“I’m such a perfectionist, I hate myself.”
I can’t believe I had this thought in my head 3 days ago. Talk about chronic perfectionism.
I wanted to write a blog post that day but the thought of putting together the perfect helpful blog post + perfect worksheet + perfect images made me paralysed and not move.
“Perfection is a Fairy Tale”
Thank you dailyfemme.com for this quote.
I will start by listing 7 obvious signs of perfectionism.
If you know that you are a perfectionist already, I’ve prepared a cheatsheet below which will help tone down your perfectionistic thoughts and feel more relaxed, fast.
7 Obvious Signs of Perfectionism
1. Black and white thinking
For example: “If I can’t get this blog post right, might as well not do it at all.” or “If I can’t prepare this (free) presentation properly, might as well not do it. If I want to share and conduct a presentation - even if it’s voluntary - it must be done properly.”
2. Obsessing over small ‘mistakes’
For example: “I should not have Whatsapped my superior that joke I saw on Facebook! It’s such a lame joke. He might think that I’m being too friendly. It’s so embarrassing, I can’t face him now. He might think I’m hitting on him.Oh sh*t, I need to correct this mistake right now.
For example: Putting off writing a blog post like this one because it requires too much effort to write a solid blog post which strikes emotions of readers, has an engaging storyline, has pretty Pin-worthy images, a helpful worksheet to download etc
4. Critical of others and self
For example: “He can’t even come to our meeting punctually that one time. How can he be giving us a presentation on work discipline next week?” Or “He is volunteering to give this presentation to us. It’s so basic. If he wants to present something, do in-depth research and do it properly.”
5. Anxiety due to perceived lack of control
For example: Shortness of breath when your mind clouds with details of a project you want to do. Coupled with a quickening of your heartbeat.
6. Do you hope for success or fear of failure?
For example: When you start a new project, are you working hard on it because you are hoping for it to be a success? Or are you working hard on it because you are scared it will be a flop? The latter is perfectionism at work
7.Obsessing over small decisions
For example: Taking a long time to make a guess when playing a fun game with friends because you want to be right. Or getting upset when your boyfriend/husband buys the “wrong” chicken part at the supermarket.
How do you overcome perfectionism and feel more relaxed? I’ve prepared a cheatsheet which helps you to reduce your perfectionistic thoughts fast.
3 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism
1. View your ‘problem’ from someone else’s point of view
Problem: You plan to finish writing a solid article or a solid work report within 2 hours but did not manage to do so.
Your perfectionistic thought: “I’m hopeless as usual - can’t even stay focused to finish this report in 2 hours as planned. Such a lazy bum. Always distracted. I’m never going to get anything worthwhile done by the deadline.”
Actions to take:
How would you comfort a friend who is facing this same ‘problem’? You are likely going to be kinder on your friend than on yourself. Why not be kind to yourself as well?
How would (insert name of a level-headed friend) view this ‘problem’? Your level-headed friend might conclude that she is currently stressed or tired and thus, could not be productive as expected. She might choose to switch off her laptop, go spend time with her loved ones to recharge and return to the report later in the day.
How would you explain why you are facing this ‘problem’? Perhaps you didn’t have proper sleep last night, thus affecting your concentration today. Perhaps you have too many tasks on hand. Maybe you are just having an ‘off’ day due to personal problems. It's not because you are incompetent!
2. Tone down your nasty critical thoughts
Based on the example above: Instead of labelling yourself as “hopeless”, “always distracted”, be kinder to yourself. No one is expecting perfection out of you - only you do.
Balance your critical thoughts with:
“Everyone has an ‘off’ day at times.”
“It’s normal not to be productive every single day. Even robots need their ‘rest’.”
“Everybody makes mistakes. Mistakes are not life-threatening.”
3. Risk making more mistakes
If you are a perfectionist, you are going to freak out by this suggestion.
Risk making more mistakes means taking, say, 2 hours to prepare a presentation when you would normally take 5 hours.
Rehearsing your presentations only 1 time instead of rehearsing 10 times.
Allowing yourself to make small mistakes in your daily life instead of over-preparing every darn thing.
Ditch the shopping list when grocery shopping (this actually makes me feel nervous!).
The point of all these actions is to go with the flow, be more spontaneous and think on your feet when the time calls for it.
Thinking on your own feet and being spontaneous makes you feel more alive and relaxed as opposed to over-preparing and following a ‘script’ or rigid to-do list.
What is the ideal transformation for a perfectionist?
We are striving to enjoy the process instead of just achieving goals and outcomes. Ask for help when you need it - admit that we can’t do it all (and shouldn’t) for the sake of our mental health.
Set realistic goals which are flexible and adjust when needed. Don’t set rigid demands and goals on yourself - situations and circumstances can change. Might as well be adaptable.
We also hope to recover easily from mistakes and not beat ourselves up for a mistake we made many years ago (which other people probably don’t care or don’t remember).
To help you transform and be more relaxed and less harsh on yourself, you can download the cheatsheet I’ve prepared below.
"Sometimes, perfectionists need to practice making mistakes so that they can learn for themselves that it is not life threatening."
Share this article with your friends and followers to help them with perfectionistic thoughts as well!