How perfectionism is ruining your life

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It can affect so many areas of your life it’s not even funny. A lot of people think of perfectionism as of something good, a great quality to have. In reality this quality is not even close to being good. While it may seem that it’s helpful, that it can assist you in achieving any of your goals in life, it actually eats you alive. Whatever you do, wherever you go – it’s there with you, taking over your mind. 

Perfectionism makes all of the tasks unnecessary hard. Every project, every hobby even, each thing is darkened by the ever growing shadow of perfectionism. 

Finishing tasks is the hardest part. You look at the thing you’ve done and it doesn’t seem ready yet, no matter how much time you’ve spent on it and how much effort you’ve put in it. 

Yes, it is something that you can put in your resume proudly. Yes, you will be praised for it by others. Many people will find it inspiring even. 

But at what cost for you? 

Perfectionism is one of those things that can drive you in the horrible depths of depression easily. It will surely make you beat yourself up for no good reason. Most of the time you don’t even realize what it does to you until you’re already on the rock bottom.

It’s pure suffering.

Why are we like this?

As many other things, perfectionism comes from our childhoods. Most likely your parents were expecting you to bring straight A’s from school, have a ton of extracurricular activities and perform great in life in general. And if you failed they would be disappointed or even mad. 

This is the usual origin story of a pathological perfectionist. 

For whatever reason you brought this mindset into the adulthood and keep suffering the same way you did years ago.

The other people don’t have the right to expect the absolute shiny perfection from you and you shouldn’t be expecting it from yourself. 

It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to fuck up. It’s completely fine to not reach a 100% each and every time. It’s needed, even. We all are quite faulty beings, we make mistakes, sometimes we’re tired, sick or not in the mood. 

You have to set achievable goals for yourself and perfection is not achievable, trust me.

No matter how hard you try to make something flawless there’s always room for improvement. 

Think of it as numbers. There is an infinite quantity of them and however far you go counting, there will be a bigger number.

Time is limited for a human. Wasting this precious currency while trying to push yourself over your limits is counterproductive and dangerous. 

What to do if your perfectionism makes you miserable?

Good news is that you can definitely fix it and liberate yourself. The bad news is that it will be hard. It takes a lot of work to change your mindset, to mould your attitude in a different shape.

But it is doable. 

Here are the steps to take when you’re doing your next task whether it be cleaning the bathroom or writing a quarterly report at your 9 to 5 job.

Be fair to yourself. 

You’re not a robot. You’re not an almighty alien nor you are a person with endless resources. 

Let’s imagine what would happen if everybody would finish a project only at the point of perfection. 

Here are the options for an answer:

  1. everything would be always perfect and to the point;
  2. the amount of accomplished things would significantly lessen;
  3. not even a single project would get finished.

If you picked option number 3, you’re absolutely right – shit wouldn’t get done at all. Why? Right, because there is no such thing as absolute perfection. 

Your favorite social media platform wouldn’t exist, your favorite movie, TV show, game, drink, restaurant would not exist. 

Hell, mankind would probably cease to exist, because George the Australopitecus’ sharpened stick wasn’t a perfection and therefore could not be used for hunting.

Give yourself a breather

Step away from the thing you were doing. Distract yourself with something, have a cup of your favorite coffee, satisfy your meme needs or chat with someone about an unrelated topic. 

Clearing out your mind will help you be objective with figuring out whether a project really has to be improved or not. 

I personally like getting back to it the next day. A good eight hours of sleep can definitely put everything in place in your head and in the morning you will look at everything with fresh eyes. 

Do an objective evaluation

Is it good? If it would be somebody else’s work, what would you tell them? Try to distance yourself from the project and think about the way it makes you feel. I want you to find the point where “it’s good enough, but it could be better”. 

Now be rational. Sure, it could be better. As I said, there’s always room for improvement. But does it have to be better if it’s already good enough?

The right answer to this is hell no. 

See, trying to aim for perfection puts a strain on you. Each time you choose to act on these “it could be better” urges, of course, you make it better (sometimes not even that – how many times you’ve made some tweaks and then completely scratched them?), but does it make it perfect? I bet it doesn’t. And you get stuck in the circle.

If you stop at the first “it’s good enough”, you will give yourself freedom. Freedom to make mistakes, freedom to not always be right, freedom to move on to other important things.

Look at it this way – if a surgeon would redo every stitch that is not perfectly geometrically placed in relation to the incision, can you imagine how much time he would waste? Could it be better? I guess. Is it good enough? Hell yeah. Now he can move on to another patient that needs him.

Never be too hard on yourself. If the task is done properly, and is up to par, leave it alone. You’ve done your job. 

Get some feedback from other people.

It always helps to find out what others think about what you’ve made. It can be a friend, a colleague, pretty much anybody who is willing to look at it and honestly say what they think. 

Feedback can be incredibly valuable, especially if it’s from someone who has the similar area of expertise. Don’t be afraid to show the work that in your eyes is imperfect.

You have to convince yourself each time.

This truly is the most difficult part. One thing is understanding that you don’t have to do everything perfectly, another, way more complicated thing is actually believing and implementing this belief in your daily life. Our brains are tricky. While consciously you’ve already figured everything out, your subconscious mind will stick to its old ways for much longer.

That’s why you need to reassure yourself over and over again, tell the same thing to yourself day after day – you don’t have to be trying to reach perfection

It won’t be a quick shift. But over time you’ll learn to treat yourself better and treat your projects as just that – projects that don’t have to be outstanding and can be just “good enough”.

It’s really hard to get rid of an old habit, but as they say, the first step to solving the problem is realizing you have one (yeah I’ve probably butchered it, but you get the point lol).

While you’re doing an infinite amount of tweaks and trying to reach the stars, others put out their imperfect accomplishments. That’s what alpha and beta testing are for. 

Stop clinging to the idea of perfection. Don’t aim for 100%, aim for 80%. 

It’s going to pay off.

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