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The Heaviness of Perfectionism

You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously. ~Sophia Bush


Perfectionism is a tricky trait. In its healthy form, pursuits of perfection or positive striving can lead to great outcomes and goal achieving goals. However, when pursuits are approached with a need and unrelenting demand for perfection, one can be left immobilized, overcritical, and distressed. Rigid expectations may stifle creativity, lead to poor self-esteem, and impact relationships. Perfectionism can be rooted in the fear of failure, concern for the opinions and judgment from others, or an internal and inflexible expectation.

In contrast, striving toward excellence can be a more adaptive and helpful manner of formulating expectations. This approach allows for acceptance of imperfect results while working toward a great and desirable outcome. Employing a flexible and nonjudgmental attitude permits room for making mistakes and failure, which is an important component in developing skill, expertise, and knowledge.


Tools to put Perfectionism in its place:


1.) Practice mindful moments. Noticing and creating awareness of perfectionist tendencies can be a starting point in acceptance of related thoughts and lead to change in how they function. For example, self-talk may say ‘this project has to be perfect, or it is unacceptable.’ Noticing the thought/criticism is operating provides the opportunity to shift to a more helpful dialogue such as, ‘I hope this will be my best work but know that if I makes mistakes my work is still valuable.’


2.) Be flexible with goals. Adjust those that feel out of reach. This could look like setting smaller goals/steps to reach that bigger goal.


3.) Listen to emotion. Does the pursuit or critical voice bring more negativity or low self-esteem? Think of how that voice might change if it were directed to a friend. Is it more accepting? Consider how that voice could be activated in your own self talk.


So, friends, keep your eyes on your masterpiece. But, allow for some messy fingers (and unexpected notes) that may be a part of that wonderful creation.


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