Maladaptive perfectionism is what happens when you set your standards above that which is achievable. It may seem ironic that the people who try hardest for perfection are those that are doomed to never be satisfied. But perhaps more seriously than that, maladaptive perfectionism can lead to workaholism and depression, sleeping problems and more.
Learning to live with perfectionism
Take a look around you and you may note that some of the least satisfied people in your life are the ones that hold themselves to the highest standards. If you count yourself among them, it’s time to take a look at the reasoning behind your attitude – and how you can reconcile your perfectionist nature with the flawed but beautiful world in which you strive to succeed.
Like any addiction, getting perfectionism under control is first and foremost a case of admitting it’s a problem. You can use a range of techniques to then conquer your perfectionist tendencies – or rather, to put them to work where most effective and keep them at bay when they’re unhelpful.
1. Visualize your project
Whether your project is starting your own business or raising a kid, it can be hard to keep perspective when you’re so emotionally involved.
Researchers have shown that the simple act of writing or sketching your problem down on paper can help you to get a more objective take on your progress. The latest setback is probably far from a disaster in the big picture of things.
2. Time yourself
Time is another objective factor. It might not seem so when you’re in the zone (or desperately trying to get there) but the clock keeps ticking at the same rate.
The longer you give yourself, the longer your task will take – and you probably still won’t be done when you’re done. Give yourself a deadline, take regular breaks, and tell yourself: ‘this is the best I could do in the time I had.’
As a perfectionist you may find you’re constantly disappointed with yourself, constantly blaming outside factors or all of the above. The truth is, you’re not a robot and you live in a wild and crazy world: you will never be 100% in control.
Treat each task like an art project. It’s not about hitting a precise end goal, but about learning along the way and creating something unique.
You might even introduce random factors into your work to shake things up and learn to love unpredictability – whether it’s taking an unplanned afternoon off work or using a throw of the dice to make a decision.
4. Measure yourself only against yourself
Social media makes it all too easy to foster seething jealousies about those that do it all.
We live in a world of seven billion people: there will always be someone better than you in your field. But nobody will be better at being you, so celebrate the successes of others if you can bear it – and if not, log off and get back to work.
5. Appreciate what you have achieved
Perfectionists are glass-half-empty people when it comes to their own lives. If you wait until you’re in your old age to appraise what you’ve achieved, you’ll likely regret not having taken stock earlier and enjoyed the work while it lasted.
You’ll find much more balance in life if you keep a ledger of your successes. This may be as simple as a reverse to-do list – a note of every task, big or small, that you achieve each day.
But another great idea is to create a reward jar. Cover dozens of scraps of paper with ideas for rewards (a glass of wine, a trip to the bookshop, a call to a friend) and pick one out of the jar every time you complete a meaningful task.
Sounds reasonable even for a perfectionist, doesn’t it? You’ll find a whole raft of other great techniques to try in this smart new infographic from SavingSpot.
Given them a whirl, and you’ll soon feel a lot better about what you’ve achieved – and a whole lot more Zen about the stuff that didn’t go to plan.