Emma Mudge, Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at AXA Health

5 top tips for overcoming perfectionism


12 July 2023

Perfectionism is a mindset characterised by the constant desire to achieve flawlessness, whereby people set high expectations and standards for themselves. People with Perfectionist tendencies are often overly critical, and often seek approval from others to validate their actions. 

It's admirable to work hard, aim for excellence, and take pride in your accomplishments. However, perfectionism can have its downsides. Some individuals struggle with the constant feeling that nothing is ever good enough, leading to self-criticism, procrastination, and overwhelming frustration.

Do you have perfectionist tendencies?

If you've ever wondered whether your desire for perfection is crossing into unhealthy territory, here are some signs to look out for:

• No tolerance for mistakes: People with perfectionist tendencies have a deep aversion to making errors, as any deviation from perfection can cause them significant discomfort and dissatisfaction.

• Procrastination and avoidance: People with perfectionist tendencies will often procrastinate, either delaying the start of a task or avoiding it altogether. This behaviour stems from their desire to achieve a flawless outcome or the fear of falling short.

• Overreacting to setbacks: Even minor setbacks or mistakes can feel like huge failures to perfectionists. They tend to magnify any flaws and struggle to maintain perspective.

• Dwelling on criticism: People with perfectionist tendencies often focus on critical feedback, finding it difficult to absorb and build upon positive comments. They may become fixated on perceived shortcomings, hindering their ability to appreciate their accomplishments.

• Need for control: People with perfectionist tendencies often have a strong desire to handle tasks themselves, finding it challenging to delegate even the smallest responsibilities. This tendency can lead to unproductive micromanagement and hinder their ability to collaborate effectively.

Here are our five top tips to help you navigate the challenges of perfectionism:

  1. Embrace the unknown: Don't let the fear of failure hold you back from pursuing your goals. Perfectionists often allow the fear of not being in control of the outcome to outweigh the potential rewards of success. Even if the perfect outcome seems unattainable, take the risk and get started instead of endlessly planning. Remember, the process itself is valuable.
  2. Maintain perspective: Don't get caught up in comparing yourself to others or feeling envious of their apparent successes. It's important to recognise the intangible qualities that make you unique. Appreciate the "little" things like being a good listener, a supportive friend, or making others feel at ease. Make a list of your strengths or seek a friend's perspective to help you see the positive aspects of who you are.
  3. Celebrate your achievements: Instead of dwelling on your shortcomings, focus on the positive aspects of your life and acknowledge your successes. Don’t be hard on yourself, take time to reflect on what you have accomplished and give yourself credit for your efforts.
  4. A setback in one area doesn't define your overall success: Just because one aspect of your life isn't going according to plan doesn't mean everything is a failure. Remind yourself that mistakes and setbacks can be valuable opportunities for learning and growth. Embrace these experiences and use them as steppingstones towards future success. Striving for greatness is still important, as some seemingly impossible challenges can be overcome.
  5. Aim for personal excellence, not perfection: Don’t let perfectionism become an unhealthy obsession. Striving for perfection can contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression. Instead, focus on doing your best and accepting that the best solution is often more realistic than a perfect one. Settle for excellence and prioritize your well-being over unattainable ideals.

 Visit our mental health hub for more information and tips to help boost your resilience and look after your mental health.

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