You'll likely end up achieving your goals faster—and be much happier
On social media, many of us are bombarded with images portraying the perfect life. We see others excelling past us in their careers and relationships, which can often make us feel bad about our own.
First things first: What you see on social media can be far from reality. It's crucial to understand that, more often than not, those individuals who you idolize on Facebook and Instagram are battling with their own insecurities. Who knows? Maybe they've spotted your profile once or twice and felt a tinge of jealousy.
“Nobody’s perfect, but perfectionists want to be that person who is,” says Gordon Flett, Ph.D., professor of psychology at York University in Toronto and specialist in the role of perfectionism in psychopathology. All that pressure gets exhausting, and it may lead to chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and a lack of self-acceptance, he says.
When you start feeling the need to be absolutely perfect in life, here’s how to let that go.
1. Set Small Goals and Finish Them
Having things “just right” may seem like a good thing but striving for perfection can actually hurt our ability to accomplish our goals, Flett says. In fact, he says that there is no strong link between perfectionism and higher achievement. When we’re trying to be perfect, instead of focusing on the task, we get derailed and lose focus because we’re too worried about making a mistake.
Set a small goal, finish it, and leave it behind you. Perfectionists tend to drag things until the very last minute before they let them go, or dwell on minor corrections, Flett says. While a major project can be overwhelming, focusing on mini goals can help you stay productive, without the fear of messing up in a big way.
2. Voice Your Frustrations
The connection between trying to be perfect and ending up being lonely is strong, Flett says. When you always expect negative feedback, or can’t handle your mistakes, it isolates you, especially when you avoid social situations. “Perfectionists are pretty hard on themselves in terms of not cutting themselves some slack,” he says. “They tend to find any way to beat themselves up.”
Instead of suffering alone, give up the front that everything’s fine. Talk to your friends or co-workers about what you’re struggling with and work together to find solutions. That may mean letting someone else take charge, or asking your partner to share household responsibilities.
3. Avoid Projecting Insecurities
“Some people tend to take things out on others under the guise that they’re improving people’s lives,” Flett says. They’re willing to tell people what is wrong with them, and often set unreasonable goals for others (especially in relationships), he says. Demanding perfection from our relationships plays a major role in marital problems and dating difficulties.
Ease up. Instead of focusing on making someone else perfect, reflect more on what you’re feeling. Are you projecting your insecurities onto your partner? Rather than nitpicking, focus on what you can control, Flett suggests.
4. Accept Your Flaws
“We get our standards from idealized ways that things should be, but if perfectionism is part of your identity, what’s left when you remove it?” Flett says. Learn to be okay with imperfection by reassessing how you react to the little things, like smudged mascara or spilled paint. These minor incidents shouldn’t ruin your attitude or day. Try these tips from Flett to learn how to accept that things won’t always be perfect:
- Have a day full of (little) mistakes. The psychologist Albert Ellis used to recommend that his patients go out and make mistakes, intentionally, in order to break perfectionist habits. Try to avoid touching up chipped nail polish, purposely hang a picture frame lopsided, or spend half as much time picking out an outfit in the morning than you normally do.
- Share embarrassing stories with your kids. Kids love to hear about their parents’ pitfalls, he says. So describe a blooper moment to your children, and laugh it off together. Plus, you’ll teach your kids that people don’t need to be perfect.
- Try a breathing exercise. Studies show that perfectionists do not always practice mindfulness. “We can train ourselves to relax to avoid upsetting patterns of thinking,” Flett says.
Our imperfect moments can be our most defining. “Learning how to accept oneself and accept other people is essential for life,” Flett says. When we lower the pressure a little bit, it can be more satisfying to go for excellence, not idealism. “Embrace the ‘ideal’ of imperfection, it’s unique!”
For any questions regarding mental health coverage, benefits, or providers, please call the Mental Health/Substance Abuse phone number on the back of your member ID card.
Don’t forget you can visit the Behavioral Health section of ibx.com 24/7 and access Magellan’s On To Better Health self-assessment tool.* This assessment offers confidential online access to self-help tools and resources proven to help emotional health and wellness. The resources include screening software and a resource library. Learn more.
*Magellan Behavioral Health, Inc., an independent company, manages mental health and substance abuse benefits for most Independence Blue Cross members