I used to think perfectionism was a good thing, but I’ve come to realize it’s not, well at least not for me and many other people. Perfectionism can really hurt us. I’ll talk about 4 ways in which it hurts us, and how we can try to overcome it.
Not Feeling Good Enough:
What I have found is perfectionism causes and is rooted from not feeling good enough. This feeling of not being enough and constantly trying to be perfect can be very tiring and defeating. We are striving to be enough through being a perfectionist, trying to prove to yourself and to others that you are enough, and the sad part is that you feel like you are never able prove it, and aren’t able reach that level of perfection. To fight this, first you need to be aware of these feelings, and try to figure out where they are coming from which is often rooted in our past and negative though patterns. And then to tell yourself that you are good enough, no matter what you or what people say. You are enough.
Not Appreciating Your Accomplishments:
Another way that perfectionism is so toxic for us is that it can stop us from appreciating the things we have achieved. We tend to hardly acknowledge the successes we’ve had because we are so focused on what we could have done better, or how someone else had done it better. Whereas, if we took a moment to see what we have achieved in life, even small things, we would actually feel a bit better about ourselves. For example, getting good grades at school, I should have been like “Wow I did a good job I got a 90% average”, but instead, as a perfectionist, I was like “Oh, my friends did better than me, they got 95%, I should have tried harder”. Another example is I know how to play an instrument, I should recognize that as a skill and accomplishment, yet my mind would say “there’s so many others who can play better than me, I’m really not that skilled.” So you can see how perfectionism promotes this negative talk and negative view of ourselves and how we could have done more and need to do better. When in reality it’s much better to see and truly appreciate the things we have accomplished, even the small things. As some would say, celebrate the small wins. Take some time to look back on your life and appreciate all the things you have accomplished, tell yourself that you are proud of yourself and what you have accomplished so far.
Fear of Starting:
Now I think one of the worst ways perfectionism can hurt us is that it can completely stop us from doing things, starting projects, or trying something new. It can cause us to not start something because of the fear that we won’t be good at it, or won’t be able to do a good job, let alone be perfect. It’s a very defeating feeling. For example, one my friends told me about his friend that loved to skateboard, he idolized the pros that could do amazing tricks, but he said “why should I even try? I could never be like them, I’ll never be as good as the pros”. That is where perfectionism and the negative talk can stop you from doing something you would like to do. It’s important to be aware of this fear rooting from perfectionism, this is why you are stopping yourself, try to work past the fears. Know that nothing is truly perfect. One piece of advice that has really helped me is: don’t strive for perfection, strive for progress. Instead of going for 100%, aim for 70%. Putting out work that is 70%, is better than not putting out anything at all because of it not being perfect. Focusing on progress helps to remind yourself that everything takes time, and the more you make progress the more you will improve.
- Being Too Hard on Yourself:
Perfectionism can make you way too hard on yourself for not being good enough (to your standards) and can cause you a lot of anxiety. For example, in the past whenever I started a new job I would try to learn everything right away and do things perfectly, but the trouble was there was usually a learning curve. I would expect myself to be perfect and do everything right first day on the job, I would get super anxious and upset with myself if I made a mistake or was unsure of things. I should have been more patient with myself, and known that it takes time to learn things and not expect myself to be perfect right away. So now that I am more aware of this, I can be nicer to myself, be patient with myself and know that everything takes time to learn. So it comes down to being nicer to yourself, don’t set such incredibly high expectations of yourself, and treat yourself with more patience and kindness.
When it comes down to it, what is perfect anyway? It’s truly a matter of perspective, who and what you believe to be perfect may not be what someone else sees as perfect. So why do we hang onto this so much? I think it’s easy to fall into comparing ourselves to others especially in the modern day when everything presented online is polished. I think a lot of perfectionistic tendencies root back to our childhood, different experiences in life and could be part of our basic personality type. We can’t change the past or blame ourselves for being this way, but we can change how we are now and try to not let it dictate our lives going forward.
So please know that you are good enough despite what you have told yourself or what anyone tells you. Take some time to appreciate the things you have accomplished in life so far. Don’t strive to be perfect, it’s an abstract concept that is not helpful, strive for progress instead. And lastly, be patient and kinder to yourself. And remember that life is beautifully imperfect.