Perfectionists are people who have unrealistically high standards for their lives and believe that their self-worth relies on them being able to meet those standards. Perfectionism is the thought that if you are perfect you won’t be rejected, so a perfect house, job, car, family, relationship, body, and social media page are must-haves. These expectations are completely unattainable especially since you’re the one setting the benchmark for ‘perfect’- If you ever achieved it, would you even acknowledge that you had? They also create self-rejection because of the impossibility of success, which is the very thing that perfectionism was designed to avoid. When we think of perfectionists, we often picture people with a perfectly neat houses, who excel at their work and seem to have it all together. We believe that if we don’t meet this level of success or accomplishment, we surely cannot be perfectionists. This is not true, in fact, anyone can struggle with perfectionism regardless of the outward appearance of their life.

So, it’s possible that I am a perfectionist even if my life clearly isn’t perfect? Yes. Perfectionism makes you believe that every aspect of your life must be perfect and any less will have devastating consequences, but that doesn’t mean that these people have the resources to make ‘perfect’ happen. In fact, often perfectionists struggle with the three P’s; perfectionism, paralysis and procrastination. An overwhelming fear of not being able to do a task perfectly from start-to-finish in one attempt can be so paralyzing that the perfectionist does not attempt the task at all. This might be the giant pile of laundry staring you in the face or the school/work assignment that you should have started weeks ago but put off.

What about self-improvement? While it’s true that we should aim for better for ourselves, perfectionism is a toxic trait that can cause mental and emotional turmoil. The detriment of perfectionism is aiming for perfect instead of good or great. It’s being terrified of failure, feeling inadequate and never being satisfied with the results of our efforts. Of course, self-improvement is great, but if you feel that you need to improve in order to be worthy of love or respect, your efforts are misguided. For example, many people choose to adopt a healthier lifestyle and lose weight by changing diet and exercise. This is great, unless you believe that you are worthless at your current weight but will be truly happy or loved if you just lose ten pounds. Unfortunately, people who are perfectionistic about their bodies and appearance often find that the goal is a moving target. They aren’t any happier after ten pounds but are sure that they will be after the next ten, and so on.

If you are reading this and think you may be a perfectionist, here’s what you can do: Remind yourself to set realistic goals. Perfect is not realistic nor is it attainable. If you’re procrastinating a work assignment, know that it doesn’t have to blow your boss away, it just has to be done to the best of your ability. If you’re overwhelmed with a messy home, spend 30 minutes tidying instead of waiting until you have the energy to clean the entire house, and be proud of what you accomplish in that time. If you want your body to look a certain way, start by loving yourself as you are now and make healthy changes based on how they make you feel instead of how they make you look. Perfectionism is a motivation killer because it leaves you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. It makes you extremely self-critical, and when you are constantly judging and evaluating yourself you have no time to appreciate your strengths and to celebrate your victories. Nothing and no one will ever be perfect, so why spend your life aiming for the impossible? True happiness can be found even in imperfection.

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