By: Cheryl Chiew

I had my first perfectionism lesson at 5 years old when I brought my first report card home. When I showed it to my parents, I quickly learned that scoring a ‘100’ on my Chinese finals wasn’t enough to make up for the ‘80’ in Math. So I would push myself to do everything perfectly. This led to me being more reluctant to take on new tasks, as I was fearful of falling short of my expectations. 

However, over the years, I have realized that perfectionism only prevented me from doing amazing things. This is my story of how I was able to successfully overcome my paralyzing fear of failure by getting rid of my perfectionist tendencies. 

Acknowledge your perfectionism is a problem

The first step to addressing any problem is admitting you have one.  While being a perfectionist allowed me to produce quality work, it also cost me my happiness, mental health, and relationships in the process. This is because I started to become an overly judgemental, competitive, and critical person, and would project these feelings onto others. Eventually, people did not like me. By embracing the toxicity of my perfectionism, allowed me to embark on my healing journey. 

Change your negative inner self-talk 

The moment I realized that perfectionism was a way of thinking, I started practicing self-affirmation, and validation, which allowed me to be more forgiving of my mistakes. Over time, I started to learn how to focus on the process and not the outcome, as I started training myself to value practice over perfection. It’s easy to give yourself crap when you slip up, but life is hard enough without you putting yourself down. That’s why you should always make it a point to celebrate the small victories.

Break down your tasks and accept procrastination as part of the process

Procrastination and perfectionism are the twin enemies of productivity. However, instead of viewing procrastination as an unproductive action, look at it as an important part of your process. This is because procrastination enables you to relax and get into the right mindset to work. It is also important to create a list of small simple tasks to complete. To get the ball rolling, I like to create a checklist that I can strike off after each task is completed. Once I overcome my initial inertia, and before I know it, I’m done!

If giving your 100% means overworking yourself, try aiming for 80%. 

Aim for good enough

As a perfectionist, it is completely normal to be hard on yourself, in fear of falling short of someone else’s standards. However, remember that you are an intelligent and capable person; and your good will always be good enough.

Redefine your standards

The problem with perfectionism is not only about having high standards but also having unrealistic standards too. If giving your 100% means overworking yourself, try aiming for 80%. Remember, in order to set healthy work boundaries for yourself, it is important to consciously lower your bar and grasp that perfection is subjective. If you fail at something, remember, it does not devalue your worth as a human being because your self-worth is inherent. You are infinitely more than your job performance or grades.

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