In one of my previous articles, we have explored perfectionism’s roots in early childhood. Now, I invite you to build on that and begin to reduce your perfectionism using these 5 friendly tips.
We’ll start by looking more closely at the verbal and nonverbal messages you received growing up. That will help you take the next step, as you identify the hidden agendas that sabotage you. These insights, in turn, free you to start replacing those undermining messages and agendas with clear intentions and supportive self-talk!
1. What Perfectionist Messages Were You Given as a Child?
Think back to when you were young and first experienced pressures to be perfect. What explicit, spoken messages did you receive about being perfect? List them, then ask yourself the following:
- Who delivered these messages?
- What was your response?
- What patterns, springing from those days, do you continue in your adult life?
2. What Nonverbal Perfectionist Messages Influenced You?
What actions did you witness as a child that spurred your desire to be perfect? Was perfectionism modeled by important people in your life? Were you trying to compensate for some lack with perfection?
- Describe what you observed and experienced.
- How did you feel?
- In what ways do you perpetuate this in your adult life?
Now, step back and appreciate the insights that you are opening yourself to. What lessons are you learning about the things that triggered your early desire to be “perfect”? Notice how, when you look at those ancient messages now, you can see just how outdated they are. This undercuts their power over you in the present!
3. Use Your Powers of Logic to Reduce Perfectionism.
You can overcome perfectionist paralysis with logical questions. The next time you say, “But it’s still not perfect,” ask yourself:
- What would be perfect?
- How would an impartial observer describe the project right now?
- What does this tell you?
Perfectionism paralyzes, undermining your ability to move forward. No matter how essential your excessive standards might seem, they actually prevent you from achieving your potential.
So the next time you feel immobilized by perfectionism, use logic to create a positive foundation to move from.
4. Reclaim Your Power by Naming Your Hidden Agendas.
Self-defeating behaviors that stubbornly resist change often mask hidden agendas. Perhaps your strong desire to be perfect protects an illusion. Deep down, you might believe that “perfection” protects you from criticism. Or maybe focusing on tiny details helps you avoid challenges that feel scary. Of course, this illusion of safety comes at a steep price!
However, if the unreachable goal of perfection manifests in your life, it’s probably because you thought it would somehow help you. Now you can claim the power to choose productivity and proactive strength rather than illusory and impossible perfection.
5. 3 Simple Questions Expose Hidden Agendas.
Ready to zero in on your hidden agendas? The ones that propel you toward perfectionism in your life today? Here are 3 questions that will help you uncover your unrealistic standards and create a path to move beyond the illusion of perfection. Remember to remain compassionate as you explore your answers. Your goal is to liberate yourself, not judge yourself!
- What are you trying to cover up by being perfect?
- What challenges do you face when you don’t cover up?
- What benefits come from meeting these challenges with realism and resourcefulness?
Give yourself a few minutes to answer each question. What patterns do you discover?
Just look at all you’ve uncovered and learned. In childhood, you did your best to keep yourself safe. Now, invite yourself to stretch. As you leave perfectionism behind and explore brave new vistas, think of all you’ll find!© Copyright 2012 Paula Eder, Ph.D.