7 Ways to Let Go of Perfectionism and Love Yourself

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Perfection is an illusion. But if perfection is unrealistic and unattainable, why do so many people struggle to achieve it, setting themselves up for an endless cycle of shame and disappointment?

7 Ways to Let Go of Perfectionism and Love Yourself

Perfection is an illusion. But if perfection is unrealistic and unattainable, why do so many people struggle to achieve it, setting themselves up for an endless cycle of shame and disappointment?


For many perfectionists, there's an underlying fear that they are not “good enough,” “won’t be loved”, or “won’t succeed” unless they strive for perfection. At its core, perfectionism might essentially be an act of disowning our true selves. It is often a coping mechanism for shame and inadequacy. Perfectionism thrives in convincing us that trying for it'll make us our “best self,” when in reality, it can make us to play small and take us away from our true selves.


Perfectionism is often like a coach that initially appears to want you to succeed, but then berates you, making you practice to the point of exhaustion, and yelling at you when you try to take a break. You might think that without this type of pressure, you will not be able to achieve your goals⁠— but actually the opposite is true. If you let yourself rest, engage in positive self-talk, and acknowledge your progress, you’re much less likely to burn out and much more likely to achieve your goals without sacrificing your health and quality of life along the way.


If you are struggling with perfectionism, it’s essential to keep in mind that it does not go away overnight and it takes time to learn how to let go perfectionism. Below are seven tips that will help you learn how to overcome of perfectionism and be kinder to yourself.


1. Practice self-compassion.


One helpful way to fight someone’s inner critic and address perfectionism head-on is to practice self-compassion. If perfectionism were a physical illness, then doctors would probably prescribe self-compassion as a way to treat it.


Perfectionists are usually their own worst critic. While they might be compassionate towards others, they might have difficulty being supportive of themselves. When you are feeling critical towards yourself, some questions to help you increase your self-compassion are the following:


  • What would I say to a friend of mine in the same situation, and how can I apply this to myself?
  • How could I take care of myself at the moment?
  • What would a friend say to me?
  • What are some ways I show other people compassion that I can apply to myself?
  • What do I need right now that I am not getting?

Specific meditations can also help increase your self-compassion.


2. Identify the rules and beliefs that drive your perfectionism.


It may be helpful to identify the underlying beliefs and rules that drive your behavior. For example, many perfectionists have an underlying idea that they are not “good enough.” As a result of this belief, they might adhere to specific rules and all-or-nothing thinking like “I must be perfect, or I will fail,” or “I must be perfect, or I will be rejected.” These beliefs and rules were often formed in childhood. Bringing awareness to those beliefs and rules as well as how they impact on various areas of your life is the first key in the process of deprogramming those beliefs.


3. Honestly evaluate your expectations.


Take some time to evaluate your expectations honestly. It isn't realistic to expect that you'll never fail or make mistakes because you're human, and you'll inevitably make mistakes as we all do. Think of how you can create more realistic expectations for yourself. When you establish realistic expectations, you can meet them. You’ll also build up your self-confidence and self-trust, two tools that can help you combat perfectionism.


4. Engage in activities that build resilience.


Those who struggle with perfectionism often over-prepare and actively avoid making mistakes or putting themselves in situations where they might be bad at something. That fear can hold them back from learning that mistakes don't define their self-worth and most likely won’t cause others to reject them. It'll be helpful to engage in activities you fear you'll be bad at. Think of those activities as experiments that can help you practice letting go of unrealistic expectations and build resilience. That can be an anxiety-provoking process that takes time, but it can ultimately be very freeing for many perfectionists.


5. Reach out for support from other people.


Perfectionism thrives in silence and isolation. Perfectionists are often surprised to find many others struggle with similar issues once they begin to open up about it; this can reduce the feelings of shame that typically accompany perfectionism. Begin by identifying one person in your life whom you trust, and share some of your struggles with them. The more you practice being vulnerable with those whom you trust, the less isolated you'll feel, and the freer you may become.


6. Reduce your social media use.


Unfortunately, social media contributes to frequent social comparison, that can exacerbate perfectionism. Try taking a break from technology for at lest a half or full day and then see how you feel. When you begin to use social media after the break, you can notice how you feel. Are you engaging in social comparison or feeling “not good enough?” If so, you should consider implementing a regular break from social media several times per week.

7. Acknowledge the costs of perfectionism.


Sometimes, perfectionism leads to loss. Those losses include: loss of quality time spent with other people, loss of enjoying the present moment, and loss of connection with oneself. Several perfectionists struggle with modifying their standards due to fear they will fail as a result. Reflecting on what perfectionism cost you in different areas of your life will help you realize that the costs outweigh the benefits. That realization can boost your motivation to tackle perfectionism and also be a helpful reminder for those times when you feel tempted to give in to your inner critic.


Keep in mind that it is helpful to have realistic expectations for yourself as you’re working on your perfectionism—it is a process that takes time. If you get stuck during the process, it might be helpful to find a therapist specialized in perfectionism and can help you fight your inner critic.

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Thinking Humanity: 7 Ways to Let Go of Perfectionism and Love Yourself
7 Ways to Let Go of Perfectionism and Love Yourself
Perfection is an illusion. But if perfection is unrealistic and unattainable, why do so many people struggle to achieve it, setting themselves up for an endless cycle of shame and disappointment?
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