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Stuck on Perfectionism: Learning to Embrace Imperfection



Having high standards and striving for excellence can be a good thing and help us reach our goals in life. High achievers can find satisfaction with their performance even if their goals are not entirely met, taking pride in their accomplishments and supporting others. Healthy striving to obtain realistic goals can lead to a sense of self-satisfaction and increase one's self-esteem. Failure is viewed as part of the growth process allowing high achievers to bounce back from disappointment.

On the other hand, perfectionism goes to the extreme by setting excessively high standards that cannot be met or only met with incredible difficulty. Perfectionism has us relentlessly striving towards extremely high standards and then judging ourselves (or others) on the ability to complete such unrelenting standards. Perfectionists strive for flawlessness, are concerned about others' evaluation of themselves, are rarely satisfied with their performance, and feel a sense of shame and guilt when things go wrong. Since perfectionism is built upon fear, inflexible rules, and unreasonable standards, it can be debilitating, sabotaging good and well-meaning intentions.


Some habits of perfectionists include:


All-or-Nothing Thinking. Something is either right or wrong, good or bad, success or failure, where things are either perfect or they are just not good enough.

• Perfectionism makes us critical of ourselves and others by honing in on the mistakes while discounting the positives in a situation. Perfectionists tend to be self-critical, anxious, and highly demanding of themselves and others. Believing that anything less than perfection is unacceptable leading to chronic stress and a constant feeling of inadequacy.

• Perfectionists are motivated by fear of not reaching goals and see anything less than perfect as a failure. This dread of failure leaves little room to enjoy the process of growing along the way. This fear of failure ultimately leads to procrastination. The excessive worry about doing something imperfectly can immobilize the perfectionist from doing anything at all. Leading to further feelings of failure and perpetuating a cycle of procrastination. This is how perfectionism keeps us stuck!

• Perfectionism can leave us isolated and alone since our critical nature and rigidity can push others away. This criticism of ourselves harms our self-esteem, making succeeding and achieving our goals even more challenging.

Perfection is an unattainable goal. Pursuing perfection can become an exhausting cycle that hinders personal growth, creativity, and healthy relationships. With counselling, you can learn tools to break free from the chains of perfectionism by exploring underlying beliefs and fears that drive perfectionistic tendencies, gaining insight, and developing strategies to embrace imperfection. Counselling can provide a safe space to challenge unrealistic expectations, cultivate self-compassion, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.


If you recognize some perfectionist characteristics in yourself, do not lose hope! Accepting a less-than-perfect performance of yourself can be a painful and scary step, but acknowledging that a change may be needed is an essential first step towards relieving the stress and anxiety experienced from trying so hard to be perfect. Remember, you are enough, just as you are.



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