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5 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism

Habits You Can Cultivate to Beat Fear of Failure and Perfectionism

There's a big difference between striving for excellence and trying to achieve perfection. I love this explanation, which frames the difference perfectly: “Perfectionism is different in that the focus is less forgiving; perfectionists beat themselves up for anything that appears to be lacking, and this robs them of the satisfaction and pride that comes from all of the things that they do well.”

I'm assuming you don't want to rob yourself of those positive feelings. With that in mind, let's explore some tips and tools you can use to overcome perfectionism, beat fears of failure, and stop putting so much pressure on yourself.

1. Learn about the health impacts of perfectionism

Your health and wellbeing can suffer due to the stress of trying to reach unattainable standards. Research shows that people with perfectionist tendencies:

  • Have a greater risk of experiencing depression
  • Have a greater risk of death compared to people with lower levels of perfectionism and neuroticism
  • Experience lower levels of job satisfaction

Perfectionism is stressful and scary, which will impact how you feel both physically and mentally. Keep this in mind as you work on developing healthier habits.

2. Try something you're passionate about… but not good at

Fear of failure is a big culprit in perfectionism. Failure can seem like the end of the world, but this tip will help you prove to yourself that it's merely a stepping stone to excellence: Take up a new hobby.

Choose something that you're interested in, where you can learn a new skill and slowly develop expertise . Painting, building furniture, fixing gadgets, gardening, and other activities involve a learning curve and you can visually see progress.

3. Focus on the positive

Spotting the negatives comes naturally to a perfectionist. Taking the time to show gratitude is a great way to reset the brain. You can keep these thoughts to yourself, write them down, or even share them with someone else.

4. Offset negative self-talk

Perfectionists aren't kind to themselves, and the burden of all that negative self-talk is tough to shoulder. The next time you want to criticize something you've done, stop and list three things that went well. Even if they seem small and pointless, I want you to physically write them down or use a note-taking app in your phone.

Eventually, the things you were once critical about will pale in comparison to all the good you've accomplished.

5. Remind yourself that perfection isn't real

There's simply no such thing as “perfect”. The world we live in is imperfect and so are we. Besides, the whole concept of perfection is highly subjective and open to interpretation.

And while the fear of failure that you feel is 100% real, the consequences of failure are probably far less severe than whatever you're imagining. The next time you get the urge to work at something until it's perfect (or the next time you avoid working on something because there's no point, it'll never be perfect), I challenge you to ask yourself, “What's the worst thing that could realistically happen?”

Once you think about it some more, you may realize that the consequences of imperfection are usually pretty minor.

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