What To Do When Perfectionism Gets The Best Of You 

Written by: Elizabeth O’Donnell, Social Media Management Intern

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I have a love-hate relationship with perfectionism. I love how it motivates me to work at my best and create high quality work. I hate how it makes me stressed and over analyze every detail, sometimes slowing me down or causing me to take an unnecessary amount of time on a project.

Sometimes I worry if something I produce isn’t perfect–– that people will be disappointed in me because it is not up to my normal standard. However, it is hard to be perfect with everything. Rather, I would say it is impossible because we are all human and it is natural to make mistakes. 

As much as I want to be perfect all the time and produce flawless and top-quality work, it doesn’t always work like that. So I have had to learn how to deal with my perfectionism and what to do when perfection gets the best of me. 

Here is what I learned to do when perfectionism gets the best of me:

Take a step back from what you are working on

Sometimes the most effective thing I can do when I am continuously worrying about a project is take a step back and clear my head of the project. This allows me to come back to the project with a clearer mindset than before and gives me the ability to work more efficiently. Not only that, but when I take a step back from a project, I normally start on other projects due later in the week. Starting these other projects early allows me to gain a head start on them, or even finish them days before the deadline approaches, so I do not have to stress about them later.

Create a checklist

Oftentimes a to-do list helps me stay on task so I am not spending too much time on an event when my perfectionism becomes prominent. To do this I take either a sticky note, index card, or the sticky note app on my mac and make a list of what I want to achieve that day. Normally the list includes three to six things: two big things: finishing a project or cleaning my room, and two or three small things: starting a rough draft or tidying my desk, so I do not get overwhelmed with only trying to complete big tasks. This allows me to visualize all that I need to get done, and holds me accountable for what I do need to, so I do not stay on one task all day long.

Plan time for yourself

As a perfectionist, I know it is really hard to take time for yourself, especially when you have projects or deadlines looming over you. Having self-care activities planned for myself, like a face mask, movie night, or a walk forces me to focus on myself. Not only that, but these activities hold me accountable for my mental health by ensuring I make time for myself. You can also channel your anxious energy into something creative and fun, like painting, kickboxing, or completing a Wreck This Journal (that sure is a way to counter perfectionism!) The other bonus to making time for yourself? When you return to your work, you return more refreshed and able to continue with the project at hand.

Ask for help

How perfectionism presents itself is personal to everyone. For me when perfectionism hits, sometimes the best thing to do is ask for help. I used to see asking for help as a weakness–– like I was incompetent in completing the task. However, the ability to ask for help is a strong attribute to have and can only help you and the project at hand. A simple, “Hey can you look at this? What do you think I need to change?” allows another set of eyes to look at what you are working on and will probably help you identify the issue causing your perfectionism faster. Regardless of the type of project, asking for help only shows your strength and allows you to get the best of your perfectionism rather than the other way around. 

Using these four techniques I have been able to turn my perfectionism on its head and use it to assist me and motivate me to create top quality work without debilitating me. I encourage you to try them out to see how they can assist you in getting the best of your perfectionism.

However, everyone’s perfectionism is personal to themselves, so to figure out what type of perfectionism you fit under, you can check out Rachel’s post titled, “Perfectionism, How Does it Affect Youthat outlines the three main types of perfectionism. From there, it will be easier to figure out what you need to do to curb your perfectionism and the techniques you apply to further disengage from the perfectionism mindset.

To learn more about how we can work together, contact me or schedule your free 15 minute consultation call. 

Want to read more? Here are a few of my related blog posts you may be interested in checking out!

– Perfectionism, How Does It Affect You?”

– “Perfectionism and Substance Use”

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