5 Ways to Prevent Perfectionism from Holding You Back

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Perfectionism can really weigh you down: break free and move on.

By Sarah Landrum (Founder, Punched Clocks)

Perfectionism is often looked upon as a good thing – an asset, a strength in the workplace.

In reality, however, the opposite is true. The perfectionism you thought was excelling your success could actually be holding you back.

The first step in tackling this issue: Recognize that you’re a perfectionist. Evaluate your feelings, thinking and behaviors - do you exhibit the following signs of perfectionism?

  • Feeling angry, depressed or worthless after completing a task and not achieving the desired result, or having not received positive feedback
  • Thinking that anything less than perfect is an utter failure
  • Setting personal standards incredibly and sometimes even impossibly high
  • Creating extensive to-do lists – and lists in general
  • Extreme procrastination
  • Powerful competitive edge; even the smallest wins and losses carry much weight in regards to personal worth

Sound like you? Fortunately, there are things you can do to overcome this rigid, stressful mindset and embrace inevitable imperfections. Here are some ways to conquer your perfectionism:

1. Embrace Weakness

Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses, of the things that make you human. Be vulnerable; be open. When you’re tired, say something. When you’re confused, admit it. The robotic, cold demeanor that often accompanies perfectionism will crumble away, little by little, leaving a relatable human being.

People will find more joy in your company and, believe it or not, you will probably like yourself more, too.

2. Find a Peaceful Place or Activity

Go to a place in which you can cut out the need to win, the comparing yourself to others, the negativity that plagues your mind.

For me, surrounding myself with nature is the best medicine: the beach, a hike in the woods, lying in the grass. Others like to zone out in front of a television program or exercise. Give your brain a break and seek a space in which you can breathe in your surroundings without feeling challenged by them. Find your own peace.

3. Surround Yourself with Non-Perfectionists

There’s nothing more toxic than being a perfectionist in a room full of perfectionists, striving to be the best. While it’s exciting, and you may feel as if you’re thriving, it’s actually detrimental. It will raise your heart rate, stress you out and ultimately bring fatigue.

Surround yourself with individuals who support you – ideally non-perfectionists – who help you to relax and be yourself. Choose your friends wisely. You won’t always be able to avoid challenging company, but don’t surround yourself with it purposefully.

4. Open Your Mind

Perfectionists often zero in on a single path and refuse to let go of it. Inability to achieve whatever lies on that route is viewed as the ultimate failure.

Don’t fall into this trap. Keep your mind open to the limitless possibilities at your fingertips. So you didn’t do well on the LSAT? Consider schools outside the top 10 or pursue something other than law. Don’t think of that as a failure, but rather an exciting change of course.

Remember the words of Alexander Graham Bell: “When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” This quote is particularly true of perfectionists, who are often extremely one-track minded. Do not forget about those other doors. Pursuing something other than the original door isn’t failure, that’s life.

And when you’re done with that, check out Conan O’Brien’s famous graduation speech where he tells the 2009 graduates of Harvard to embrace failure.

5. Consider the Grand Scheme

Nitpicking over every little thing – every miniscule detail – can be draining and devastating. Try to step back and see the big picture and realize that the overall course of your life doesn’t hinge on the fine points.

Think about what really matters – what you’ll think about on your deathbed. Do the things you’re placing so much importance upon right now really matter? If they don’t, let them go.

Practicing these tips will help you to embrace your flaws, love yourself and take risks every now and then. Ultimately, letting go of your inner perfectionist will release you from what’s holding you back.

What helps you switch off?

Photo credit: albund via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and Digital Marketing Specialist. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to sharing advice on navigating the work world. Passionate about helping others find happiness and success in their careers, she shares advice on everything from the job search and entrepreneurship to professional development, and more! Follow her for more great tips @SarahLandrum.