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Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Lady looking in mirror

How to steer away from trying to do things perfectly.

Perfectionism is a theoretical construct that cripples one’s ability to live a fulfilling life. Perfectionisms feeds the internal critical voice and fosters low self esteem, anxiety, and depression. It is typically deeply rooted in anxiety and is often seen in individuals who were held to exceptionally high expectations during childhood and adolescence. The anxiety is mostly due to the inability to achieve an ideal and depression usually manifests because to feelings of failure around not meeting those unrealistic expectations that you or others have set for yourself.

In order to combat the compulsive need to be perfect, you must begin to re-examine your goals and desires to determine if you are living your life based on your own goals and values or if you are attempting to appease other external factors in your lives such as your parents, significant others, or friends. I often encourage my clients to explore if the ideal that they are striving for is their own ideal or if it is an ideal that they adopted from someone else in their lives and to set realistic expectations for their lives. Here are a rule tips to help you steer away from trying to do things perfectly and regaining control of your life.

1) Stay in your own lane. I’m far from a Freudian therapist; however, I fully agree that most of human misery is caused by the inconsistency between one’s current self and one’s ideal self. We are constantly striving to become better, which is a great thing. However, the problem lies in the fact that most of the time we’re not competing against ourselves, we’re comparing ourselves and competing against others. Comparing ourselves to others steals our joy and robs us of the ability to celebrate ourselves. It’s the perfect recipe for a misery and unhappiness.

2) Clap for yourself! One of the biggest issues that I see in counseling is individuals who fail to celebrate themselves. Many people who have difficulty with perfectionism have an inner critical voice that is constantly telling them negative things about themselves. In order to combat that inner critical voice you must first recognize your positive attributes and give yourself credit for the things that you are good at. Make a list of all of the things that make you unique and that you appreciate about yourself and don’t be afraid to brag a little bit.

3) Focus on Today Perfectionism keeps individuals from being able to live in the here and now. Why? Because now is never good enough. Today’s accomplishment is not fulfilling because there is always another milestone to achieve or fixate on. Take a moment to celebrate where you are today because tomorrow isn’t promised. If I may borrow a line from my favorite musical RENT, “there’s no day, but today.” If you choose to spend it fixating on what you can fix tomorrow, is entirely up to you.

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