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Overcoming perfectionism: Three traps to avoid

July 30 2020

When we think of being a perfectionist, it’s typically seen as a positive trait to have. However, studies have suggested the higher the level of perfectionism is, the more psychological issues a person will suffer.

Three common characteristics that perfectionists suffer from is the fear of failure, unrealistic standards and being too critical of themselves. Here’s a few ways you can overcome these behaviours and live a healthier, balanced lifestyle.

Fear of failure

Sometimes the fear of failure can feel so overwhelming for people suffering with perfectionism that they rather not try at all. This can then lead to missed out opportunities and stop you from moving forward and progressing in life.

Having a fear of failure could come from many different causes, for some it could come from having unsupportive or critical parents, it could come from childhood or traumatic experiences that made you feel afraid of failing.

To overcome this fear, you must first realise that failing can be even better than success. Failure should be embraced as a chance to learn from your mistakes. Try to start thinking about failure in a positive light, this can help to build your self-confidence and neutralise self-sabotage.

Many people that are highly successful today didn’t get there without failing at first. For example, Oprah Winfrey the famous American talk show host before becoming so successful was told on her first job in television that she was “unfit for television”. This set back did not stop her from pursuing her dreams, becoming the richest African American of the 20th century and ranked one of the most influential woman in the world.

Unrealistic standards

Expecting too much from yourself by setting unrealistic or unattainable standards can damage your self-esteem and produce feelings of not being overall good enough. By focusing on putting yourself down and pointing out the imperfections, you can overlook your positives.

When dealing with perfectionism, you may experience an excessive amount of comparison to other people. By doing this we can become insecure, disconnected, jealous, competitive or even paranoid. Social media can cause us to compare ourselves against unrealistic images of how we should look or be living. If you find yourself doing this, remember that social media isn’t designed for showing our most authentic selves, so you might compare yourself to someone who looks like they have an amazing life but they could be struggling with their own battles beyond social media.

To overcome comparison and unrealistic standards, try embracing your own individuality and challenge any negative or criticising thoughts that tell you you’re not good enough.

Being too critical of yourself

We’re often self-critical without fully being aware that we are doing it, whether it’s criticising our appearance, blaming ourselves when bad things happen or avoiding expressing our own opinions for fear of saying something ‘stupid’.

Over criticising ourselves can stop up us from achieving our personal goals. Take famous French artist Claude Monet, who was such a perfectionist and so critical of himself he used to destroy his own paintings in a temper – including 15 paintings that were meant to open an exhibition. Monet’s over-critical mind meant that those 15 paintings are now lost to time when they may have been masterpieces for all we know.

Next time you have a negative or over critical thought, think about what you would say to a friend if they told you they were thinking these things. Think about how you would comfort and support them. Now, treat your own mind like a close friend, care for it and be kind.

Ditching the perfectionist lifestyle could help you to improve your mental health, as well as increase your chances of living a longer life. So go out there and embrace failure, your individuality and a positive, loving mind!