Overcoming Perfectionism

by Bob Walsh

Overcoming perfectionism isn’t easy – and it’s not even necessary. Because perfectionism isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s just the kind of perfectionism that you practice – because there is a good kind of perfectionism and a bad kind of perfectionism. We’ll go into the disctinctions between these two in this article, and we will also cover how you can switch from the bad to the good perfectionism.

unhealthy perfectionism

Perfectionism can be something that either helps or hinders you. This article is all about how to overcome negative perfectionism, and instead engage in positive perfectionism.

Two Kinds of Perfectionism: Good & Bad

Researchers like to make a distinction between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism.

With perfectionism, the intention is always good: it’s about wanting to achieve something great or being really good at something. However, good intentions don’t matter that much if they lead to negative outcomes.

If you are reading this article, then you are probably struggling with unhealthy perfectionism. Here are a couple of characteristics of unhealthy perfectionism:

  • worrying what others will think
  • mistakes are viewed as something that should be avoid
  • constantly settings unachievable goals (and feeling destroyed when failing to achieve them)
  • criticism is dreaded, and viewed as a personal attack
  • compulsively having to compete, always wanting to the best at everything
  • often leads to procrastination

And here a couple of characteristics of healthy perfectionism:

  • striving for excellence
  • it’s not about finding “the answer”, but simply getting closer and closer to it
  • mistakes are viewed as opportunities for improvement
  • criticism is welcome and valued (even if it hurts sometimes)
  • standards are high, but achievable
  • time and energy invested in tasks matches strengths and interests
  • devoting most of your time and attention to things you value
  • payoffs you get from your efforts are greater than your costs

Transitioning from Bad  To Good Perfectionism

How do you make perfectionism work for you, instead of against you?

Well, when you set a goal for something, ask yourself first: is this an achievable goal for me? And is it worth the time and effort to strive for this goal?

If you want to be better at something than someone else, ask yourself: is this really so important to me?

If you feel like nobody else can do the job as well as you, ask yourself: Is it really necessary to do this task at such a high standard? Are there other tasks that I could devote my attention to, which would have a bigger payoff and net positive effect on me and my team?

Also, when you are working on something – share what you’re working on with other people while you’re still in the process. That means, don’t wait to show others your work until you’re finished with it, but show it to them while it’s still in a development phase. Show it to others while it’s still a draft that contains errors and which you already know you will improve upon. A lot of people who suffer from unhealthy perfectionism are worried that others might think “So this is the best that he can do?” If they show something to them that’s not yet finished and polished. It’s best to break down a big task into several distinct and smaller tasks, and then you can show these smaller tasks to other people to gain early feedback and let go of your fear of seeming unintelligent or uncapable.

The fastest and easiest way to let go of unhealthy perfectionism is probably to use a self hypnosis download with that specific purpose.

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