by Dr. Dan Darnell, PhD.
What It Is
Everything has to turn out perfect or it is not worth it. You drive
yourself to be the best at everything you do. You constantly compare yourself to others and if someone appears to be doing something better than you, then you feel awful. You spend every available minute preparing to ace that exam or to make sure you don't mess up on a presentation. It's hard to relax. Anything less than an all out effort is worthless. You worry constantly about whether you are doing enough. Your social life is just an after thought, as long as it does not get in the way of your achievements. You're riding high when things go as you planned. But you're only as good as your next preformance, so you better not relax. One mistake and you feel like a failure regardless of any past successes.
At the root of it is your all or none thinking. A take no prisoners attitude. No excuses. Everything is black and white, perfect or inadequate. No vulnerabilities, slowdowns, or flaws allowed. Although every high achiever has a bit of perfectionism in them, taken to excess there are three major problems with perfectionism:
- Everything is equally important because everything has to be perfect. You can't prioritize your efforts and after a while cognitive paralysis sets in when you can't decide what to do next.
- You don't know how to pace yourself or regulate your efforts since an all out effort is required for everything. This leads to burn out.
- Your self worth is primarily based on your achievements, day to day, with no resting on your laurels. This maintains maladaptive assumptions about who you are and how you are valued. This creates insecurity.
Ways To Deal With Perfectionism
- Acknowledge the advantages and disadvantages of your perfectionism. Make a list of these.
- Prioritize your efforts. Discriminate between what is really important and what is not.
- Decide what a reasonable effort is for whatever task you take on and set this as your goal.
- Practice detachment from the results of your efforts. Judge yourself according to your efforts and not their anticipated results.
- Plan for and schedule "off duty," relaxation time as well as "on duty," work focused time. Don't let other commitments encroach on your "off duty" time.
- Try lowering your expectations. Value your strengths and view your flaws and limitations as part of being human.
- Challenge any catastrophic, negative thinking you have about your performance and achievements. The world is not going to end if you make a mistake.
- Stop comparing or benchmarking yourself with your peers. Value your own contributions and efforts regardless of what others do.
- Practice staying in the "here and now." Don't obsess about past behavior. Avoid looking into and predicting the future.
- Appreciate the present moment.