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How To Avoid The Perfectionist Trap

Jan 26th, 2023

Perfectionists often set impossibly high standards for themselves and can become overwhelmed when those standards are not met. This can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem and burnout. The key to avoiding the perfectionist trap is to first become aware of the problem and then take steps to change your mindset.

How to Avoid the Perfectionist Trap

An appropriate amount of healthy perfectionism is good when we strive for our best with reasonable and realistic standards. It is the unhealthy, overboard perfectionism that we must guard against. This type of perfectionism is marked by unrealistic standards and is often driven by a fear of failure and/or the fear of not being good enough.

In today’s culture, we are constantly bombarded with images of perfection. We see it on social media, television and in magazines. It is practically everywhere we look. It is easy to see why people assume that others are leading perfect lives without any problems.

The good news is that we can retrain our brains when it comes to perfectionism. Here are some steps to avoiding the perfectionist trap.

Set realistic goals

Perfectionists often set impossible, unattainable goals. This can lead to frustration and disappointment. Instead, try setting goals that are realistic and achievable. SMART goals can be helpful as they have clearly defined objectives and are based in reality. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART goals will make it easier for you to stay on course and in touch with reality.

Make a list of your successes

When you’re stuck in the perfectionist trap, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing anything right. That’s why it is so important to take a step back and recognize all the things you have accomplished. Make a list of your successes, no matter how small, and give yourself credit for them. Keep this list and add to it so you can look at it anytime you need inspiration. Remember to take time to celebrate how far you have come.

Think about it

Take time to consider the thoughts that are going through your mind. Are they helpful or hurtful? Are you jumping to conclusions or exaggerating your thoughts. Think about how you might be distorting your thought processes especially when it comes to how you view others. It is time to challenge those long held beliefs and ideas.

Try replacing feelings of negativity or failure with more constructive thoughts. If something hasn’t gone the way you expected, try viewing it as a learning experience instead of a failure. The only way to get better is to learn from our experiences and move on.

Drop social media

While scrolling through Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter can be fun and engaging, these networks encourage comparison and have been shown to negatively impact our mental health. We can begin to form unrealistic expectations about how we should look and what we should have. This focus on perfectionism causes us to judge ourselves too harshly and this destructive behavior can lead to anxiety and feelings of inferiority.

While dropping out of social media isn’t easy, it is an important step in taming the perfection monster. Without the constant distractions of social media it is easier to focus your time and attention on your own goals and priorities. You might also find that you are more productive, more relaxed and able to enjoy the present moment more.

Start a practice of gratitude

The pursuit of perfect can leave us feeling emotionally drained and full of anxiety. A daily practice of gratitude can help alleviate these types of feelings. It can boost your mood in the moment as well as have a lasting effect on your mood over time. Thinking about what you appreciate has other positive side effects too, such as the ability to sleep better, feeling more alive, better expression of kindness and compassion, and even a stronger immune system. A regular practice of gratitude can actually change your brain and boost your mental health.

Remember, perfection is an unrealistic goal. It does not exist. When we strive for perfection, we are setting the wrong goal. We need to recognize that life is imperfect and so are we. And that’s okay. It is only by learning from our mistakes that we can become wiser. It is the only way to build character, grow and get better.

Take time to consider your goals and start creating healthy habits that will help you reach them. Focus on doing your best and let that be good enough. Then celebrate your successes along the way. The only person you need compare yourself to is you. You are the measuring stick for your own success.  With a little effort and a lot of self-love, you can find true contentment and fulfillment.

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Photo courtesy Pixabay/royharryman

Author of Article

Barbara Bauer is a Georgia-based blogger obsessed with inspiring others in the pursuit of self-development. She enjoys exploring the outdoors, drinking way too much coffee, and speaking with a British accent whenever possible.

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