Why should you care about how to deal with perfectionism? Because this culprit can sabotage you big time in achieving life balance and in managing your time well. Don’t think that perfectionism is only about the endless pursuit to reach the highest standards in everything you do. There are a number of associated behaviors that together have a compound effect.
I know this first hand, as I’ve displayed most perfectionist behaviors I describe below. To be honest, I haven’t even realized how much perfectionism is affecting my life. We get so used to our beliefs and way of doing things that you sometimes we need a wake-up call. And once, while reading a list of perfectionistic behaviors, it hit me that I tick most of them.
10 Signs You Are A Perfectionist
- Excessively high standards. This is the classic sign of perfectionism. While in some cases it makes perfect sense to abide by the highest standards, it’s not feasible to successfully apply this to everything you do. This approach is often associated with a black or white type of thinking, with no in-betweens.
- Excessively rigid standards. This is related to a perceived giving-up of the high standards a perfectionist pursues. Sometimes our plans are impacted by unexpected events. A perfectionist finds it hard to be flexible and make an exception from the rules he was planning to follow.
- Excessive need for control. Do you constantly strive to control everything around you? How about assuming excessive responsibility for how others think and behave? These tendencies lead to spending an excessive amount of time to make sure that absolutely all the details are well managed.
- Overcompensating. What does this mean? It’s when you do much more than it is needed, just to make sure that you eliminate any possibility to fail or make a mistake. A classic example is leaving two hours earlier for an appointment, when you know that it normally takes you thirty minutes to get there.
- Procrastination. There are a number of different procrastination causes, but perfectionism is one of the frequent ones. This happens when you put off doing something for fear that you will not manage to do it perfectly.
- Having difficulties to quit. Sometimes things do not go the way we want, no matter what. In such instances, it is better to admit it, cut your losses and move on. However, perfectionists find it difficult to do so. They just wouldn’t stop trying and pushing to get it their way. Are you guilty of doing this yourself?
- Being slow in making decisions. Because there are usually several alternatives we need to choose from when making decisions, perfectionists make up their mind slower. This is because they try to avoid any potential mistake and make the perfect choice. Those around them will quickly pick-up on the fact that they always take more time to decide what to wear, what to order when going out and so on.
- Excessive double-checking. In order to make sure no mistake has slipped through, a perfectionist will engage in double-checking over and over again his work. For example, you may double-check ten times that you filled-in well a tax form. Or you may double-check your calculations over and over again and fail to finish your math exam, because you didn’t get to do all exercises.
- Avoiding delegation. We can’t do everything by ourselves. However, in order to make sure that everything is done according to their high standards, perfectionists find it hard to let go. They fail to delegate and let other people do the work, because they believe they are the only ones who can perform the task in the right way.
- Being overly critical to others. This is an attempt to control what others are doing and determine them to do the things your way. it will not be long until excessive criticism will take its toll on your relationship with those around you.
Strategies To Overcome Perfectionism
If upon making an assessment of your thoughts and of your behaviors you identified perfectionist tendencies, think about how they affect your life balance and your relationship with time.
In most cases, perfectionism triggers feelings that impair your life balance. For example, consistently not meeting your very high standards may make you feel stressed, depressed or angry.
Moreover, you will likely spend too much time engaging in activities such as excessive double-checking and fine-tuning.
Therefore, there is a lot to be gained if you start to manage your perfectionist tendencies better.
- In order to do so, make an inventory of your perfectionist thoughts and behaviors, their triggers, their frequency and their intensity.
- Once you have identified the culprits, establish your goals. You can’t possibly change all your thoughts and behaviors all of a sudden. Pick a few related elements to work on in the following months.
- Then, you can start applying one of the following ways to deal with perfectionism.
How To Overcome Perfectionist Thoughts
- Identify them. Although you partially went through this step previously, let’s try to become a bit sharper. It is not that easy to identify perfectionist thoughts, as some of them are not even conscious. Try to identify both your perfectionist thoughts and behaviors. When you notice that you engage into a perfectionist behavior, uncover the thought that triggered the behavior.
- Generate several alternative thoughts. Have a brainstorming with the aim to generate a number of alternative perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them. Like in a brainstorming, don’t apply judgements to the generated options in the first stage.
- Assess the original and alternative thoughts, comparing advantages and disadvantages. Focus on examining the evidence that justifies or not a particular thought. In this way, you will be able to potentially expose many of your perfectionist thoughts as not being based on facts.
- Mentally prepare for different possible outcomes. This is a step that you need to work on continuously, in order to increase the extent to which you can tolerate uncertainty. By becoming more and more open to different alternatives and to giving-up the tendency to control everything, you will be able to implement the next step easier.
- Re-frame the way you approach the situation. Building on the previous step, choose a more realistic and helpful way to think about the situation.
How To Change Perfectionistic Behaviors
Perfectionistic thoughts and behaviors reinforce each other in a vicious circle. The best way is to address both. Changing your thoughts will help overcome perfectionistic behaviors. However, you need to also attack such behaviors directly.
- Expose yourself progressively and in a controlled way to the situation triggering perfectionistic behaviors. The way to do this is to allow yourself to break your excessively hight standards on purpose, in order to get used to the approach. You don’t need to do dramatic changes to what you usually do, but experiment with making small changes. For example, if you spend hours and hours in order to clean your house perfectly, leave a few areas that are a bit messier than you can normally tolerate.
- Break perfectionistic behavior once you catch yourself engaged into it. For example, if you find yourself double-checking something over and over again, make a conscious effort to stop after say one or two double-checks.
- Stop perfectionism-related procrastination. Break the task into smaller bits and just start doing it.
Changing thought patterns and behaviors is a longer term endeavor. You need to be patient and take action consistently and you will continue to make progress. The pay-off is totally worth the effort though. You will make more time for yourself and you will enjoy better life balance.