Toxic Traits of Perfectionism and How to Improve Part. 2

Ife Duduyemi

Toxic Perfectionism Part 2

Perfectionism can take a toll on one’s life mentally, emotionally, and relationally. Part 1 of this blog series discussed the toxic traits of perfectionism, their effects on the individual and those around them. These traits include being highly critical of yourself and others, habitually seeking out mistakes, downward spiraling when expectations or goals are not met, a crippling fear of failure, and happiness based on results and achievements. Having identified toxic traits of perfectionism, what is the next step? Part 2 will discuss how to improve from perfectionism and initiating your journey to overcome perfectionism. 

Overcoming Perfectionism 

Understand that life isn’t “all or nothing.” 

Perfectionists tend to see life as one extreme versus another when the truth is that there is a lot of grey area. No one decision will derail you for the rest of your life. If a job interview did not go the way you intended, it’s okay! What is meant for you is meant for you. Nothing and nobody can take that away from you. When facing a huge decision or event ahead, reframe it as a new experience and opportunity for growth. Find gratitude in the process and the lessons learned within. 

Color outside of the lines, literally and figuratively.

Perfectionists tend to stress out on all details. A way to practice embracing experiences over outcomes is to connect with your inner child. For example, explore hobbies from your childhood—hobbies you did just for fun. Be great at it, be terrible at it; it doesn’t matter. A great activity is coloring books. Practice coloring and see that it’s okay to glide outside of the lines because those “blemishes” do not matter when you look at the greater picture. It is still a beautiful picture. Similarly, minor mistakes do not matter in the grand scheme of your beautiful life’s journey. 

Extend yourself grace. 

Growth doesn’t come from being perfect. It comes from making mistakes and learning how to apply new knowledge moving forward. Mistakes are a part of the human experience. It makes you real; it makes you human. Grace is a concept many perfectionists struggle with. We’ve discussed that life is not all or nothing; as a result, grace is the allowance warranted for that grey area. Grace is accounting for the fact that you cannot be perfect and permitting yourself love, kindness, and compassion in advance. As you give yourself more grace, you can extend the same to others. 

Strive for excellence instead of perfection. 

Throughout this series, we’ve established that perfection is unattainable. Susan Fletcher said it best: Perfection is a moving target. Therefore, instead of striving for perfection, aim for excellence. Excellence is defined as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” In aiming for excellence, the goal is not to be perfect but rather to do the best you can and honoring that. Acknowledge the excellence you put forth and validate yourself in that all your efforts are enough.

Bonus tips

Create a list of affirmations that reflect self-validation and inspire excellence rather than perfection. Recite these to yourself every morning to set the tone for your day. Also, type them in your phone or somewhere accessible. This way, you can remind yourself of your excellence affirmations when tendencies of toxic perfectionism arise. 

Here are a few excellence affirmations to help you get started:  

I am enough 

My abilities do not define me

Limitations do not define me

I am so proud of who I am and who I am becoming

Mistakes yield growth and innovation

I will extend grace to myself

I strive for excellence rather than perfection

My best is enough  

Overcoming perfectionism is a mindset. A journey. It’s not a destination because life can trigger tendencies of perfectionism, but you now have the opportunity to integrate several tools and pivot. The key is grace, so do not be too hard on yourself if you do not get it right the first time around. Odds are, you might not. However, the win is in trying and practicing healthy behaviors until they can become habits. 

As a therapist, I help perfectionists practice grace, gratitude, and experience a richer and more joyful life. If you struggle with perfectionism, and it’s robbing you of your joy and potentially straining relationships with the people you love, schedule a free therapy consultation, and we can get started!

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