Here is a list of the most common beliefs that create perfectionism, along with rational alternatives:
It is possible for some things in life to reach a stage of perfection if we work hard enough at them. In reality, nothing could ever be ‘perfect’. I could work at something for ever, and there would still be room for improvement.
If I do not set high standards, I will end up a failure. Perfectionism sets me up to fail! My achievements have been in spite of perfectionism – not because of it. I could achieve more if I set realistic standards.
If I tried hard enough I could do well at everything I put my hand to. It is impossible to achieve to a high level at everything. Expecting this will only lead to frustration, disappointment, and self-downing.
If I cannot do something to a high standard, there is no point in doing it at all.
An acceptable standard is all that is needed. Anyway, some things you can enjoy simply for the doing – no matter what the outcome.
Making mistakes is evidence of personal inadequacy.
Making mistakes is evidence that I am a human being.
I could not stand the discomfort of knowing I had failed and that others will also know.
I do not like discomfort – but I can stand it. My life would be very restricted if I never did anything that involved some difficulty and pain – like making mistakes.
Action approaches to realistic living
Undercut your perfectionistic habits by combining rethinking with action. Here are some strategies to get you moving.
Reduce the performance level you expect of yourself. Right now, plan to do some things to a lesser standard than before. Then do them. Observe the results – does it lead to disaster? You probably felt uncomfortable – but you stood it. Remember: to increase your success rate, reduce your expectations.
Deliberately check things once only. Force yourself to do one adequate check of locks, switches and tasks you have completed – then walk away. Practise tolerating the anxiety you will feel.
Set yourself time limits. Stop forever polishing up tasks. Set time limits and stick to them. When the period is up, leave that task – even though you know you can improve it.
Admit to your slips and shortcomings. Why not own up – at least to those people you regard as important? Most people will feel better about you for showing that you are human and each time you make such an admission, you undercut your perfectionistic tendencies a little more and reduce the fear of disapproval.
Make sure you see the positives. Paradoxically, people who strive for the ultimate often get little pleasure from their achievements – they tend to focus instead on the ways in which they still fall short. So, for a couple of weeks note in a diary the things you do to an acceptable (not perfect) level. You just might surprise yourself.
Enjoy the doing, rather than worry about the outcome. Finally, note that giving up perfectionism will increase the enjoyment you get out of life. Recreation will be more relaxing when you are less