“Perfectionists are their own devils.” – Jack Kirby
Perfectionism is often confused with having high standards, but they’re vastly different. High standards can be productive, healthy, and good for your self-esteem. Perfectionists, on the other hand, set unattainable standards for themselves and tend to define their self-worth by their accomplishments. That sets them up for disappointment and creates a never-ending cycle of stress and internal pressure. And guess what? That continuous quest for perfection is exhausting their minds, too.
Perfectionism creates work paralysis. Yes, that’s a real thing. It happens when your brain is completely exhausted from all of the stress you’ve dumped onto it, so it temporarily “shuts down”. Writer’s block, for example, is the brain’s way of saying it needs a break. That’s just one way that perfectionism actually makes you less productive.
Perfection doesn’t exist and that creates a big problem for your mind. Striving for something that isn’t technically real places a whole lot of pressure on your brain. Essentially, you’ll never get a feeling of completion because you’re aiming for something that can’t be attained. Talk about exhausting!
Perfectionism causes a constant state of anxiety. And that leads a very real physical reaction. Any time your self-imposed workload becomes too much, it sends signals to the amygdala, the brain’s fear center, and the fight-or-flight response kicks in. Over time that leads to an overactive fear center, and from there, burnout ensues.
Are you tired of being a perfectionist? Try these five strategies for giving perfectionism the boot:
- Set realistic goals. Examine your goals and determine if they are attainable. Replace lofty perfectionist expectations with healthy, achievable objectives.
- Practice gratitude toward yourself. Every day, think about three things you appreciate about yourself. This could be anything you felt particularly proud of that day, from the fabulous dinner you whipped up to the time you were able to spend with a loved one.
- Embrace your imperfections. Love yourself in your entirety, including your flaws. Remember that everyone else has imperfections, too.
- Compare yourself to yourself. Comparing yourself to other people on a regular basis can easily lead to feeling inferior, spurring on your quest for being perfect. There will always be a lot of people ahead of you in any area of life. Instead, compare you to you. Look for areas in which you have improved and appreciate how far you’ve come.
- Hush your inner critic. Harsh self-assessments reinforce perfectionistic tendencies. Replace the inner voice that berates you with one that offers love and reassurance.
Happiness isn’t about being perfect but about accepting yourself just the way you are. Let go of the flaws and imperfections and recognize them as part of being human.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Executive Director at The Better Brain Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 833-964-8483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.