A Cure for Perfectionism: How to Halt Unrealistically High Expectations

Are you a perfectionist? Are you a recovering perfectionist? Are you not responding because you’re afraid of answering incorrectly?

Whatever your answer may be, one thing is certain . . .

Perfectionism breeds worry.

Think of it this way, if you’re a perfectionist where work is concerned, you may find yourself worrying about making mistakes, being rejected, losing the sale, or being anything other than number one in your field. If you are consumed by achieving the perfect appearance, you’ll likely worry about aging, your weight, or your wardrobe.

I realize that striving for perfection does have its place. At times, high standards can serve you well. Striving to do your very best in life and taking great care and effort in what you do certainly has its rewards.

However, if you worry that no matter how hard you try, it’s never good enough—that you are never good enough—then your perfectionism is working against you.

To let go of this type of perfectionism, think in Technicolor instead of in black or white. When you see things only as black or white, good or bad, any little flaw or mistake can feel like a total failure.

This is a common trap for many dieters. Have you ever been on a diet, eaten something that wasn’t on your program, and then said to yourself: Well, now I’ve blown it? Then, after mentally beating yourself up, you proceed to eat like a mad fiend, all the while professing that tomorrow you will start again and, this time, stick to it perfectly? I’ve been there, done that! And for most perfectionist dieters, it happens again and again. As ironic as it is, perfectionism can actually set you up for failure.

Robert Schuller, in his book Be Happy You Are Loved, wrote a great phrase that you can repeat to yourself when perfectionism is lurking:

“It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly!”

Making a mistake is a good sign that you are doing something right; it proves you’re at least doing something!

Thankfully, the world is not just black or white. It’s purple, green, blue, magenta, aqua, orange, pink, red, mauve, yellow, and a multitude of colors and shades in between. It’s time to think in Technicolor and to add those colors to your life.

Thinking in Technicolor means changing the way you talk to yourself. To shift the way you talk to yourself:

Catch yourself saying, “I didn’t do everything right” and change it to, “I may not have done everything right, but I didn’t do everything wrong either.”  Avoid saying, “I’m not good enough” and instead say, “I am enough.”

It’s a wonderful way to regain some perspective and halt the downward spin of unrealistically high expectations. Pay attention to your own expectations. If you decide there are some areas in your life where flexible standards will work better for you, start thinking in Technicolor and set your life up for success.