Perfectionism is a common struggle for many people. The drive to better oneself is a great thing. It pushes us to become our best selves, but when this drive starts to run our lives and limit our ability to feel stable and satisfied, we call it perfectionism. When striving to be your best starts to be the only thing you think about or starts to take you away from other things you care about, it may be time to reconsider what your best or your perfect really looks like. In this blog, I’ll review the importance of defining your own form of perfection and working to achieve this goal without comparing yourself to others.
What is Perfection?
Perfection is something that is as good as it can possibly be. A perfect apple is not the same as a perfect orange. A perfect you is not the same as a perfect anyone else. Perfect is simply working toward being the best version of yourself – whatever that looks like. Perfectionism is said to occur when a person works to attain an idealized version of themselves, leading to overly self-critical thoughts and potentially difficult behaviors. In many cases, this perfectionism stems from a desire to be like someone else. At the end of the day, a person will likely find themselves not living up to someone else’s version of success and perfection, but as the old adage goes, that’s a little like comparing apples and oranges. Instead of living up to someone else’s version of perfect, the key to overcoming the negative effects of perfectionism is simple – redefine perfect around who you are and who you want to be rather than by someone else’s ideals.
What do You Expect from Others?
When I meet with people who are struggling with perfectionism, it often helps to ask them to describe someone who they think is perfect. In most cases, they name someone who they don’t know very well who seems perfect on the surface. Then, we talk about someone who they know isn’t perfect but who they love anyway. A parent, child, friend, or loved one is described in glowing terms – warts and all. The long and short of it is, most perfectionists compare themselves to seemingly perfect people who they don’t know, but they don’t expect some lofty, unattainable version of perfection from the people who they know and love.
What Should You Reasonably Expect from Yourself?
That brings us to talking about what your own version of perfection actually is. What would perfect be for you? Is it being just like some “perfect” person who you don’t know very well who seems to have it all – perfect career, perfect family, perfect health? Is it something else? By personalizing your definition of perfect, you can redirect all that positive energy wrapped up in perfectionism into becoming a version of yourself that makes you feel satisfied and fulfilled. It may not seem like the perfect you were aiming for before, but you may just find yourself feeling more content. Some questions to ask yourself when personalizing your definition of perfection include:
- What expectations do you have for yourself? (professional and personal)
- Are these expectations reasonable?
- Would you hold others to these expectations?
- What are some achievable goals you can set for yourself?
- How could achieving these smaller goals help you feel a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment?
- What can you learn from “failures” or times when you haven’t been as successful?
- What makes you happy?
- What activities do you enjoy the most?
- How can your plan for personalized perfection include more activities that make you happy and bring you joy?
Want to Talk About It?
If you’re interested in learning more about perfectionism and how you can change perfectionist thinking, I would love to talk to you. Let’s start defining your perfect and working toward an achievable and meaningful goal by defining the best version of yourself. If you’re ready to get started, you can contact Central Arkansas Group Counseling to schedule therapy sessions with our team members in North Little Rock, Benton, or Conway.