Perfectionism and a Peaceful Life

Many people think if they can be perfect, then they can be perfectly happy. However, the battle between perfection and happiness can really wreak havoc – especially if you want to live a more peaceful life.

Perfectionists refuse to accept any results short of perfection. The urge to be perfect can be a real challenge. Perfectionists want to be happy, but believe they must be perfect first. That is why most perfectionists are anything but happy. When standards are unreasonably high, it’s very unlikely that anyone will have many moments in life when they actually feel satisfied and content.

Perfectionists often wonder why they are always stressed, worried, and exhausted. To someone who understands their own flaws it seems obvious, but not to them. They just don’t realize it’s not necessary to be perfect all of the time. They feel it should just be a given, and if they are not perfect, there must be something wrong with them.

Here are some of the dangers of wanting to be perfect, and some tips to get past them.

You are almost guaranteed to fail every time

The need for perfection is a losing game. Perfection can never be attained, so by choosing perfection, you’ve chosen to fail. Happiness is more challenging to achieve when you’re failing at everything you do.

Instead of choosing constant perfection, set realistic and reachable goals based on your own wants and needs. Think of what you have accomplished in the past, and give yourself some grace. This will enable you to achieve and also will lead to a greater sense of self-esteem.

Life is full of anxiety

When you feel the need to be prefect, you’re bound to be anxious, too. There’s only one way to be perfect. Everything else is less than perfect. You worry all the time when perfection is the only acceptable result.

Try mindfulness. One of the ways mindfulness is defined in the Oxford dictionary is, “mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

Mindfulness may even allow you to come to terms with your thoughts about perfectionism, making you more aware of your perfectionistic tendencies and allowing you to face these thoughts without reacting to them. Through the practice of mindfulness, you can learn to let go and release the stress and anxiety often associated with perfectionism.

You get in the way of your dreams

Mastin Kipp, an author, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker, says: “Perfectionism is a dream killer, because it’s just fear disguised as trying to do your best.”

Perfection gets in the way of making meaningful progress. Perfection is tedious and slow. Not only does it get in the way of your dreams, it stops you from being able to enjoy the journey.

Instead, try taking tiny steps. Give yourself a certain amount of time to accomplish each step. Before you begin, tell yourself you are able to do this, and do it well, and if it is not absolutely perfect, it will be good enough. As you work on each step, congratulate yourself on your progress.

There is never enough time

When you try to be perfect, you spend too much time on things that just don’t matter very much. There are plenty of things in life that require results far beneath perfection.

Avoid spending the time to be perfect when it just doesn’t make any sense. Will it really matter a year from now? What about six months from now? Will it even matter tomorrow? Put things in perspective. Some things are truly more important than others and may need more time and attention. Ask yourself if this is one of those tasks? If not, set the timer again, and take it one step at a time, then move on to other things.

It’s easier to procrastinate

Given that the drive for perfection creates anxiety and consumes a lot of time, perfectionists are more likely to procrastinate than the average person. You convince yourself it’s not easy to get started when you know that you have to be perfect. Therefore, maybe it’s better to just wait. However, if you wait too long, nothing gets done.

When you feel like you just can’t get started, focus on the process of doing an activity not just on the end result. Break your project down into manageable tasks. Evaluate your success not only in terms of what you accomplished but also in terms of how much you enjoyed the task. Recognize that there can be value in the process.

Perfectionists notice what’s wrong, rather than what’s right.

Perfectionists only recognize what’s wrong. They pick up on everything that isn’t perfect. They rarely acknowledge what’s good. They notice the flaws. This is a hard way to live and certainly sacrifices happiness. Perfectionists quickly forget their successes and fixate on their failures, making them unhappy with their work, home life, and themselves.

Try keeping a book of accomplishments. When you accomplish a task, finish a project, or see a victory write it in your book.  Go back to the book frequently, and remind yourself that you are successful. Give yourself credit for all you are doing, not the things you aren’t doing. Be thankful for the successes, stop focusing on the failures.

You never finish anything

Whether you’re working on a project for work or building a deck on your house, it’s a struggle to complete anything and move on. A perfectionist will always find a way to make it even better. Every time the project appears to be done, there is just one more thing that could improve it. This leaves you with a mountain of unfinished tasks, and way too much stress from the length of your “to do” list.

Before you begin, determine what the outcome should be. What are you ultimately trying to achieve. Once you figure that out, work towards that end goal. Don’t allow yourself to add anything else.

You may not have many friends

Perfectionists are hard to be around. They expect everyone to be perfect, too. They are often critical of others and consequently, are often lonely. They have relationship challenges. Loneliness and a lack of social support prohibit happiness.

If you find yourself in this place, find someone you can talk to and share your struggle. Listen with an open heart and take time to think about your conversation. It may be a trusted friend, a counselor, or someone you look up to. Ask them the hard questions – and listen to their answers.

It’s not easy being a perfectionist!

We all want to do things well, especially if we are associated with the outcome. A good work ethic and high standards are important. We just want to be sure we don’t get caught up in being paralyzed by trying too hard to be perfect.

Accept being good enough, doing a job well enough, and give yourself some grace. Tame your tendencies that cause you to try to be perfect! Let some of the details go and experience a life you truly enjoy. You will find yourself happier and more peaceful because of it.

Find your purpose – find your joy!

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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.

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