“I can’t make a mistake!” It’s a statement we hear quite a bit in our practice. Many people struggle with the intense pressure of perfectionism. They attempt to live their lives avoiding mistakes at all costs and striving for outcomes that are unachievable. Needless to say, perfectionism creates a significant amount of stress and anxiety. Below are some basic ways to reduce perfectionism.
Roll back your expectations
Perfectionism makes people set expectations for themselves and others that are too high. The expectations are unrealistic and unachievable. They put themselves in a position of chasing something they will never reach and then beat themselves up when they don’t accomplish what they set out to do. If you struggle with perfectionism, it’s time to roll back the expectations and shoot for “good enough.” Instead of going after the original expectation, aim for 70-80% of what it was. The “good enough” philosophy leaves room for mistakes and allows for oneself to set high expectations but not perfect expectations.
What are you saying to yourself?
Perfectionism is largely sustained through what we say to ourselves, and there are several words that indicate perfectionistic thoughts. Any time you start a sentence with “I should,” “I must,” or “I need,” it’s time to question that idea and roll back the expectation. Do you actually need to get all As this semester? Should you really spend 16 hours this weekend working on a work project to make it even better when you already worked your 40 hours? Must you clean your house until it sparkles? When “should,” “must,” and “need” are present, it’s important to check your perfectionism and challenge these ideas.
Go make some mistakes
Perfectionists spend their lives trying to avoid mistakes. However, it’s inevitable that mistakes will happen. For a perfectionist, mistakes are unbearable. So how do we soften the experience of making mistakes? You intentionally go make some. I know, perfectionists are cringing right now, but the only way to become more comfortable with mistakes is to make them and show yourself that it’s really not the end of the world. It’s uncomfortable and unpleasant, but it’s not the catastrophic failure your perfectionism is telling you it is. Start small. Make some minor mistakes on purpose and see how you feel. As you get more comfortable with the experience, make some bigger mistakes. Don’t do anything that has any major consequences but challenge yourself to make mistakes that are difficult to tolerate. You know, like riting somting wih a bunch of typo in it;
If you struggle with perfectionism and want to work on it in counseling, I’d love to chat with you. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.