Perfectionism can rob you of your self-esteem, undermine your relationships, and keep you from enjoying life. It’s often a lifelong habit that is hard to break, but a little bit of effort can go a long way toward changing the perfectionist pattern. Here are some tips if perfectionism applies to you:
1) Weigh the cons. List all of the ways in which your perfectionism is hurting you, your family and friends. This exercise will help motivate you to make a change.
2) Take note. Try to document your perfectionist, negative thoughts throughout the day. If this is impractical, then at the end of the day think back on your day, remember any feelings of failure or inadequacy, and write down your thoughts at the time. That way, you’ll become more aware of these detrimental thoughts when they resurface.
3) Think positive. Mitigate your tendency to focus on the negative by making a conscious effort to notice all that is good about your own and others’ efforts. If you notice something negative about yourself or your work, find five or so positive qualities to counterbalance those thoughts.
4) Change your inner voice. Silence (or at least muffle) that negative self-talk by taking some concrete steps to change your focus. For example:
* Keep a journal of your thoughts and examine them later
* Stop negative thoughts in their tracks by literally saying “stop” in your head when such a thought arises
* Keep a rubber-band around your wrist and snap it when negative self-talk starts
* Replace negative statements with milder, neutral or positive statements
* Change negative statements to questions – for example, “I can’t do this!” could become “How can I do this?”
5) Take baby steps. Instead of setting unreasonable goals as perfectionists tend to do, reduce your big goals into smaller, bite-sized objectives, and reward yourself when you meet them. This will help you forgive your mistakes more easily, helps you to enjoy the process, and actually increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve your big goal.
6) Stop and smell the roses. Focus less on results and more on the process of reaching your goals. Some ways to do this might include joining a group working toward the same goal or keeping a journal of your feelings and what you learn along the way. Even if you don’t meet your goal, you can look back and see what you have gained in just working toward a goal.
7) Take criticism constructively. Instead of perceiving criticism as an attack and reacting defensively, receive it as a helpful suggestion for improving your performance. Then your less-than-perfect performances can become stepping stones toward achieving excellence.
8) Look at the big picture. Concentrate less on the little imperfections and more on what matters. For example, giving a birthday party for a friend matters much more than the fact that your dishes didn’t match your tablecloth.
So give yourself a break, embrace your gifts and talents, and correct those little lies that run through your head. A concerted – but not necessarily perfect! – effort to change your perfectionist habits will go a long way toward achieving your ultimate goal: a happier you.