I’ve been calling myself a recovering perfectionist for YEARS.
In fact I used it in my bio description on Facebook for a long time. Being a perfectionist is one of those traits where you might feel like it’s something to be proud of but most perfectionists know that it can literally be a debilitating trait. It can stop you from attempting to do the work or even sharing your work with others - which is necessary to being a working artist.
For me - even though I would say I was a recovering perfectionist I knew that I really wasn’t doing what I needed to do to really get away from that mindset. I realized that I was a perfectionist and that I needed to change in order to get more focused and accomplish what I wanted to in life.
Perfectionism causes mind clutter.
It can actually hold you back from what you want to do because of the anxiety of wanting your end result to be perfect. This can result in procrastination…which I think is perfectionism’s evil cousin.
A study done by the Society of Personality Research looked at the relationship between perfectionism and procrastination and showed that perfectionism can actually hold you back from being the most successful in your field. The research studied the behavior in college students and the relationship between perfectionism and procrastination.
How can you identify perfectionism in yourself?
The Huffington Post has a great article on this topic called: 14 Signs That Your Perfectionism is Out of Control. Here are just a few:
- You’ve always been eager to please
- You take things personally
- You are a big procrastinator
- You are highly critical of others
Research shows that perfectionism and procrastination are actually based on an endorsement of “irrational beliefs” and “excessive fear of failure”. That means that these behaviors are based on illogical or unreasonable thoughts. If you ask me that is a whole lot of mind energy being used to worry about unfounded thoughts instead of being used to focus on what you want to accomplish!
So now that you know you are a perfectionist, and that it’s based on irrational thoughts how can you get over it?
It’s definitely something that takes time and work to change your thought process. Here are somethings that I started doing to work towards overcoming perfectionism.
1. Realize you will never be perfect at not being a perfect.
- I am kind of saying this tongue in cheek as perfectionists can have the tendency to try to be perfect at everything. Even not being perfect. Understand that you are going to start this journey with an open mind knowing that it’s a journey and it will take time to gain a new perspective.
2. Understand that nobody is perfect.
- No matter how together someone looks on the outside I guarantee that they have made mistakes, done something embarrassing or messed up at work. Accept it. Nobody is perfect.
3. Start with being imperfect with small things.
- This was a huge help for me. I would purposefully allow myself to let go in situations or instances that didn’t have a lot of risk just to show myself that I can still have a great outcome without the perfectionism cloud over my head. For example, this morning I let the pancake batter splatter on the counter and waited until after I was done cooking to clean it up. I know, I know…it’s a process.
4. Change how you talk to yourself.
- I used to beat myself up all the time if I made a mistake that I thought I shouldn’t have made. If I got lost going somewhere that I’ve been before or just did something I thought I could have avoided I would verbally say mean things to myself. Now I try to talk to myself like I would talk to a good friend that needed encouragement. You would be surprised how your self-talk can affect your perspective.
5. Look at the big picture.
- In the grand scheme of things does it matter if your hair looks perfect all the time or your souffle was a hit at a dinner party or that your painting looked like Monet’s famous painting Water Lilies? No! What matters is that you live with passion and love those around you!
6. Learn to Love yourself.
- Spend time studying yourself, your personality, your talents and gifts. Understand that you are unique and special. You do have something amazing to contribute to this world. Find people that appreciate you for who you are and remove the people in your life that make you feel worse about yourself.
7. Help other people.
- Perfectionism can be a form of self-centeredness. Constantly being focused on yourself and your flaws is just…exhausting and unfulfilling. Get out of your head and go volunteer somewhere, help someone else out that is in need. You will find that focusing on service will help you to let go of perfectionist thoughts and behaviors.
8. Redefine failure.
- Scientists and successful entrepreneurs do not look at life in terms of failures, they look at it in terms of lessons. Life is not black and white and it’s not an uphill slope. It’s full of ups and downs and full of twists and turns. Life is…life. Embrace it. When something doesn’t go “right” ask yourself what you can learn from the situation and how you can grow from what you experienced. By changing your perspective on failure you will start to look at your experiences in life differently and with more courage.
Overcoming perfectionism is a process. It’s not something that you can just wake up and expect it to be gone after a few well applied tips. Be gracious with yourself as you work at overcoming perfectionism. If you sense that this is actually affecting your day to day life don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it and get help from a professional.