything so you can do it perfectly. You don’t think anyone else can do it perfectly, so you do it. You do everything. Then you get overwhelmed because you’re doing everything.
You worry about what everyone else thinks and says about you, but that doesn’t come close to comparing to the things you tell yourself. Your inner critic is a mean girl and she’s very loud. Every time you do something “wrong”, she tears you to pieces.
Okay, so now you know the side effects of a perfectionist. You might have a couple of these, or you might almost all (if not all) of these characteristics. Perfectionism holds you back in life. You can’t live your dream life and be a perfectionist. You don’t move forward or peruse your dreams because you’re afraid of failing. You have to ditch the perfectionism and move on with your life. You cannot keep beating yourself up and then wondering why you’re not taking action.
How to kick perfectionism to the curb (where it belongs)
Recognize it at the moment
If you are in the moment and you feel any one of these characteristics, just stop and realize it. Realize that it’s just your perfection. It doesn’t mean anything has gone wrong, it doesn’t mean you need to stop, or anything like that. Just recognize it. Sometimes, recognizing it will cause it to go away.
Realize that you are 100% worthy right NOW
Realize that you are worthy, 100% worthy right NOW. You don't have to do anything, you don't have to have a clean house, you don't have a college degree with a 4.0 GPA, you don’t have to do or have anything. You are perfectly fine and worthy now. I can’t emphasize this enough.
Adjust your standards
Adjust your standards to good enough. Instead of expecting A+ work, go for B-. B- beats A+ any day of the week. How do you ask? B- gets you off the bench. A+ keeps you stuck. If you are waiting for A+ work, you will spend your whole life waiting for life to “happen”. B- gets you to work on your goals. Right off the bat, you know your work isn't perfect, but that's okay. You did it anyway. You went for it. You got something out there. You have 2 choices, you can be stuck on the bench waiting for life to happen for you with your A+ work, or you can be okay with B- and be starting the game. The choice is yours, my friend.
Know your triggers
What causes you to lean into perfectionism? For example, when I’m stressed and it feels like life is outta control, I can feel my perfectionism coming up to the surface. I just recognize it and say to myself “Oh that’s just perfection and nothing has gone wrong. I’m probably a little stressed.” Figure out what your triggers for perfection are and it will help you stop it in its tracks.
Break up bigger projects into smaller bite-sized pieces
If you have a big project or task, break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces and work on them one at a time. Don’t think about the big huge project. Just think about the small piece in front of you.
Realize no one’s perfect
Aside from Jesus Christ, no one is perfect. Really think about that. NO ONE is perfect. Newsflash: this means you too! The one reading this post, I am talking to you. You are trying to reach an unattainable goal by aiming for perfectionism.
Stop calling yourself a perfectionist
When you call yourself a perfectionist, you are labeling yourself as a perfectionist. When you label yourself something, you take on that identity. This means you still take action from the place of being a perfectionist. This means in laymen's terms, that you will still be a perfectionist. You have to start at least referring to yourself as a recovering perfectionist or someone who used to be a perfectionist. This will make you stop and think oh I’m not a perfectionist anymore so I will go for B- work over A+ work.
Challenge your inner critic
If you think something bad about yourself, challenge it. Ask yourself, “but is this true?” For example, if you are dogging yourself because you think you’re a bad mom, ask yourself, “But is this true?” The answer is no, you are NOT a bad mom. Realize that and realize that your inner critic is wrong about you, AGAIN. Don’t listen to your inner critic. If you feel your inner critic coming out, challenge what it’s saying.
Love and respect yourself
Love and respect yourself. Have your own back. Treat yourself the way you treat other people. Don’t talk down to yourself.
Focus on the process NOT the outcome
Instead of focusing on the end result, focus on the small task at hand. Just keep your blinders on to the outcome. Worry only about the process or step you’re doing.
Failure doesn’t mean you ARE a failure. It doesn’t mean you suck. It just means you missed the mark you set for yourself. It doesn’t mean anything about you or that you aren’t worthy. You are still worthy even though you missed the mark. Failure isn’t a bad thing. It means you tried. You got off the bench. You went for it.
“Don’t fear failure. Fear the absence of progress.” – Unknown
Perfectionism holds you back from your dream life. You can learn to overcome perfectionism and go after your dreams and goals. You don’t have to worry about being perfect or fear of not being good enough. Just go for it! Just do it! Slowly and surely you can overcome perfectionism and start silencing your inner critic.