GETTING OUT OF THE PERFECTIONISM TRAP

Learn to Recognize Perfectionism

There is nothing wrong with having high standards, but when these standards are too high, they can really get in the way of your work, relationships, and enjoyment of life.

If you have trouble figuring out whether you have a problem with perfectionism, you might find answering the following questions helpful:

1. Do you have trouble meeting your own standards?

2. Do you often feel frustrated, depressed, anxious, or angry while trying to meet your standards?

3. Have you been told that your standards are too high?

4. Do your standards get in the way?

For example, do they make it difficult for you to meet deadlines, finish a task, trust others, or do anything spontaneously?

Examples of Perfectionist Thinking

If you answered, “Yes” to any of these questions you may be stuck in the Perfectionism Trap…

Here are some examples of perfectionistic thinking:

Black-and-White Thinking

(e.g., “Anything less than perfection is a failure”, “If I need help from others, then I am weak”)

Catastrophic Thinking

(e.g., “If I make a mistake in front of my coworkers, I won’t be able to survive the humiliation”, “I can’t handle having someone being upset with me.”)

Probability Overestimation

(e.g., “Although I spent all night preparing for a presentation, I know I won’t do well”, “My boss will think I am lazy if I take a couple of sick days.”)

Should Statements

(e.g., “I should never make mistakes”, “I should never come across as nervous or anxious”, “I should always be able to predict problems before they occur.”)

Examples of Perfectionistic Behavior

Chronic procrastination, difficulty completing tasks, or giving up easily overly cautious and thorough in tasks

(e.g., spending 3 hours on a task that takes others 20 minutes to complete)

Excessive checking

(e.g., spending 30 minutes looking over a brief email to your boss for possible spelling mistakes)

Constantly trying to improve things by re-doing them

(e.g., rewriting a work document several times to make it “perfect”)

Agonizing over small details

(e.g., what movie to rent)

Making elaborate “to do” lists

(e.g., when to get up, brush teeth, shower, etc.)

Avoiding trying new things and risking making mistakes

(e.g., you stick to what you know and have done before)

How to Overcome Perfectionism: Change Perfectionistic Mindset

Some examples of positive realistic statements:

“Nobody is perfect!”
“All I can do is my best!”
“Making a mistake does not mean I’m stupid or a failure. It only means that I am like everyone else – human. Everyone makes mistakes!”
“It’s okay not to be in a great mood all the time. Everyone has a bad day sometime.”
“It’s okay if some people don’t like me. No one is liked by everyone!”

Shift Your Perspective 

You can shift your perspective with these empowered questions:

How might someone else (e.g., a close friend) view this situation?

Are there other ways to look at this?

What might I tell a close friend who was having similar thoughts?

What’s Keeping You Stuck?

Finally when you find yourself stuck in perfectionistic behavior, try to look at the Big Picture so you can get out of the details that are keeping you stuck.

Does it really matter?

What is the worst that could happen?

Will this matter tomorrow?

If the worst does happen, will I survive?

Setting realistic, NOT low, standards one of the keys to escaping the Perfection Trap.

Also asking for perspective help from a trusted friend or coach, who does not have a perfectionism problem can make a world of difference!