Growing up we believed that being perfect was the discernible answer to all our insecurities. Whether it included physical insecurities or professional shortcomings, being perfect was the solution to every problem. For example, you thought if you could be the perfect student, you’d get better grades, if your work were perfect, you’d earn more money, and if you were the perfect friend, you’d always be loved.
The idea of being perfect is synonymous with being completely satisfied and not having a care in the world. But as we dive deeper into the triggers of deteriorating mental health, we realise that what might appear to be perfect on the outside, may tell a drastically different story on the inside.
Studies have shown that perfectionism can trigger burnout, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders that all lead to low self-esteem. It creates unrealistic expectations that are impossible to meet and when you inevitably fail to achieve them, it confirms your worst fear; that you’re simply not good enough.
Here are a few ways to break out of this never-ending quest for perfection.
Answer your why.
Try and develop a sense of self-awareness around why you need to be perfect and what you’re looking to gain from being perfect.
Take a moment to relax.
Ironically, being a perfectionist makes you more prone to erring because of the mental stress involved. In trying to be better, we’re far more likely to make irrational decisions. When you feel like you’re in such a situation, step back for a minute, focus on your breathing, or go for a short walk to distract yourself to gain more mental clarity.
Swap criticism for compassion.
The root of perfectionism comes from self-criticism. Ignore that inner voice saying you could be happier if you strive to be perfect, by turning to your compassionate side. Talk to yourself like you would to a friend who is facing the same struggles.
Look at every situation with a fresh perspective as you would if you were self-accepting, appreciating and most importantly self-loving. Think about what that version of yourself would say and think of that moment in time.
The five-year rule.
Every time you feel yourself striving for perfection, introspect whether being perfect today would really make that big an impact in your life in five years’ time? Remember that joy, love, and compassion will always matter far more in the future.
Open up to the people you love and trust and confide in them for help when you feel like you’re being too hard on yourself. At our very core, we all share the same primal desires, to be loved, accepted and to feel secure.
Read more: Setting Boundaries to Let Go of Anxiety