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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Psychotherapy Blog: Overcoming Perfectionism

Are you a perfectionist?
Do you feel that your efforts are meaningless unless you give 110% every single time because "good enough" is not good enough for you?

Are your projects late because you keep going over them again and again to try to achieve "perfection"?

Overcoming Perfectionism

Do you feel like you've failed when others think that what you've done is "very good" and not "excellent" or "the best"?

If you find yourself struggling with some or all of these issues, chances are you're a perfectionist and, if so, you may be very hard on yourself as well as those around you.

What are the Consequences of Being a Perfectionist?
Perfectionists often look outside of themselves for approval. Their self esteem, which is usually low, is dependent upon others telling them that they've done an excellent job.

Overcoming Perfectionism


Often, although they get momentary pleasure from hearing others say that they've done an "excellent" job, perfectionists tell themselves, "Well, of course it's great. That's what's expected of me."

Perfectionism causes a lot of anxiety because being perfect all of the time is impossible. Sooner or later, a perfectionist's achievements will fall short of "perfect" and then they feel deeply disappointed and guilty.

It's quite a burden to be a perfectionist. Perfectionists are often their own worst taskmasters, working themselves day and night to try to always be "perfect." And, contrary to what you might think, success often eludes them because they keep reworking projects or ideas well past their deadlines in their attempts to make them "perfect. "

Overcoming Perfectionism

Perfectionists often have difficulty in relationships because they expect others to be perfect too. Their "all of nothing" thinking ("it's either perfect or it's not good at all") gets them into trouble. Their partners feel exasperated, their children feel anxious, and their bosses feel frustrated with their relentless perfectionism.

What Can You Do If You're a Perfectionist?
The first step is to admit that you have a problem.

Think about your life and the consequences of your perfectionism. If you're not happy and the people around you are unhappy because of your need for perfection, it's time to change the way you think, feel and behave.

It's important to realize that people who are close to you and who love you don't value you because of what you do or how you do it. They care about you because you're you--someone who is an imperfect being, just like everyone else. They will probably appreciate your letting go of your perfectionistic standards so that you and they can relax.

Learn to discriminate and prioritize in the different areas of your life. Remember, if you try to do your absolute best on everything that you do, you'll probably not do well on most things because there just isn't enough time and energy.

Once you have prioritized, practice aiming for 80% or 90% instead of 100% in areas that are less important. If you're not sure what 80% or 90% looks like because you always strive for 100%, ask a trusted friend, family member or colleague to help you gain some perspective. You'll be surprised at how many more things you'll accomplish because you won't be procrastinating and reworking things to be "perfect."

Overcoming Perfectionism:  Learn to Relax and Manage Your Anxiety

Learn to manage your anxiety. Ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" and "Objectively, how likely is it that the worst thing will happen?" "What's a realistic outcome?"

Remember that many things that were seen as "a mistake" at first turned out to be great successes: The 3M inventor of "Post Its" was originally trying to make an adhesive. Imagine if he and his company had not seen the value of what he had made. We wouldn't have "Post Its" today and 3M would not have made lots of money.

The famous Irish writer, James Joyce, said,"Mistakes are the portals of discovery."

Getting Help in Therapy
If you find that you are unable to break away from your perfectionistic tendencies, you would probably benefit from seeing a mental health professional.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, please call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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