I know perfectionism all too well – I used to be the person who:
- Spent 2 weeks straight studying for one test, only to beat myself up for another whole week after the test because I may have gotten a 99 not a 100.
- Reread a paper for hours only to submit it and worry for another 2 weeks about how bad the paper really was.
- Avoided trying new things because I could not risk being seen as bad at something.
- Refused to show people something unless it was deemed “acceptable” in my eyes.
- Avoided risks because I knew that a risk could not be a certain success.
And the absolutely draining activities go on and on.
What this essentially means is that I spent most of my time avoiding things that could have been a great opportunity for me or wasting time not doing things as I worried about past things I did.
I already walked through the whole “Am I a perfectionist” in the Are You A Perfectionist blog; and I tackled Why You Should STOP Being a Perfectionist in another blog. Here, we will dive into how to actually ditch this perfectionism.
How to Overcome Perfectionism
Step 1: Self-Awareness
The first step in any changing process is to start from a place of gentle self-awareness. Where are you starting from? What is your current position? Where do you want to be?
Journal and Reflect
Here are some great journal prompts to start with.
- What do I feel like will happen if I am not perfect?
- What will happen if I submit something not perfect?
- What does perfection look like? What does it mean to me?
- How does it feel to not be perfect?
- Describe a time when you felt less than perfect or failed at something. How did it turn out? How do you look back on it and process it?
These questions get to the root of WHY you feel you must be perfect and how you might feel if not perfect. If we do not start with self-awareness, we have no idea where we have to go to change. Also, the number 1 inhibitor from growth is acting incongruent; so, we have to be acting in alignment with who we are or else we will teeter off course.
Step 2: Practice, Practice, Practice
Next – you have to take baby steps. You cannot take huge steps into change and expect it to stick. Like any other change, you have to put in the hard work but not expect it to happen over night.
Practice Failure and Imperfection with Unimportant Things
Before you can really get good at warding off perfectionism in your bigger live events, you got to practice with failure in things that do not matter and imperfection in things that you do not give a hoot about. You have to sensitize yourself to failure and imperfection, knowing you will be OKAY at the end of the tunnel once it works out.
I swear this works too. It makes you see how trivial perfection can really be. It makes you realize that it is not as painful as you think it will be. Doing something new for the sake of doing it also trains you to take more risks.
It is a win win, and you can look back on your journal prompts and see if you negated any of them.
Start Small with the Semi-Important Things
Then, after you get some practice on the big stuff, dip your toe into the bigger stuff.
I recommend that the first thing you start trying to accomplish are things that you know the people on the other side of it. Say it is making dinner for your best friends. Try not to plan the dinner out early and start it only an hour before they come or something. OR – plan something like wearing to unmatched socks that no one may notice to work OR a personal favorite – set a timer for when you do something like write a blog, article, or email and at the end of the timer you HAVE TO SUBMIT IT no ifs ands or buts.
Over time, like the stuff that does not matter, you will get better at completing things and knowing it is okay without all the hub ub. I promise you… I looked back on assignments I worried about for years, years later, and noticed how good it was. So that brings me to Step 3…
Step 3: Review Past “Worries” and Reflect
Go back and reflect on times you spent way too much time doing something. Think back on something you worried so much about. You can view the photos of the cake you obsessed over baking or the article you wrote for the newspaper. Now, go find something you did on a whim. Do the same exercise. For both the “perfect thing” and the “imperfect thing.” Read or view them with fresh, years later eyes.
How does that thing look to you now? Both are AMAZING right? If you view the imperfect thing as less than, what do you view it with? Awe? Fun?
This exercise is not intended to rile up your perfectionism more. Actually, it is to prove a point to you. I don’t tell you to go to this step to remind you of how much time you need to spend on things. I mean it to honor how awesome you are… and to give yourself a pat on the back. I ask you to do this step to remember that you are freakin’ amazing at anything you do, no matter how perfect or imperfect it is.
Now, you have shown yourself you can do it. Now it is time for implementation in the larger scheme of your life.
Step 4: Implement
You are aware… and now, you know you can be less than perfect and survive, but you still need some encouragement to know if it is OKAY.
This part of implementation looks like listing high-vibe words around you like:
- Done is better than perfect.
- Perfect is an illusion.
- Perfect wastes time.
- I am someone who chooses to complete a project not worry about completing a project.
Put these types of mantras in plain sight so you can always go back to them.
Tackle the Procrastination Project
Next – pick one thing you have really been holding off on because of perfectionism. Pick just one thing. Now, you start that thing. Schedule it and make it happen.
Remember: What you start often gets finished. FACT.
Set a Timer on Tasks
When you feel yourself slipping into mindless perfectionistic worry, set a timer. Only allow yourself the allotted time for the project.
Work on the Deeper Stuff
If you are still struggling and realize that you feel worse not better, then it is time to dive deeper. If you still feel like you have issues with perfectionism, it is time to hire a counselor or a coach or professional of some sort. It probably relates to something from your past that you have to explore. For me, a lot of my perfectionism had to do with feelings of enoughness, which I learned to explore. Through support, I was able to tackle the deeper problem, and perfectionism kind of seemed like an annoyance not a necessity over time.
Here is the last truth bomb of the blog – YOU CAN love yourself and love what you do and NOT BE PERFECT. I am living proof of that. I do it every damn day. Now – here is your chance to go do it for you.
Oh yeah, and I got a sweet guide HERE for recovering from perfectionism.
For more, check out my other self-care blogs at https://www.katkiseli.com/ckk-home/blogs/ I would love to hear your thoughts – Comment below!