Some people pride themselves in being a perfectionist. The title gives off the impression that the person is neat, organized, efficient, and well, perfect. These people though, tend to blissfully ignore the darker side to perfectionism. They ignore the unrealistically high expectations – not just of themselves, but of every situation and person they come into contact with. They ignore their fixation on small, insignificant flaws. Those who pride themselves in being a perfectionist may not realize how their perfectionism leads to higher levels of anxiety and lower self-esteem.
I am trying to become an imperfectionist. I don’t necessarily mean that I will pride myself on my mistakes, but I won’t linger on them forever anymore either. I am striving to acknowledge my humanity and that it is okay to not be perfect. I am tired of feeling like the world is ending because of small things that others don’t notice or give significance to. I am tired of feeling burnt out and exhausted when I’m only in the planning stages of my projects. It is time for me to realize that I am human, and I am not perfect, and that is okay. Here are some strategies that I am using to become an imperfectionist, heavily influenced by Edmund J Bourne’s “Four Traits that Perpetuate Anxiety.”
Overcome “should/must” thinking Those who put a lot of pressure on themselves likely have a lot of “should” or “must thoughts. It should look like this, I must finish this today. It will take a while, but I aim to counter these thoughts with statements such as “things will work out, even if it does not look the way that I picture it,” and “It is okay if I don’t finish this today because I have given myself plenty of time.”
Create realistic goals When goal setting, I tend to create unrealistic goals that become disappointments when I don’t achieve them. Instead, I will focus on making realistic, timely goals that I know I can cross off my list.
Focus on small wins and accomplishments It can be really easy to focus on small mistakes and flaws. They can eat away at you when you have spent a long period of time working on something for there to be one small flaw. Instead of fixating on something others may not even notice, I need to remind myself to look at the bigger picture. I need to acknowledge the positive aspects of my accomplishments that outweigh the flaws.
These are just a few strategies I am using to become an imperfectionist. I realize that this may take a while, but my life is not a race. If you are also a perfectionist that identifies with some of the things I highlighted, I hope these strategies work for you too. It is important, though, to acknowledge when you need a little help with fixing your mindset. This article does not replace any professional help, it is only a loose guideline based on a well-written chapter of a book on anxiety. I urge you to seek professional help or to reach out to a friend or family member if things do feel too much, or to find more strategies to make living your life easier. Please find below some local resources for mental health:
UAlberta Student Access: https://www.ualberta.ca/current-students/access.html
UAlberta Counselling and Clinical Services: https://www.ualberta.ca/current-students/counselling/index.html
The Landing (support for LGBTQ+ folks and allies): https://su.ualberta.ca/services/thelanding/service/
Access 24/7 (24 hour mental health clinic): https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/findhealth/Service.aspx?id=1077952&serviceAtFacilityID=1122569
Source: Bourne, Edmund J. “Four Traits That Perpetuate Anxiety.” The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook. 3rd ed. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2000, pp. 225-239.