Do you struggle being satisfied with something unless it’s done perfectly? Do you have extremely high standards for yourself and others? Are you terrified of making mistakes? If so, you may be a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a personality trait that can manifest itself in everything you do in life, even in the most mundane everyday tasks you perform. You may find yourself spending excessive amount of time arranging your clothes perfectly for example, or feel like your day is ruined if just one thing doesn’t go the way you planned it. Even though having high standards and good awareness of mistakes can be a good thing, excessive perfectionism makes you overly-focused on the negative, unhappy and dissatisfied with yourself and your life. Fortunately there are a few ways you can change your thinking in order to be less of a perfectionist.
Change Your Perspective on Mistakes
Ask yourself what mistakes mean for you. What is your perception of mistakes in general? Do you think making mistakes makes you a failure or will make your life miserable? The reality is everyone makes mistakes. No matter how anxious you get over it, you can’t avoid them. Often we make mistakes because we don’t truly know what we want in life. But most importantly we make mistakes because we are human, and we are not completely efficient at predicting outcomes and avoiding wrong decisions. If you are generally able to consider the consequences that arise from your actions in life you should be fine.
Force Yourself to Do Things Imperfectly Sometimes
This may sound scary to you if you are a perfectionist but a way to get over the anxiety that imperfections cause is to intentionally do things imperfectly so your mind will get used to it and won’t freak out every time you make a trivial mistake. For example: leave something messy on purpose, arrange your stuff differently than you normally do, make small trivial mistakes.
Change Your Unrealistic Thought Patterns
Perfectionists often have unrealistic\irrational thought patterns they may not even be aware of. For example:
‘Mistakes can be avoided if I try hard enough.’ They often tell themselves they can avoid mistakes if they try hard enough so when they fail they blame themselves a lot and their self-esteem decreases. Perfectionists also tend to catastrophize which means they exaggerate the importance of the mistakes they make. For example, you may find yourself thinking: ‘If I make a mistake, my life will turn to disaster’. Change those thought patterns with more realistic ones like :
‘I will try to avoid making mistakes, but sometimes I may fail, and that’s ok.’
‘Making a mistake doesn’t always lead to terrible things.’
Focus on the Big Picture
You may be very detail oriented and often get fixated on small, negative details and forget about the general picture. Even if you finished a successful project, you may still feel frustrated and dissatisfied if only one small thing isn’t done according to your standards. In such situations focusing on the big picture can help you feel happier and more satisfied.
Try Not to Think in Black and White
Perfectionists can be very inflexible in their perceptions and thinking. They may view things, situations and people as either perfect or horrible. If you find yourself engaging in black and white thinking try to view things in a more ambivalent way: realize that things can be both good and bad at the same time, as that is the nature of the world. Nothing is perfect, perfection is just an idea in our minds, and idea that often stops us from living our lives freely.