It took me about 10 attempts to start this article.
Every time I did, I would realize that something didn’t sound quite right and start all over again.
I am a perfectionist.
A perfectionist is defined by Collins English Dictionary as a person who refuses to do or accept anything that is not as good as it could possibly be, and for me it is a focal point of anxiety.
My desire to be perfect in everything that I do has driven my self standards up so high that I can’t possibly hope to achieve them.
Even now, I still haven’t let go of my perfectionism entirely. I have moments where I lapse back into my old ways and that’s okay- it takes time to get rid of old habits.
Here are the four things that helped me get over my perfectionism:
1. Learning to let go of my mistakes.
Making mistakes is part of being human. The issue with being a perfectionist is that I would beat myself up over every error, which isn’t healthy. Being able to take a breath, accept my mistake and prepare myself to succeed next time was one of my biggest keys to getting rid of the anxiety I had attached to perfectionism.
2. Taking a break from projects that just aren’t working out how I want them to.
Sometimes, when I really want something to be perfect, I frustrate myself in the process of trying to get it just right. I find that after walking away from whatever it is that I can’t quite master, and then coming back to it after cooling down for a minute, I can usually see the solution I was looking for all along.
Walking away from things that aren’t perfect was my problem here – my brain wanted me to sit down and tinker with them until they were perfect, but sometimes coming back with a clear head and fresh ideas is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Walking away from an unfinished project may have driven me insane at first, but it got easier until I eventually learned to stop fixating on blank test questions. Skip it and come back later!
3. Getting something to fidget with.
While fidgeting may seem like a new trend rather than a legitimate coping mechanism, I have found it quite helpful to combat my perfectionism. Rather than focusing on the task at hand and forcing myself to do it perfectly, I divert just enough of my attention into fidgeting (with something like a stress ball) to stop myself from fixating on what I’m doing wrong.
4. Refusing to set unrealistic goals.
This one may seem obvious, at least it did to me when I first said I was going to stop setting unrealistic goals for myself, but it’s important to set goals for yourself that are manageable and reasonable.
Setting unrealistic goals and then failing to meet them, or spreading myself so thin that I didn’t have time to juggle everything, did not further me in any way.
Learning to separate my idealistic views of what I can do versus what I can realistically do, and setting my personal and academic goals appropriately helped me satisfy my perfectionist brain by completing them, while avoiding putting the unnecessary pressure on myself.
Even though I haven’t fully gotten rid of my perfectionist ways yet, I have come a long way. The biggest part for me was to just get out of my own head and let myself enjoy things- and that’s something I’ve been able to do a lot more of now that I’ve eased up on my self expectations.
Image 1 of quote about perfectionism is from Just Breathe Reiki.