While many think that perfectionism is something to strive for, being a perfectionist can have a negative impact on your self-view and emotional well-being. As a perfectionist, you might be very self-critical when you fail to meet the high standards and often unattainable goals that you consistently set for yourself. Since your self-esteem is mainly based on what you achieve, failing to accomplish your unrealistic goals can lead to a constant state of disappointment, anxiety, depression, and feelings of unworthiness. If perfectionism is taking a toll on your mental health, there are some things that you can do to help.

What Is Perfectionism

Perfectionism, or the need to appear to be perfect or flawless in one or more areas, and believing that being perfect is possible, is a trait that many think of as positive. However, perfectionists can set unrealistically high standards that are impossible to achieve, leading to feelings of inadequacy and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The fear of failure can lead to negative self-judgment and can keep perfectionists from beginning, or completing tasks at times. Self-esteem is often derived from achievements and the approval of others, rather than from within. Perfectionists can be highly critical of themselves and others and often engage in black-or-white thinking. They may experience little satisfaction, a lot of disappointment, and may feel as if they will never be good enough. Below are 6 tips to manage perfectionism.

1. Strive For Good Enough

Instead of trying to be perfect, try to be good enough. The concept of being good enough refers to knowing when putting more effort into something is unlikely to improve it. This way, you aim to do the best that you can do, instead of trying to do the best that you believe might be possible. Doing this sets up more realistic expectations that can actually be achieved. It does not mean not trying, or settling for mediocrity. Mainly it is about knowing when enough is enough, instead of trying to reach unrealistic standards. You will be less likely to procrastinate and more likely to finish what you start, when you are striving to be good enough. 

2. Practice Self-Compassion

When you practice self-compassion, you are able to relate to yourself in a kind, understanding and caring way. Perfectionists often focus on what is lacking and how they are not measuring up. If you are kind and gentle with yourself instead, you can start to notice what is going well and the gifts you have. To practice self-compassion, you need to notice your negative self-talk and how you can change it to something that is accurate, but kind. Stop judging yourself so harshly. Begin and end your day by writing down a few things that you did right and are proud of. Talk to yourself the way you talk to someone that you deeply care for. This way you can start to appreciate your strengths.

3. Forgive Yourself

Practicing self-forgiveness can also help with perfectionism. Achieving perfection is an impossible task. In order to even come close, you will probably struggle to meet the high standards that you have set. You can choose to beat yourself up for this, or you can practice self-forgiveness. Forgiving yourself for not being perfect is a way to let go of the need to punish yourself or ruminate on your shortcomings. Self-forgiveness helps you put these things behind you so you can learn, adjust, and move forward. This way the focus can be on new possibilities, not on past shortcomings.

4. Challenge Your Thoughts

If you struggle with perfectionism, negative thoughts can become problematic. The thought of failure can stop you from even trying. There can be a lot of negative thoughts about not measuring up or being enough. These thoughts can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression that can impact your behavior. When these negative thoughts come up, it is important to recognize them and challenge their accuracy. Consider another way to think about it that is more compassionate, and change your negative self-talk.

5. Focus On The Lessons

A perfectionist has a hard time with mistakes. Instead of viewing mistakes as learning opportunities, you might see them as a character flaw. This can make it difficult to learn valuable lessons that can lead to improvement. When you are able to look for the lessons when things don’t go perfectly, you can let go of some of the negative self-judgment. This way, you start to look at what you are gaining, not what you are lacking.

6. Celebrate Achievements

As a perfectionist, it can be hard to take pride in your accomplishments. You notice all of your imperfections and what isn’t going well, instead of celebrating what you have achieved. This can cause your achievements to seem meaningless as your expectations are so high. You naturally look for the things that need fixing and forget to acknowledge your successes. Celebrating your achievements may seem frivolous and unnecessary. However, it can actually be highly motivating and encouraging. Taking the time to appreciate your accomplishments enables you to give yourself the praise that you ordinarily try to get from others, which can improve your self-esteem.

If you struggle with perfectionism that is having a negative impact on your mental health, try the above tips. Counseling can help perfectionism that continues to be problematic. When you set more realistic goals and try your best, you can improve your self-esteem and emotional well-being.

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