Perfectionism is a form in which we run away from our own vulnerability and the emotions that make us feel uncomfortable, because our mind keeps alive the association, most likely formed in childhood, between vulnerability and weakness. Thus, we come to believe that vulnerability is undesirable and that it makes us unworthy of acceptance and love. The need to be perfect, or better said the constant need of perfection is one of the things that define perfectionism.
Perfectionism affects us from many other points of view: it causes us to invest a lot of time even in solving simple tasks (such as sending an e-mail, which we check countless times, for fear of not being omitted something), and the critical voice of our mind pressures us to do everything, every time, “perfect”.
The voice of perfectionism tells us that there can be no “good enough”, only “the best”, that is, “perfect, flawless”.
The need for perfection, therefore, becomes a burden – which can also interfere with our relationships with others. That is why, for the sake of our emotional health, it is important that we learn and practice daily to free ourselves from this burden.
Here’s how we learn to manage the need for perfection:
Eliminating or decreasing the need for perfection starts with the process of connecting to your own emotional universe
Although it is a long journey, which at first may seem uncomfortable and even painful, connecting to our own emotional universe is an essential mission, because it helps us understand what lies, in fact, behind the need for perfection.
From a psychological point of view, perfectionism is a defense mechanism. It is, as I said, a form by which we flee from so-called “negative emotions,” among which we mention sadness, fear, anger.
As experiencing failure would put us face to face with emotions that we consider undesirable, we end up not allowing ourselves to make mistakes. We end up running away from the encounter with our emotions, which would involve a connection to the inner child, including his pains and fears – some of them long repressed.
Thus, awareness and connection to our own emotions, more or less comfortable, would help us understand where, in fact, the need for everything to always be perfect. We might find, for example, that perfectionism is closely linked to childhood memories, in which one of the parents expressed, including in relation to us, the same need.
Combating the constant need for perfection can be tough, but by analyzing and changing the way we relate to failure we can overcome it
Not infrequently, perfectionism is confused with the need for evolution – which is natural. The difference between the two is how they report failure.
Unlike the person who allows himself to make mistakes and understands that failure is an opportunity for learning and self-discovery, the perfectionist person is afraid of failure – which is why he vehemently rejects it. He associates the idea of failure with the impossibility of receiving appreciation or love. As he wants to be accepted and loved, he does his best not to make mistakes, that is, he always wants to make everything perfect.
If we find ourselves in the description of the person who fears fear of failure all the time, this could be a good starting point in the personal journey of managing perfectionism. Moreover, we could change our perspective on success, which often refers to the transformation of mistakes and challenges into learning opportunities.
Setting realistic personal and professional goals is another step in eliminating or decreasing the constant need to be perfect
Perfectionism is reflected in both professional and personal life, where we end up set totally realistic goals. For example, we assume that we are accomplishing certain tasks in a much shorter time than we would actually need.
For example, in order to fit in the time, we set for ourselves unreachable goals, we end up giving up breaks — which, in our minds, would only delay us in our personal marathon of the need to be perfect. This is an example of how the constant need for perfection risks becoming, over time, a risk factor for burnout.
In this context, setting goals for the S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and well-defined over time) is also a way to take care of our emotional health.
Of course, for a perfectionist, setting such goals also depends on the idea of the following point:
Integrating the idea that it’s okay to do things “well enough” is another way to overcome perfectionism
The goals that are, in fact, psycho-emotionally healthy for us may not fit, at first, with the deep-rooted ideas that have been ingrained in our minds for so long.
For example, if we choose to take a course in 7 hours (realistic duration, in which we do not do everything counterclockwise), instead of 3 hours (the time that we would have normally set so far, out of the need to then we could tick other tasks on the list), we will most likely feel that the realistic duration, of 7 hours, is very far from our idea of perfection.
To allow us to set realistic goals, without feeling guilty about not doing enough, not being good enough, or wasting time, it is essential to naturally integrate the idea that it is okay (and healthy). to do things well enough: that is, to do as well as we can in the given conditions. Without overwork all the time. Without self-imposing perfection in everything and everything – perfection that, in the end, does not exist.
Relaxation of body and mind also helps in decreasing the need to be perfect and gives us a break to just breath
Being in a state that is being dictated by our need to be a perfect and constant need for perfectionism in our life tends to keep our body and mind tensed and can be overwhelming.
Let’s take a break from work. Let’s practice different mindfulness techniques. Allow us to rest in our relaxing corner of the house without feeling guilty for doing so. Let’s walk in nature, talk to a loved one about the emotions we are experiencing, write in the diary about the journey we have chosen: a journey in which we learn to be gentle with ourselves, in which we understand that we can turn mistakes in growth opportunities and that it is okay to do things well enough.
It is a journey that is sometimes difficult, but only by assuming that we can do it can we free ourselves from the burden of perfectionism.
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