The price of perfectionism

Are you buckling under the pressure to be perfect? If so, you’re not alone. Many good women have fallen under the weight of this unfair expectation. There’s an implicit belief that to be loved, to be worthy of praise and acceptance we must excel in all areas of our life. A flawless appearance, cherubic children and an impressive career are just the start of a long list of requirements. But the price of perfectionism is high. A recent study by Professor Gordon Parker found that possessing this trait is more likely to put you at risk of burnout.

Not only this, but perfectionism is rarely the signifier of success we assume it will be. On the surface this term suggests your every creation will be stellar, outstanding, groundbreaking! But, in reality, perfectionism for most people is just paralysing. It’s more likely that progress and pleasure in life will be impeded by perfectionism, rather than enhanced by it. So, here are three tips to help you harness your perfectionist traits and release the tyranny of the unattainable.

3 ways to manage perfectionism

  1. Stay connected to others
    Researchers have found that perfectionists are more likely to report feeling isolated. And the antidote to perfectionism is connection to others. For that reason, it’s imperative to organise regular dates with friends who are fun and uplifting. If nothing else, this will provide proof that there are different ways of living life. There are many people, including myself, whose homes are mostly messy, who’ll never make partner at a legal firm, and who don’t have the looks of a Love Island contestant, but are still content enough, and flourishing in their own imperfect way.

2. Understand where perfectionism come from
You may be paying the price of perfectionism now, but it’s still worth understanding where this debt began. To do this you may need to see a counsellor and embark on some exploring and uncovering of your own. For many women, perfectionist tendencies start in childhood. Perhaps a pleasing appearance garnered you praise from adults, making you feel seen. Or maybe perfectionism allowed you some influence over a chaotic home environment, reassuring you that there were some things within your control. For others, perfectionism provided a way out of poverty. Top marks can pave the way to scholarships and schooling which would otherwise be out of reach. Understanding where perfectionist behaviour started, and the purpose it initially served, can help us spot and release it.

3. Accept you’ll be mediocre first
Make your peace with mediocrity, because it will move you forward faster. For me, when I’m writing an article for a national newspaper I feel the pressure of perfection. I’m aware that it will be read by many thousands (including my family and friends), so I want it to be the absolute best it can be. But realistically, the first draft, doesn’t have to be excellent. It doesn’t even have to be that good -just good enough to edit. By managing my own expectations, I free myself from feelings of panic and anxiety and I’m able to enjoy the process more.

I can accept I’ll never reach the elusive pinnacle of perfection, and probably neither will you. But hopefully, along the way, we’ll produce some pretty good stuff, and it will be of service to people who need it.

If you want to share your own tips on beating perfectionism, or your experience of paying the price of perfectionism, then I would love to hear it. Simply comment below.

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