How to let go of perfectionism

March 3

I need to get this right. I cannot make any mistakes. What if I get this wrong? I feel like everyone is judging me. Why cannot people just get it right?

The inner world of a perfectionist. A dominant symptom of imposter syndrome.

That crippling feeling of needing to seek approval, even though you know it is not rational. The impulse of reacting negatively to feedback or criticism, even though you know it might be useful or perhaps, true.

You would, however, be justified with frustration when hearing ridiculous comments like, ‘hey, just stop being a perfectionist‘ or ‘just let it go‘.

Because you know, all too well, it is not that simple. And actually, there is a scientific explanation that trying to stop or control perfectionism, does not stop it, it feeds it. It multiples it.

Humans have a deep motivation to understand and fix their problems. We inherit a storytelling mind that is curious to think about the problem and think through ways to solve it.

But there is a downside to this approach. The more we try to problem-solve our perfectionist behaviour, the more we get involved with them. The seemingly rational attempt to move past perfectionism, keeps us stuck.

The attempt to solve the problem creates more overthinking and more frustration. When we listen to these thoughts, the more it impacts our behaviour 👇🏼

Not completing tasks, saying yes when you want to say no, working long hours to perfect the task and hours of procrastination.

Thinking your way out of perfectionism is the problem, not the solution.

So what is the solution?

Once you become aware of your perfectionist behaviour or perfectionist thinking, stop trying to fix it.

Instead, focus on the solution and psychological flexibility. There are two steps:

1. Imagine your day whereby perfectionism did not exist. What would it feel like and what would you do instead?

This shifts your attention onto exploring the solution and by doing so, creates hope and the act of figuring out how to achieve something. A state of things feeling optimist. Spend just three minutes each day answering this question.

2. When you are experiencing perfectionist thoughts or behaviours in your day, notice and refocus.
Consciously and deliberately spend time noticing the thoughts you are experiencing.

Notice that thought, ‘I must get this right’. Then talk compassionately to yourself by saying, ‘I am noticing I am having the thought I must get this right‘. This helps create space from the thought you are experiencing. This:

  • Prevents you from reacting on impulse
  • Helps you to step back and respond by taking action that is helping in that moment

Your brain is like a muscle. Practice tiny habits of imperfection. It is the act of doing things differently that help you overcome perfectionism, not by thinking your way out of it.

Join the waitlist for my next course which focuses on overcoming perfectionism and imposter syndrome. which starts in May. There will only be 25 places available in this cohort. Click here to get on the list

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