Perfectionism or high standards?

5 Ways to kick self-sabotaging perfectionist habits

“I’m not really a perfectionist, I just have high standards.”

I’ve heard this from many successful women and, to tell you the truth, I’ve said it myself. It’s easy to tell ourselves that our perfectionist tendencies help us get things done right and are the reason for our success. After all, what’s the downside of striving for excellence and being the best?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do a great job, improve your performance and show up as your best self. But when this leads to setting unreasonable standards and pushing yourself relentlessly to achieve them, it’s easy to spiral into a cycle of worry, self-doubt and judgment. You can’t constantly live up to these expectations. And because perfectionism is really about winning approval, your confidence can plummet when you “fail” to achieve it.

How can you tell when you’re crossing the line between healthy striving and perfectionism? Here are 5 tips to help you recognize the difference and take the better approach.

    • Check your motivation. Are you striving in order to learn, grow and contribute or are you trying to win the high opinion of others? Focusing on self-improvement (which you can control) will relieve the pressure of constantly worrying about what other people think of you (which you can’t control).
    • Be open to helpful criticism. Do you take criticism as a personal attack or as an opportunity to learn something useful? If you can listen without getting defensive this can spur personal growth instead of increasing anxiety and self-doubt.
    • Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Do you judge your performance in absolute terms? Instead, celebrate what went well while acknowledging where you want to improve. This can reduce unhelpful self-criticism and increase feelings of satisfaction.
    • Learn from mistakes. Do you view mistakes as proof that you’ve fallen short and aren’t good enough in some way? Try adopting a learner’s mindset. Get curious and find insights and new possibilities that will help you do better in the future.
    • Build your resilience muscles. It’s natural to experience setbacks – it happens to all of us. But it’s a lot easier to turn a situation around and bounce back if you treat yourself with compassion, focus on what went right and embrace a growth mindset.

As Brene Brown said,

“You can’t do anything brave if you’re wearing the strait jacket of what will people think.”

Here’s to dropping the 20 ton shield of perfectionism so your dreams can take flight!

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