Strategies Against Perfectionism

Jan 23, 2023

Perfectionism is one of the most common and potentially destructive roadblocks that you might encounter in your daily life. It often leads to procrastination, fear of failure, and an inability to recognize and accept one's own natural and inevitable limitations. When we try to be perfect, we are trying to be God. We cannot be God. In order to grow, we have to have an attitude and orientation toward integrating our failures and mistakes, accepting them as lessons and strategies that we can check off the list.

In setting impossibly high standards for themselves, perfectionists are often unable to take action because they freeze or get discouraged when they don’t get it 100% right.

Perfectionism can lead to:

Procrastination: Perfectionists often struggle with procrastination because they are unable to start a task until they feel that they have a clear plan and that they are able to do it perfectly.

Fear of failure: Perfectionists tend to be highly self-critical, judging themselves harshly for every mistake, and often fear that they will be judged as inadequate by others.

Distorted self-image: Perfectionists tend to have an inaccurate self-image because they are unable to meet their own impossibly high standards, leaving them susceptible to ignoring their actual talents and capacities simply because they are unable to perform at the level of perfection.

Lack of flexibility: Perfectionists often have difficulty adapting to changes and being open to new ideas. If it isn’t the perfect idea that aligns seamlessly with their distorted point of view, their “all or nothing” thinking will cause them to find the value in new approaches and potentially fruitful next steps.

Steps to counter perfectionism:

Recognize and challenge perfectionistic thoughts: One step that someone can take to counter their sense of perfectionistic condemnation is to recognize and challenge perfectionistic thoughts. Perfectionistic thoughts are often irrational and unhelpful, such as "I must be perfect" or "I can't make mistakes." By recognizing these thoughts and challenging them, one can begin to replace them with more realistic and balanced thoughts like, “I tried that and it didn’t work, so next time I can do better.”

Seek feedback from others: Another strategy for identifying areas where perfectionism is getting in the way of progress is to seek feedback from safe people, such as friends, family members, or a therapist. These individuals may be able to provide insight into one's behavior and may be able to identify areas where perfectionism is causing problems. They won’t be hindered by the same distorted self-image and narrow scope in which the perfectionist evaluates their own efforts.

Learn to accept and embrace imperfection: Learning to accept and embrace imperfection can be an important step in countering the sense of perfectionistic condemnation. Because perfectionism often leads to procrastination, this can create a bias toward inaction. Accepting our own lack of perfection allows us the freedom to take the next step because we know that it will provide information that we can use to continue to grow.

Identifying areas where perfectionism is getting in the way of progress can be challenging, but it is an essential step in growth. None of us can be perfect like God, but we can live in His ways and from his lessons to fuel our growth and progress. Break the cycle of self-condemnation that perfectionism weaves into the fabric of your life, and you will be surprised by how far you can go.