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Perfectionism, like a lot of anxieties, may wind up being a comfortable habit. Maintaining the self-talk that powers our perfectionism may feel like a superstition or a necessary ritual if we've been leaning into it since childhood. According to entrepreneur and firm cofounder Sehreen Noor Ali, "our self-talk becomes like an old friend that maybe should've been ditched a while ago."
Your old friend, perfectionism, will not vanish overnight. Exercise will not solve the problem on its own. To assist you get back on track, try some new ways of thinking. Here are three ideas to get you started:
Find the motivation
It helps to be extremely motivated before tackling your perfectionism, just as it does when quitting any other bad habit. Start asking yourself: What are you missing out on because you're afraid to be less-than-perfect?
Identify and name that experience, and you’ve found your motivation.
Isolate your inner critic
You wouldn't be a perfectionist if you didn't have the thoughts that keep you there. Many perfectionists have common barbs they like to throw at themselves.
Here's one method for dealing with negative self-talk that you'll enjoy because it incorporates some self-criticism. Being caught in our brains all the time, ruminating and obsessing on our inadequacies, is very self-centered.
According to anxiety expert Alice Boyes, this narcissism is self-protective. "You end up believing, 'The only way I've succeeded in life or am accepted and loved... is by being excellent, by overdoing everything,'" she says.
However, this is another cognitive trap of perfectionism. The truth is that "not being the best at everything does not endanger you. It does not jeopardize your ability to achieve your goals in life."
Learn to set “enough” goals
Set "enough" goals for yourself and practice using only appropriate effort — rather than going all out and putting in excess effort. Appropriate effort is about doing something well while avoiding undue emotional commitment in the outcome; it is the polar opposite of our culture's expectation that we always go above and beyond and do our absolute best.
You might find that what you gain — more tranquil, easy workdays, more unhindered leisure and headspace — is worth more than what you'll lose in all that restless effort. And is that really such a loss? Obviously not. Recognize that it is acceptable to perform some things less well in order to live the full and healthy life you desire.