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Acknowledging the Perfectionist in Us

We all have struggled with starting or continuing something because of the fear of not being good enough. This subconscious or conscious fear can be paralytic and goes hand in hand with perfectionism. My perfectionistic mindset occasionally leads me to think negatively or in all-or-nothing terms when I'm not performing flawlessly, which creates anxiety. But is being a perfectionist seriously bad?

It's hard to come up with an argument against having high standards. We seek perfection because we refuse to be careless when we fail to unlock our highest potential. So to say that perfectionism is something to run away from at all costs would be radical.

When I think of my own perfectionism I think about getting the details that could be considered petty just right. I have little tolerance for making mistakes with things like grammar on a text message or arranging my schedule on Google Calendar because my self-oriented perfectionism can be rewarding.

Perfectionism can be thought of as drinking caffeinated tea or coffee when trying to get things done. Having too much of it may become unmanageable and having too little of it may not allow us to challenge the status quo. The dose determines the poison.

The Cons of Perfectionism

The fact that we're imperfect creatures is a given. We live in an imperfect world where things don't often go as planned. Although it's possible to find subjective perfection in getting the highest grade on an assignment, enjoying an awesome sunset or taking a picture, it's not guaranteed that perfection will remain because the only constant in life is change.

Poorer Mental Health

One of the downsides of working under perfectionistic ideals is that it can be mentally debilitating. Socially-prescribed perfectionism, which is thinking that we have to be perfect in the eyes of others because otherwise we're less and less worthy, has been associated with depression and suicidal ideation.

Not Celebrating the Small Wins

It's normal for us to wear negative glasses (at times) that are hard to take off and don't allow us to appreciate the small joys. Another downside of being a perfectionist is that we don't stop to pat ourselves on the back for the progress we've made. Not having a bank of positive memories that's large enough makes stress more burdensome because when the slings and arrows of life come we don't have the ammunition to balance that out.

Giving Up

Wanting to be perfect at what we do puts more emphasis on the outcome rather than the value of learning from trial and error. We're more likely to stop trying altogether when we can't reach the aspiration of operating without defects.

Coping With the Critic

We sometimes are our own worst critic. Other people might judge who we are, what we do and how we do it and we might judge others in the same ways but nothing beats the negative inner dialogue we have about ourselves.

Because of how inevitable it is to face the defeat of failure, none of us are completely immune to applying perfectionism to ourselves or others. It can be like a defense mechanism for dealing with the fear of nonsuccess.

Mindfully Perfectionistic

Awareness is the first step in creating change. Rather than fighting my perfectionistic tendencies I'm learning to live with them. The simple act of noticing that I'm demanding perfection from myself and in rare cases others helps me to familiarize myself with this way of being. Then, I can choose to selectively listen to the critic and consciously let go.

Changing the Self-Talk

Positive affirmations have the power to regulate emotions like fear that develop when we're craving perfection. Overthinking about a mistake that makes me fall short of what I define as perfection can get disorienting. The following positive affirmations have been helpful when a mistake led me to feeling stuck:

  • My mistakes are my apprenticeship for achievement.

  • I lovingly accept myself and welcome my mistakes with gratefulness.

  • I look at mistakes, delays and setbacks with the proper perspective.

In a nutshell

Fear is the underlying emotion associated with perfectionism. Having a perfectionistic outlook is tied to requests for being tip-top in a manner that's unsustainable. We can develop a healthy relationship with the perfectionist in us through recognition and affirmation. What do you think?

Sending you my best wishes, Yerika.

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