What do you do when you’re stuck in a moment of perfectionism?
We all have these moments where we find ourselves double or triple spell-checking the most basic email, obsessively going over someone else’s work to make sure every little detail is just right, or snapping at our significant other for wearing a shirt that’s just plain WRONG (aka not picture perfect).
Those simple, everyday moments where everything was going alright and then suddenly, BOOM!, we’re caught up in perfectionism.
For most of us, perfectionism has been a long-time companion. A shadow that’s been following us for years. And so, overcoming the coping mechanism that is perfectionism is going to be a long-term effort.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do, in the moment, when you’re stuck in perfectionism to help you snap out of it.
I’ve come up with 4 sure-fire ways to instantly snap you out of perfectionism. Let's dive in!
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4 sure-fire ways to instantly snap out of perfectionism
Hey you, welcome to #perfectionistproblems the show. I’m so excited you’re here!
It’s so awesome to me that you want to spend your time with me this week and hopefully in the upcoming weeks too.
In this week’s workshop, we’ll be talking about the 4 things you can do when you’re stuck in that place of perfectionism to snap you right out of it.
My name is Wendy and I run a website called The Gratefulist where I help stressed-out perfectionist turn into recovering perfectionists. I’ve made it my mission to encourage women to overcome their perfectionism and embrace their perfectly imperfect selves, so that they can finally go all in on their dreams.
I started years ago with a $10 gratitude journal, writing down 3 things I’m grateful for everyday. That journal later turned into a perfectionism journal, when I was tired of my perfectionism holding me back and I had finally mustered up the courage to try and figure out how to slay the perfectionism dragon. It’s crazy to me how a simple, $10 notebook turned into this passion project where I’m giving these workshops to help you (and others like you) let go of your perfectionism.
I’m also an avid beach lover, as you can see. Beaches and bright colors are my jam. I’m a gratitude geek, obsessed with the tv show Scandal, and driving around in my bright red convertible is my guilty pleasure.
Let me know in the comments, what is one of your guilty pleasures?
Before we dive into this week’s workshop, I want to point out that last week’s episode of #perfectionistproblems the show is really worth it to take some time, watch, and dig into. I talked in-depth about what perfectionism is (and is not) and why perfectionism is a coping mechanism. You can find that episode over at thegratefulist.com/show.
As a pre-cursor to this week’s workshop, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to the topic of perfectionism.
Let’s get on the same page
Let’s clear up a few misunderstandings and get to the truth about perfectionism.
A common misunderstanding is that perfectionism is a collection of personality traits, like being type A, having a keen eye for detail, and being very organized. This is how perfectionism is portrayed in popular culture. Monica Geller from Friends or April Kepner from Grey’s Anatomy, anyone?
But, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s do a little thought experiment: do you suddenly turn into a perfectionist once you start focusing on details or show your type A personality? The answer is no. Those things happen as a RESPONSE to your perfectionism.
Perfectionism is a dangerous and harmful way of thinking and behaving. Perfectionism is a coping mechanism that we use when we feel scared, insecure, uncertain, and/or not good enough.
Those moments when you feel insecure or uncertain, like when you meet your in-laws for the first time, trigger a fearful thought pattern within you that goes like this:
‘If I do this perfectly or have a perfect life or look perfect, I am in control and therefore people can't hurt me or see me for who I really am.’
This myth of perfectionism as a collection of personality traits is very pervasive. So many women think that to let go of perfectionism means having to let go of being type A or being organized and that causes stress and panic and anxiety. It would for me!
The only way to overcome perfectionism in the long run is to slowly break down the coping mechanism you’ve been using for so long. And that’s difficult. It takes time, dedication, and a lot of soul searching. But it IS possible.
4 sure-fire ways to instantly snap out of that place of perfectionism
However, even when playing the long game of overcoming perfectionism, which is super important(!), there are simple but very effective things you can do right now, in the moment, when you find yourself stuck in perfectionism.
I’m going to go over 4 sure-fire ways to instantly snap out of that place of perfectionism.
Think: a difficult conversation with a loved one, an impending deadline for a passion project you’ve poured your heart and soul into, receiving criticism from your boss about a report you’ve written… situations like this that can make your inner perfectionist come out in full force.
When you start to feel this need to perfect even the most basic email (anyone? just me?), remind yourself that you don’t have to give in.
Let’s start with step 1.
1. Ease up
You might not realize it, but the anxious, stressed-out feeling of perfectionism affects you physically. It causes shallow breathing, a pit in your stomach, a lump in your throat, or tightness in your shoulders, neck, and jaw.
As soon as you recognize the physical symptoms, it’s important to make a conscious effort to loosen up.
I’ve found a technique called box breathing to be really effective.
Box breathing means you breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and sit still for four seconds before taking your next breath.
Do this four times and you’ll find yourself easing up, both mentally and physically.
2. Write a gratitude list
Step 2 is to write a gratitude list.
Think about this for a second: being stuck in perfectionism means you think that what you do, or who you are isn’t enough. The fastest way to snap out of that "not enough" mindset is to focus on enough. And that’s the definition of gratitude.
The moment you feel your perfectionism creeping up on you, write a list of three things you’re grateful for in that moment. Don’t overthink it. It’s okay if your gratitude list is made up of basic and simple things you usually take for granted.
3. Write a list of achievements
Another way to snap out of perfectionism is to write a list of achievements. If writing a gratitude list isn’t your thing, think about writing a short list of your achievements.
Every perfectionist thinks that their work isn’t good enough and that they’ll never amount to anything. But when you write a list of your achievements, you’ll force yourself to see how flawed this thinking is.
Use this prompt to remind yourself that your achievements aren’t random, but the result of YOUR efforts: ‘I achieved ... because I did …’
Now, Paige, one of our wonderful community members, pointed out to me that the word 'achievement' can trigger a hustle, hustle, hustle vibe for some people. So, what I mean when I use the word achievement is:
What went well (or is going well) for me today? How did I contribute? What impact did I make?
We are really good at listing our (perceived) failures, so I think it really helps to make a list of our non-failures, whether you call them achievements or something else, every once and a while, too.
4. Use a mantra, affirmation, or quote
The last strategy you can use when the perfectionism bug strikes is to use a mantra, affirmation, or quote.
Repeat it to yourself or write it down on a post-it note. Pick something that resonates with you and that reminds you that you're good enough.
These are some great examples of mantras or affirmations:
I am exactly where I am supposed to be and I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.
I am confident. I am capable. I am poised. I am strong.
I am more than enough and exactly where I need to be right now.
Done is better than perfect.
Or use one of these quotes:
“She believed she could, so she did.” - R.S. Grey
“I will hold myself to a standard of grace NOT perfection.” - Emily Ley
Let me remind you, from one recovering perfectionist to another, you are worthy and strong and beautiful and you have so many talents and qualities. Use them for good. Don't abuse them through perfectionism.
Here’s my challenge for you this week: write these 4 steps down (in a notebook, on a post-it) and save them in a place where you can easily see them, when you need them. On your desk, on your fridge, in your car. And then, when you find yourself caught up in a moment of perfectionism, use these techniques to snap you right out of perfectionism.
That’s all I got this week, folks. I loved, loved, loved spending time with you. I’d love for you to join our Facebook group for a little after-hours chatting about today’s topic.
And I’ll be back next week with a new episode of #perfectionistproblems the show. Hope to see you next time!
Are you stuck in perfectionism and need little help letting go of the perfectionist tendencies that are holding you back? Then make sure to download your FREE copy of my perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click that pretty yellow button ;)
Hi there! I’m Wendy, perfectionism coach and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you overcome your perfectionism, so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.