Freedom from Perfectionism
Not only does perfectionism cause psychological stress that makes us unhappy as we strive to achieve the impossible, it is bad for our health. While you may think that perfectionism is a laudable trait, it is not. If you are suffering from perfectionism, read on.
by Jamie Spannhake
July 04, 2019
When I see other people trying to be perfect, I want to help them. It’s more often than not, a woman who is a mother, trying to be everything to everyone all the time. I want to take a moment and give her a pat on back. Or maybe even a hug.
Not only does perfectionism cause psychological stress that makes us unhappy as we strive to achieve the impossible, it is bad for our health. Some researchers have determined that the risks of perfectionism are as dangerous as those associated with smoking, and can even cause irritable bowel disease (IBS), insomnia, heart disease, and early death.
While you may think that perfectionism is a laudable trait, it is not. If you are suffering from perfectionism, read on. Adopt these “perfect” traits of non-perfect people and see how life gets better.
1. Give yourself a break. It’s common among overachiever types: we like to push ourselves. It feels so productive, until you’re exhausted, unhappy, and severely stressed. So give yourself a break. You’re doing the best you can, right? So much anxiety is caused by focusing on what “should” be instead of what actually is. Get rid of “should” in your life. It sounds simple, but try to focus on what “is” and work with that. Be kind to yourself, like you would to others.
2. Ask for help from those around you. One of the problems that perfectionists face is that they rarely ask for help. Why? Because they may view it as interference and also be concerned that others are judging them because they need help. But that’s usually not the case. Most often, people that care about us want to help us. And one of the leading contributors to good health is a strong social network and community. So let your friends and family help you. It will make them feel important as well as taking some of the pressure off you. One caveat, though: don't try to control the way your helpers help. Their way may not be your way, but that’s okay. Focus on the outcome, not the process.
3. Lay off social media. If you are wondering why everyone else on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, and Instagram seems so perfect, know this: social media is not real life. Of course, we all know that, but do we understand how viewing all those perfectly curated posts affects us. The truth is that comparison is the thief of joy and spending time comparing ourselves to others – even when we know their social media self is not real – makes us depressed and decreases our self-esteem. So when you are looking to relax before sleep, and think “I’ll just take a quick look at Facebook to get my mind off work stuff,” don’t look at your friends’ posts. Instead, look at your own posts where you are having fun, spending time doing things you enjoy, and, of course, looking “perfect.” Or look at my posts, which are here to help you feel good :-)
4. Be satisfied with non-perfection. My mantra is “Good Enough Is the New Perfect.” Really. Aiming for perfection is costly in time, energy, and resources. And how often have you spent an inordinate amount of time on something to make it perfect, and then no one else appreciates the perfection? There is a bar above which you must operate, but perfection is usually not necessary. Unless you are an Olympian, there are few times in your life when you truly must be perfect. So do a good job, be proud of yourself for that, and pat yourself on the back for the amount of time and energy you saved so that you can achieve something else that is “good enough.”
Remember: You are awesome. You are trying really hard. No, you are not perfect, because no one is perfect, and if anyone requires that you perform perfectly and look perfect and be perfect, tell them to Step Down. Especially if that person is yourself.