🤔 Are you a perfectionist?
Do you pay very close attention to details, striving for perfection in everything you do? Do small mistakes drive you crazy? Do you only try things you think you will be successful at?
If you answered yes, there’s a high chance that you’re a perfectionist. You might think being a perfectionist is your strength. Without it, you believe you can’t perform well. But you might want to think again. Being a perfectionist may be inhibiting your potential growth and happiness.
💡 Overcoming perfectionism for growth and happiness
David D. Burns, M.D. challenges you to be average for your growth and happiness in his book “Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy.”
🔍 What drives you to be a perfectionist?
Why are you a perfectionist? Fear is the number one driver of perfectionism. You are afraid of failure, criticism, or disapproval from others. Everything you do has to be perfect.
You probably have an all-or-nothing way of thinking. With one mistake, everything is ruined. Things have to be either black or white; there is no gray.
🚧 The consequences of perfectionism
When you have a perfectionistic approach to your life, your life gets rigid. You work hours and hours until you are totally satisfied with whatever you do. You can’t say, “Good enough” and move on to the next thing.
With one mistake, you are crushed. One mistake will take over your mind, paralyze you, and stop you from doing other things.
You think unless you can be perfect, it’s not worth trying. That way of thinking stops you from trying new things. When you are a beginner, you don’t know what you’re doing and make a lot of mistakes. You can’t stand the idea of not knowing what you’re doing. You have to be in control.
But think for a moment. If you only do things that make you comfortable and don’t challenge yourself, aren’t you limiting your potential? Wouldn’t it be more liberating to try new things, grow, and possibly discover your hidden potential? It may be scary, but it can also make your life more interesting.
If you must be perfect, you are actually destined to fail no matter how hard you try. Why? Because nothing is perfect in this world.
If you look carefully at things that seem perfect, you still might find flaws. So you will never be satisfied. The harder you try to be perfect, the bigger your disappointment is. With too much perfectionist thinking, you end up constantly disappointed and label yourself a failure.
🛠️ How to overcome perfectionism
In his book, “Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy,” Dr. David D. Burns, M.D. lists 15 ways to overcome being a perfectionist. Here are a few of my interpretations of his recommendations.
1️⃣ Adjust your standards
Instead of aiming for 100% for everything you do, try lowering standards for various activities. You can aim for 80% for one activity and 60% or even 40% for another activity.
As a runner, Dr. Burns sometimes set a goal to run a shorter distance than the day before. This goal guaranteed him success every day. Some days he ended up running more than the day before, but some days he didn’t. He was okay with these variable distances because he met his flexible goals. This prevented him from feeling disappointed and giving up altogether.
Dr. Burns says that you probably think your perfectionism will help you get ahead in life. But know that adjusting or lowering standards can make you more successful.
It takes a long time for a perfectionist to finish one task because you can’t call it done until everything is just right. But if you lower your standards, you can finish more tasks in the same amount of time.
Dr. Burns spent 2 years publishing his first research paper. It was an excellent paper. However, while he was working on his “perfect” paper, many of his peers were publishing a lot more papers. He realized that publishing 10 pretty good papers would make you more successful than 1 masterpiece. It would give you more opportunities to learn and improve faster.
2️⃣ Focus on the process rather than the final result
As I wrote in another post about controlling expectations, focusing on the process rather than the final result is one of the greatest lessons in life.
Make it a goal to complete what you can do today. Repeat this every day. Then you inevitably increase the chance of good results. You might not get the exact result you want, but you will feel satisfied with the progress you make every day while learning along the way.
3️⃣ Don’t focus on negative things
A perfectionist tends to focus on negative things. Every time you make a mistake, you get fixated on it, and you think you can’t do anything right. But if you pause and reflect on what you have done, you can probably find a lot of things you’ve done well.
Shift your mindset and pay attention to all the good things you do. You can count on them throughout your day and write them in your journal.
🌱 Growth and happiness increase when you stop being a perfectionist
Dr. Burns says the secret to happiness is to set modest goals and accomplish them.
Don’t try to be perfect. Make a lot of mistakes, and learn and grow from those mistakes. Try something new and feel the joy and happiness of the progress you make after much trial and error.
Transform yourself from “worrier” to “warrior.” With that attitude, you can continue to grow, feel happy, and move forward in life.
✅ Do This Now
If you are a perfectionist, try lowering your standards, focus on the process, pay attention to what you do well, and think of your mistakes as golden learning opportunities. Embrace being a human being, who is allowed to make mistakes, and enjoy more personal growth and happiness.
To search for perfection is all very well
But to look for heaven is to live here in hell
– Sting from the song Consider Me Gone