Children begin learning to always do their best at a young age. It’s a noble goal that pushes us to keep learning and to improve our best efforts with time. I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way.
But there’s a fine line between giving something your all and suffering from perfectionism.
I’ve found a better way to maintain my mental health through tips like these. They can help you reframe your perfectionist mindset too. See which ideas work best for the moments when perfectionism holds you back so you don’t live under the weight of it forever.
1. Evaluate the actual stakes.
I used to accept my perfectionism because fear was a big motivator behind it. If I didn’t make my work slideshow look perfect and follow up with a flawlessly entertaining presentation script, my boss might think I was slacking and fire me. The fear of being unable to pay my bills made my perfectionism seem like a necessary evil.
Sometimes that might be true. Other times, the stakes aren’t as high as you think. Writing the best possible senior thesis paper to graduate college has a different level of importance than being the ultimate host when your best friend comes over to hang out.
Is your perfectionism worth your time and effort? Ask yourself that question to evaluate the stakes of any given situation and decide if your perfectionism stress is helping or hurting you in that moment.
2. Note your recurring anxiety sources.
Even if you don’t have an anxiety diagnosis, you can still experience the symptoms. Research shows that 28% of U.S. adults felt anxiety symptoms between 2022 and 2023. Pursuing perfection can be a powerful motivator that may exacerbate your anxiety.
When I’m anxious, perfectionism can seem like the best solution. If I know I’ve avoided even minor mistakes, my anxiety settles because I’m smart enough to prevent disaster.
I started using a journal to note when my perfectionism acted up and to link it to anxiety triggers. If you do the same, you could become more aware of your perfectionist moments and stop them. Experts have found a direct correlation between anxiety and perfectionism, so it’s worth attempting if you want a comprehensive first step toward less stress in your daily life.
3. Turn comparing into celebration.
Perfectionism may also rise when you feel lesser than someone else. It’s natural to see someone do something incredible or look amazing and instinctively recognize your differences. However, it’s not good for your mental health to always compare yourself to others.
Defeat this form of perfectionism by giving yourself time to recognize and release comparison tendencies. Recognize that everyone has different skills because people have various backgrounds. Those differences are assets when we work together instead of fighting to be better than everyone else.
4. Acknowledge the humanity in making mistakes.
When researchers studied participants who made mistakes, people grew the most when they accepted their mistakes by thinking constructively about them instead of just acknowledging them. People aren’t perfect. We’ll always make mistakes, but they give us opportunities to learn. Being afraid of those moments only holds back our growth.
5. Consider finding a therapist.
Therapy helped me find the root of my perfectionism. It was linked to past trauma that wired my brain to connect perfectionism with safety and survival. Meeting with a therapist could help you discover why your brain relies so much on perfectionism. Working on the root cause will keep that instinct from holding you back as you rewire your instinctive neural pathways.
Learning To Overcome Perfectionism
Perfectionism doesn’t have to be a frustrating part of your life. You’ll find more freedom and joy by purposefully trying strategies to unravel it. Recognize when it pops up and why it’s motivating you. Whether you work on it alone or with a therapist, you can overcome perfectionism and live your best life.