Overcome Perfectionism

The dark side of perfectionism: Here’s how you can cope with it

People who set unreasonably high and unattainable standards, and follow the all or nothing mentality are considered as negative or maladaptive perfectionists.
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If you set high standards for yourself yet constantly fear failure or berate yourself for not performing as per your lofty expectations, then you could be a maladaptive perfectionist. It’s the all-or-nothing mentality that creates the insatiable urge to achieve perfection, something that doesn’t exist. According to Psychology Today, “Maladaptive perfectionism is often driven by fear of failure, feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, and adverse childhood experiences. It is frequently accompanied by depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and even suicidal impulses.”

Maladaptive perfectionists worry about achieving superhuman standards to the point they may procrastinate for hours. Only to create something that could meet their unrealistic expectations. Moreover, their fear of failure makes them dread learning new things or taking on challenges that could help them steer forward in life. They neither accept their failures nor recognise their flaws. All they want to do is to impress others with their perfectionist avatar, which only lead them to disastrous consequences such as mental health disorders.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the ill effects of maladaptive perfectionism, which has been “strongly associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms.” If you are facing difficulties due to this negative form of perfectionism, here are a few ways you can overcome it.

Eliminate negative self-talk

Does your inner voice constantly chide you for not being perfect enough? It’s time to silence it by changing your focus to positive self-affirmations. When that negative voice replays a past mistake and makes you feel awful, remind yourself that failures are a part and parcel of life. Everyone, including some of the world’s most successful people, experienced failures. But they used them as opportunities for growth. When the inner voice begins to rear its ugly head, try to pause for a moment, and take deep breaths. You can try to meditate to calm your mind and stop the negative self-talk.

Indulge in positive activities

Listen to cheerful music, go out for a walk, exercise or meet a close friend who brings a smile to your face. Positive activities can help counter unhealthy, negative perfectionism, which makes you focus only on failure or unworthiness. When you surround yourself with positive activities, it helps you feel relaxed and comfortable. You gain a semblance of inner peace and understand the importance of the little joys of life, which you may have neglected in your pursuit of unhealthy perfectionism.

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is the act of being kind towards yourself. When you set unrealistic expectations, you tend to dwell too much on self-criticism, which will never let you reach your goals. If you truly want to achieve success in your pursuits, develop inner harmony and peace. Self-compassion is not akin to self-pity. It helps you healthily relate with yourself wherein you accept your mistakes and shortcomings instead of indulging in self-flagellation.

Remove the all-or-nothing mindset

This is a dangerous and destructive habit, which makes you look at life in extremes. Either you deem yourself a total failure or a success. Such binary evaluation can cause major obstacles in your life and prevent you from climbing the ladder of success. You can work on overcoming this unhealthy pursuit of perfectionism by developing acceptance and moving beyond the binaries.

Journal your thoughts

Journaling has been proven to be an effective way of dealing with negative thoughts, as it helps you gain clarity. Keeping a journal can lead to many positive results and improvements in your life. Write down the difficult thoughts that afflict you daily and observe if they continue to perturb you. Journaling helps you confront those thoughts by simply developing awareness of their existence. Once you start penning them down, you will notice that they themselves take a backseat and stop bothering you. Developing this habit can help you overcome unhealthy perfectionism.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Are you too concerned with the success of others? Do you constantly compete with them? These negative perfectionism traits act as a deterrent on your path. Remind yourself that you are living your life for yourself, and not to compete with others. If you often compare your assets and possessions with friends or relatives, you will create unhealthy standards of perfectionism. You may develop a neurotic obsession with reaching the same level while ignoring the successes and riches you already possess. So, start now and change this mindset to appreciate what you have in life.

Seek professional help

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a good practice to overcome unhealthy perfectionism. According to Psychology Today, it “is a short-term form of psychotherapy directed at present-time issues and based on the idea that the way an individual thinks and feels affects the way he or she behaves.” A study found that CBT “leads to reductions in perfectionism and related distress.” So, if you feel that you are unable to cope with maladaptive perfectionism on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified therapist who could address this issue and suggest you the right course of action.

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