How to Overcome Perfectionism

One of the most common and destructive thought habits I have ever encountered is perfectionism.

It holds you back from actually getting all the way to done with a lot in life. It may hold you back from even trying to do something because you feel you have to do it perfectly.

And it tears your self-esteem apart.

So what can you do about it?

In today’s article I would like to share 3 of the most effective things that have helped me to replace this habit with something better.

Go for good enough.

Aiming for perfection usually winds up in a project or something else never being finished. So go for good enough instead. Don’t use it as an excuse to slack off. But simply realize that there is something called good enough and when you are there then you are finished with whatever you are doing.

Good enough in this case will most often mean that you have done a very good job on an important task or project. But that you do not have to do it perfectly.

And good enough will in some cases just mean that you have done a good enough job on some small task for example. There are many things to do in life or in a week so make choices so that you can use your limited energy and time in a smart way.

Reminder: buying into myths of perfection will hurt you and your life.

By watching too many movies, listening to too many songs and just taking in what the world is telling you it is very easy to be lulled into dreams of perfection. It sounds so good and wonderful and you want it.

But in real life it clashes with reality and tends to cause much suffering and stress within you and in the people around you. It can harm or possibly lead you to end relationships, jobs, projects etc. just because your expectations are out of this world.

I find it very helpful to remind myself of this simple fact.

Whenever I get lost in a perfectionist headspace I remind myself that it will cause me and my world harm. And so it become easier to switch my focus and thought patterns because I want to avoid making unhelpful choices and avoid causing myself and other people unnecessary pain.

Set your own bar and surround yourself with human standards.

Instead of setting the bar for yourself – or letting other people set that bar – at an inhuman standard set it at a human level.

We all fail. We all have trouble reaching our goals sometimes. That is OK and very human.

Don’t obey the bar that someone else have set for you. They may have set it out of the goodness of their hearts – or not, to for example maximize profits – but if the old standards do not work for you then it is time to find a better standard for yourself.

So set the bar at a level where you feel motivated but where you do not have to achieve inhuman results to like yourself and to be satisfied.

Then choose to take small steps and day by day and week by week rearrange your world so that it becomes more and more supportive of you and of human standards.

Reduce or cut out media sources that make you feel worse or like you have to live up to perfect standards. Replace them with magazines, blogs, books etc. filled with optimism and motivation but also kinder and more realistic expectations and standards.

Do the same thing with the people in your life. Spend more time with people who are kind, who like to grow and like living a good life in a balanced, positive and mentally healthy way.

This is your life. You decide. So set and surround yourself with the standards that help you to both do good and to feel good.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

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  • Great message about perfectionism. It’s caused me some bad problems over the years, but some of my friends have been completely destroyed by them wanting perfection. A friend of mine, in university, would rather not submit coursework than submit something which was not ‘perfect’. This meant that instead of getting a B or C grade she got a F. Just shows how self destructive perfectionism can be. It’s one of the things I try to talk about on my blog.

  • Thank you for the great information! I can definitely relate to this post. I’ve struggled with perfectionism for many years, and you’re right – it holds you back from actually getting all the way done with a lot in life. As a college student, I’m constantly stressed because I receive so many assignments between my six classes. I’ve been on the Dean’s List every semester in college, but I get upset with myself if I get a B in a class. This semester has taught me to “go for good enough” because I’m in such time-consuming classes. Getting into that mindset was hard at first, but it’s helped my stress levels immensely. Instead of spending all my time and energy on one project, I’ve been completing one project and moving onto the next. Great advice. Thanks again!