The Perfectionism Paradox: 5 Reasons We're Doomed and 5 Ways to Treat It

By Abigale Johnson

May 9, 2024

Perfectionism, oh sweet agony, the art of never feeling good enough no matter how hard we try. Let's dive into our perfectionist woes and some of the ways we're treating it.

5 Reasons We're Stuck in Perfectionism Hell

1. Fear of Epic Failures: We're petrified of failing spectacularly, so we strive for perfection to avoid becoming the laughingstock of our own nightmares. Perfectionists often have an intense fear of making mistakes or falling short of their own or others' expectations. This fear drives them to strive for flawlessness in everything they do.

2. Approval Addiction: We crave validation like plants crave sunlight, believing that perfection will make us shine brighter in the eyes of others. Some individuals develop perfectionistic tendencies due to a deep-seated need for approval and validation from others. They believe that being perfect will earn them acceptance and praise. Spoiler alert: it won't.

3. Self-Esteem Limbo: Our self-worth is a rollercoaster ride tied to our achievements. If we're not perfect, we're basically human garbage. Fun times. Perfectionism can stem from low self-esteem, where individuals believe that their worth is tied to their achievements and accomplishments. They constantly seek perfection as a way to feel worthy and valued.

4. Control Freaks United: We cling to control like a drowning person clings to a life raft, hoping to steer clear of any rough waters that might mess up our perfect little boat. Perfectionists may struggle with control issues, wanting to have complete control over every aspect of their lives to avoid any potential for failure or disappointment.

5. Comparison Olympics: We're the gold medalists in the Comparison Olympics, constantly striving to outshine everyone else because losing is for losers, obviously. Constantly comparing oneself to others and feeling the need to outperform them can fuel perfectionistic tendencies. The desire to be the best can be a driving force behind perfectionism.

5 Ways to Treat Perfectionism

1. Lower Your Standards (JK!): Pretend to lower your standards, but secretly keep them impossibly high. It's the perfect illusion of progress without actually changing a thing. Challenge your unrealistic standards of perfection. Work to understand that it's okay to make mistakes and that perfection is an unattainable goal.

2. Practice Self-Compassion: Convince yourself that self-compassion is a thing while secretly beating yourself up for not being perfect at self-compassion. Learn to practice self-compassion and self-acceptance. Be kind to yourself, even when things don't go as planned. This is tied to learning that mistakes happen and it's not a reflection of your worth.

3. Set Realistic Goals: Set goals that are slightly less insane than your usual ones. Congratulate yourself for being "realistic" while secretly plotting world domination. But seriously, set realistic and achievable goals. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps to reduce the pressure of perfectionism. This may also help you feel motivated to move forward, celebrating small wins and building the confidence to complete the task.

4. Embrace Imperfection: Post about embracing imperfection on social media while editing your imperfections out of every selfie. One of my favorite sayings is "wabi sabi" - which is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. You can work to embrace imperfection and see mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning. Shift the focus from perfection to progress.

5. Therapy, Because Laughter is the Best Medicine, duh: Go to therapy and laugh hysterically about the absurdity of trying to be perfect. Bonus points if your therapist is a sarcastic genius. If you are struggling with perfectionism, seek support from a therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness techniques can be particularly effective in addressing perfectionistic tendencies.

Perfectionism can have underlying reasons such as fear of failure, need for approval, low self-esteem, control issues, and comparison with others. However, with the right strategies and support, individuals can learn to manage and overcome perfectionism, leading to improved mental well-being and a healthier approach to life's challenges.

Embrace the madness, laugh at the chaos, and remember that perfectionism is just a really bad joke we keep telling ourselves.

Keep Reading

Explore other resources from The Boundary


April 10, 2023

Becoming Stress-Proof: Abigale Johnson of The Boundary On How To Reduce Or Eliminate Stress From Your Work