Unwinding the pressure to be perfect

Many people have a strong need to be “perfect” and want to create order in their day as well as plan out everything. Some behaviors include checking and rechecking things excessively, spending too much time on small tasks, difficulty making decisions and avoiding new tasks for fear of making a mistake.

Any sense of uncertainty for the future can cause a lot of anxiety. Others have a sense that I want to give it a 100% or not at all. This is called black and white thinking and can set up a lot of unrealistic expectations. This often shows through with goals of wanting to exercise or eat right and when someone goes off their plan they throw in the towel and give up. Often perfectionism and black and white thinking can go together.

Recently I had friends over for dinner and I usually take some time to clean. My own perfectionistic tendencies creep in. This time I decided not to kill myself over cleaning and and only did half of what I normally do. I left some dishes in the sink, didn't dust at all. And you know what?? Nobody cared and we all just laughed and had a good time. Sometimes you have to ease back some and force yourself to live with the less than perfectness of life. Its not always easy to do this but the more you practice it the easier it can become!

Here are some other tips to managing perfectionism:

1) Recognize when you are doing it, asking yourself questions like “do I have trouble meeting my own standards? Do my standards get in my way? Are they causing me anxiety, depression or frustration as I try to meet them?”

2) Consider changing your expectations to be more realistic and reframe them from “anything less than perfect is a failure” to “my best is good enough”, “I am enough”.

3) Lower your standards some, but remember it doesn’t mean having no standards. Dial it down some, enough so your perfectionism doesn’t get in the way of a quality life for yourself.

4) Watch your self-talk, when it comes from a place of anxiety “it has to be this way” “I can’t make a mistake” or “everything is riding on this” and ease back to some self-compassion “I don’t have to do overdo it, I wll take my time and this can work out” or “everyone makes mistakes, I can learn from this and move on”

5) Shift your perspective, ask yourself what would someone else say about this situation? Does this really matter? What’s the worse that can happen and if it does how could I survive it?

I think some people lean more to having higher standards for themselves. Once you can gain that awareness and recognize it in yourself the more you can make same changes to keep it in check. This can help ease the distress you feel and reduce anxiety. It can take some time to get there so be patient with yourself! Take it one step at a time and you can get there!