For all of us Perfection Addicts…

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Have you ever been told any of these phrases?

  • “As long as you do your best, that’s all that matters!”
  • “Give 110%!”
  • “Give it your all!”

It’s funny, when I read each of these out loud, they are clearly telling me to just WORK HARD and DO MY BEST.  But somehow, throughout my life I have interpreted these and other encouraging phrases to mean that I must perform perfectly—at ALL times!

Even as a young girl, I quickly learned that I got a lot more attention for being “perfect” at all of the activities I did—whether it was the Times Tables Races in my 3rd grade math class, my piano performances, soccer practice, or even my friendships—being as friendly and sweet as I possibly could to everyone.  It is really wonderful to be a high achiever and to strive for excellence in everything we do.  However, at times in my life I have taken this to an extreme and driven myself to be perfect, not settling for anything less.  This causes a lot of anxiety!

I know I am not alone!  Perfectionism can be very overwhelming, taking excellence to a different, more stressful level than that of high achievers.  Those of us who may have struggled with perfectionism at times in our lives may have experienced:

  • Persistent anxiety, maybe even panic attacks
  • Guilt, never feeling good enough
  • Relationship problems—needless to say, we CAN’T be perfect in relationships, so when we try we always come up short and end up either frustrated with ourselves or resentful of the other person
  • Eating disorders, criticalness towards  your appearance
  • Depression, feeling down about yourself
  • Procrastination—it’s difficult to start projects, because it’s so overwhelming knowing that you “must do them perfectly”
  • Many other related problems

If you think you might be dealing with a form of perfectionism, here is a fun, easy, 15-question survey you can fill out that will help you better understand yourself:

http://stress.about.com/library/perfectionism/bl_perfectionism_quiz.htm

The first step is that we recognize anxiety and perfectionism in ourselves.  When we realize this is not a healthy response to life’s challenges, then we can decide to do something differently!

The second step is to choose one small goal.  Here are some example goals I’ve made before:

  • Give myself 30 minutes each evening just to myself … Go walking or read a relaxing book.
  • Choose an amount of time to spend on a certain project, and then STOP.  For example, “I’ll work on vacuuming for 40 minutes, and that’s it.”  You can always return to it later.
  • Tell yourself positive, affirming statements, like “you’re such a hard worker,” “you care so much about doing your best”, “you’ve done really well at ___ project”, “it’s okay to take time for yourself”
  • LISTEN TO YOURSELF.  We all know when our perfectionism kicks in, and all of a sudden we’re very anxious and overwhelmed, worried about what people think of us, not content with our performance.  STOP and let yourself breathe for just a few minutes.  Then face what’s ahead!

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