5 Tips for Overcoming Perfectionism
By Laurie PK on May 14, 2009
“I went for years not finishing anything,” said Erica Jong, bestselling author of Fear of Flying. “Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.”
Perfectionists procrastinate, set themselves up for eating disorders and anxiety attacks, and rarely enjoy success. Whether you're a writer, a mother, or a lover -- or all three! -- these tips will reduce stress and improve your satisfaction with life.
1. Balance high hopes with harsh reality. Perfectionists have expectations and goals that simply can’t be met! To overcome perfectionism, you need to balance great expectations with reality, my friends. Accept that your limits - and other people’s limits - are real. You simply can’t create perfection.
2. Practice being imperfect. Let yourself (and others) release imperfect work to the world. Be imperfect in your parenting, projections, and relationships with others. The more you practice being imperfect, the more comfortable you’ll be with it.
3. Savor satisfaction for what you’ve achieved. Learn to appreciate and honor your effort, the journey, and your accomplishments. The big picture matters more than the tiny details: the fact that you’re hosting a dinner party means more than whether the dishes match, and the fact that you finished the report at work matters more than a few grammatical errors.
4. Express your emotions. Accept your painful emotions (regret, disappointment, depression) - but don’t ruminate on them. In The Pursuit of Perfect Ben-Shahar writes, “Rather than having thoughts playing in an endless loop in our heads (ruminating), we would be better off expressing our thoughts verbally or in writing.” If you’re having trouble accepting an imperfect project or action, express your grief.
5. Take action. What have you always wanted to do, but didn’t because you were afraid of failing? Try it now! Audition for a community play, send a resume for a job, ask someone on a date. “Don’t worry if you fail and have to try again,” writes Tal Ben-Shahar, author of The Pursuit of Perfect. “In writing, reflect on how this process of learning from failure applies to other areas of your life.”
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time freelance writer who created and maintains a series of Quips and Tips blogs (Quips and Tips for Freelance Writers, Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals, and Quips and Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility). She's also the Feature Writer for Psychology Suite101. Pawlik-Kienlen is working on her first book: See Jane Soar: Life Lessons From Women Who Weren't Well-Behaved - also a blog! Her degrees are in Psychology and Education.